Passing of a Goddess: A Story of Grief.
You lose her in pieces. Just as the sun sets over the horizon, you watch her disappear.
The first time you played hip hop to her in your car seems to echo within these walls. You turned up the bass as she grooved in the passenger seat. She bit her lip as she rocked to the beat, eyes closed. Now she bites her lip, eyes closed, as you roll her over to clean her. Ask her if she wants music on, and she says No with a shake of her head.
Something new is coming over her, and you’re not sure how to let her resign like this, but in your soul, you know you should.
Do not be afraid to feel. It’s time what was happening begins to be honored. A sacred passage to the next world begs for reverence and reality, otherwise she will cling back to life, like soft sand that slips from her fingers.
The fingers with long red nails that scratched your back as you knelt and watched murder mysteries. The fingers that put homemade curlers in your hair so you would vaguely resemble an old-time Hollywood star. Fingers that reached for another pack of cinnamon gum for you in her bottomless purse. Fingers that shushed you when you went to tell your mother about the candy she gave you.
Fingers that always found the red lipstick and used it more for rouge. Fingers that fastened up her broken heart while outliving every man she ever loved. The fingers that made Greek dish after Greek dish, spending hours in a kitchen that now holds miles of prescription medicine.
And as you hold her fingers as she falls into a heavy sleep in the middle of the afternoon, your hand under her shoulder, you begin to feel grief settle in like the dust on your baby pictures still in the corner, and you dare not move an inch.
The grief will speak for you when she wakes up, and demand that she take a sip of water. You will not watch her suffer like this. That grief is a whimpering selfish child that makes her suffering about you. That’s the dark side of this grief: blinding you to what she wants.
And you ask this belligerent part of grief to step aside, so you can touch the soft skin on her face as she looks at you, so you can bear her nails digging into your arm when she is in pain, and be grateful that you are here. You ask that self-righteous grief to lay low, so you can be with her.
It listens, but still follows you, like shifting shadows on the sidewalk outside of her house. It takes a different shape. This sort of grief is the forgetting to put eyeliner on both eyes. It the shaving of legs rather poorly, though that’s how it always is.
Grief surprises you as your fingers dial an old friend, still acutely aware of the fact that she hates you and will not take your calls. But grief has you call her anyway because it has a way of breaking down those walls. She might pick up because your grandmother is dying. Maybe she will. Just maybe.
Grief is the eventual crying alone at the stop light, knowing that it doesn’t stop the world around you or change it one bit. It is the wondering if you ate anything today. It is the walking into your grandmother’s home again, and seeing her still lying on a bed with no miraculous recovery that you almost let yourself hope for. It is bringing her to a smile when you tell her about your plans to have children.
She is the first one you decide to tell about this, and it breaks you and holds you.
Grief pierces your heart as she smiles. It is the only sunlight that gets past the curtains of her living room.
Grief gets you riled up and you want to fight everyone in sight, but you know your true fury is not for them, it is for the injustice of this death. You’re pissed that it has to be like this. Who would allow a Queen to die in diapers, to barely be able to utter a word from her holy mouth?
Grief tells you to go on and make this anything you need it to be. Call in the spirit guides, the angels, the whole fucking baseball team of saints and mystics, because this one deserves it. As you pray, let them know that they’re getting a goddess of the highest order, and to make sure they get it. Tell them you will trust them as long they keep the stuffed animal your sister gave her on her pillow. Pray that she be covered in peace and red lipstick and heels.
Demand that Frank Sinatra be played in the background at all times. No, it doesn’t matter if someone just died. And you’re going to be belligerent about this: let her put all the scraps from the table in her pocket, so she can go outside on the porch and feed all the wild animals. They need her.
You will want to explain all these things to her, ask her questions about what hurts as if she can give you descriptive answers, but grief will eventually rob you of words. It will slap from your hands any helpful action, so you can sit close to her and just give into her holy silence. Because that’s all that she needs now.
And that’s all that is left.
