How Do I Let Go?

tracks in the snow

Arno and I are getting to know each other still. And we will continue to, of course, for years to come. He has seen that deeply personal messages sent originally to him will sometimes end up in a public forum. He said he’s realizing that <in his words> I am a writer, and a writer is going to write.</in his words> And the fact that it ends up posted on the Internet for all the world to see does not cheapen the intimate moments we have shared.

So yesterday at lunch when he told me my last email to him about my mother’s death was so passionate that it made him cry, I told him “Well, I just typed and then clicked Send. But if it’s that good, honey, it will probably end up on my blog.” Well, here is a part of my email to Arno. Only slightly edited.


snow rabbit

I stopped for the night at a hotel in Ritzville. I need to write Mom’s obituary. I was going to do that today, but got interrupted by packing up her things. It was hard, and upset me. Jim feels bad now, and I know he didn’t realize what a difficult thing he was asking of me. I don’t want him to feel bad about it. There is enough pain without adding more.

This morning when I woke up, I heard Mom’s ragged breathing. I had to look over to reassure myself that the hospital bed was gone, and Mom was not there, suffering. I knew I couldn’t bear another night there. I guess we probably all have a limited amount of tolerance for trauma. People who suffer with trauma for extended periods of time must go half crazy and get sick too. In the moments of her death, I thanked Mom for making it so easy on us. The quick journey through her dying was a gift for us and for her. Gramilda (Mom’s mom) said she thinks Mom did that on purpose, to make it easier on us. Ha, I can’t help but think she’s probably right. If Mom could find a way to take care of us while she was dying, I’m sure that’s what she did.

whose little feet made these?

So anyway, I may linger here alongside the freeway and take care of my last critical task. I can send the obit to the paper via email. My car is packed full of her stuff, and I may or may not get to it in a timely manner. Being away from the cabin makes it easier for me to fall into my old pattern of avoidance. I wish that trauma didn’t make me want to run. I went for a walk in the snow today (when I saw all those great tracks and sent you pictures from my phone), and I thought “I just can’t walk far enough.” No amount of running fixes anything. Today the walk didn’t even make me feel better. But being away from the cabin helps. I was still trying to take care of everybody. Maybe they didn’t need it. Maybe they didn’t even want it. But I can’t help but try to shoulder responsibility and boost everyone else’s feelings. It just sucks my energy out. I am not good at moderation. I seem to want to do things fully or not at all.

Man, I’m so glad I went to north Idaho when I did. The whole thing was so much quicker than I ever expected, or was mentally prepared for. But I’m tremendously glad I was there. When she died, it was such a relief to hear her quiet and at rest. Finally. I just wrapped my arms around her and held on to her and cried and cried. I felt greedy for the last bit of her life. Her body was warm, and I remember thinking I wanted to have her warmth, because that was all that was left. I held her until I realized it was my own body still keeping her warm in the cold room.

When I was finally able to leave the room, it was my biggest step toward letting her go. I did not look at her again. I did not watch when they took her away.

Driving away from the mountain, everything I saw was her. It was like the essence of my mother was in the air. Those mountains, the valleys, the river, the town of Bonners Ferry – they are all my mother. All I ever knew of those places is because of her. I was always with her there. I would never have gone there but for her. I know it all so well, and it’s always been flavoured with her perspective, her stories, her spirit and influence, her friends, her dreams, her thoughts.

I think the next time I go back will be another step of letting her go, if I can learn what life is like without her, then go back. If I can look at that part of Idaho in a world without my mother, I can re-frame what I see with new definitions. What will the snowy peaks look like without Mom? The yellow fields of cut hay and wooden fences and horses? They will still have her face and her voice when I stand there. The birds will sing in the trees the way that they do because of her. The squirrels will scold with all their boldness in the world she polished up for them. But how will that world change when she’s not here anymore?

And when I get home, what will my world look like without her? Her artistry is behind my world too. What is the next chapter of my life, where I am the mother now, and I look behind me at Tara instead of in front of me at my Mother? I don’t even want to know. But I guess I will find out.

7 thoughts on “How Do I Let Go?

  1. Arno is right, Crystal. This is incredibly passionate and, I might add, so beautifully written. It moved me to tears, too. I’m so sorry for the loss of your mom. But I see, now, where you get some of your spirit. There’s a big part of her that lives on in you; all of her is not gone.
    Sending much love to you xo

  2. it is beautiful and sad and expressive, as you always are. It seems like you’re letting go in your own way. and that there’s a lot to still hold on to. love and hugs and one minute at a time.

  3. Sweet Cuz,
    I remember you mentioning how you woke that morning hearing the labored breathing of the past few nights. I knew then that you shouldn’t sleep there another night. However, due to the pace of the events that unfolded that day, I never got the chance to suggest an alternative. It seemed the moment you reached the kitchen, your world was turned upside down. When in reality, you should have been allowed to enter into another stage of your grieving without having to face duties you weren’t prepared to undertake.
    As for taking care of the rest of us, well that is you. Stopping to make lunch for three is who you are and worrying about whether or not people who stop by have something to drink is being the perfect hostess. All I could think of is “when are they going to leave!” Isn’t that terrible?
    I too am glad you went N. Idaho when you did. I believe that your mom is comforted that you were beside her during her final moments. She heard your voice, felt your touch, saw your smile. You comforted her when she was in pain and hugged her as no one other than a daughter could.
    The memories that you have of Bonners Ferry and Northern Idaho, will forever be with you regardless of where you travel. That’s the beauty of memories, it’s one of the reasons I love them so much. Your mom will always be by the snowy peaks, the yellow fields of cut hay and wooden fences and horses. You will still hear her voice, she will be in front of you, and she will be in your world … in spirit and most definitely in your memories.
    I am very proud of you. I love you cousin.
    Debbie B.

      1. We’ve had a closeness that came from being cousins. Now our relationship has reached a level I believe neither of us expected it to go. Our bond is unbreakable and one I treasure beyond words. North Idaho and Auntie has my unending gratitude. I look forward to sharing the trip with you again. I love you too.

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