And the last time that I see you, and you see me back in this earthly world sense, your caregiver is sitting and watching TV. I ask her to leave as I am having an emotional moment here. I pour my eyes out over you like the last gifts I have to give. Way better than the 1.50 birthday cards and that photo from my wedding. I don’t realize it then completely… this gift of having you look up at me as I kiss your fingers over and over.
You say No, no, no and shake your head, and I get closer and say, “I don’t want you to suffer, that’s all. I love you so much, and I can’t bear to watch you suffer so much.” With fear in your eyes, you grab my arm, and I know you don’t want me to talk about this. I ask you if you want to keep going through this pain, and you try to Shh me like I’m five. I will not let you succumb to fear as you’ve lived in power your whole life and that is how you will die.
I look into your eyes and say, “You don’t have to be afraid, you will be okay, so much better actually. You will be taken care of. It’s okay, my love.” I tell you that what’s happening to your body is normal, and you keep pointing to your teeth and say Why to the sores in your mouth. I say the body does weird shit, whatever the hell it wants. And you chuckle and shake your head and say Oh boy over and over. Oh boy indeed.
I tell you I wrote an article about you, and you get that fear in your eyes again and look at the ceiling. We agree they should paint naked pictures of wildly endowed men above you. I mean it’s only right. You almost smile and close your eyes, and I wait. When your eyes open again, I take your hand and look at your nails, and realize they are not painted and offer to paint them.
You consider the gesture and then say No, insisting you will not be a burden even in death. I still suggest a simple light pink, the simplest color ever made, but you still shake your head in refusal. I go to stroke your cheek and you push my hand away. I tease that you’re flipping me off as your middle finger is slightly up, and we both chuckle, your laugh more muted and echoing somewhere within you.
You are too big, brave and important to say goodbye, I know, I get it. I pull out my phone to show you the video of us dancing at my wedding, which causes this sparkle to shine in your eyes like a far-off field full of fireflies, and you chuckle out loud as you nod your head. I cry again and tell you that I love you, and it is the last time you show me that you understand.
When they introduce us to your final hours on this earth school, with a sheet of paper and a list of instructions, I go to you immediately, though you don’t see me. I put my hand to your heart and keep it there, and I sit on your bed. Every breath you take sounds like the biggest weight is on your lungs, yet I assure you over and over that you are doing great: Yes, you can do this, this is good. So proud of you, my Yiayia.
I tell you I love you in Greek over and over, and in English too. I tell you I just cannot stop telling you I love you. And every time your eyes flicker open, I make sure I send you my love through my eyes, fingers, through my breath, and I believe that you can do this.
And when you stop breathing, I tell you I love you and you’re doing great, and with every deep breath you take after not taking one at all, I breathe with you, knowing you’re giving birth to yourself here now. I get it… the most powerful ones of us who live this life the longest, the greatest fighters, are also the ones who hate death the most.
And I will keep being your doula, with my hand on your heart and the other under your shoulder, and assure you you are not doing this alone. I owe you something for all your amazing guy advice and staying up with me in the middle of the night when I would call with my latest heartbreak.
I tell you this, and you smile and nod. You squeeze my hand harder, with a strength that shocks us both, and I promise that I’ll be back tomorrow. You do not have to worry. I hate having to peel your fingers off and letting you go at all, and hope that you forgive me for this, though I know you already have.
There’s so much that they don’t tell you.
They don’t tell you what it looks like to have the most trustworthy, independent, amazing, forgiving, fierce, difficult female friend in your life, begin to die.
They don’t tell you that end of life is so violent and needy and hungry and messy and terrifying and it’s for a reason. It makes you want to beg for the other world for her and coach her on letting go even when you’re lonely, because you seem like the only one who thinks that’s a good idea.
They don’t tell you that you will walk away from the house weeping in blinding pain at least once, and it’s not because of her, but because of what emerges in everyone else.
They don’t tell you how you finally get that you’ve arrived, when you decide to hold none of that and nothing else against anyone, ever again.
They don’t tell you what it’s like when she eventually confesses to you in private that she’s scared, and you let her know she will be taken care of.
They don’t tell you what it’s like to watch her so relieved from dropping tiny pieces of cherry popsicles into her mouth.
They don’t tell you what it feels like in your soul when you watch as your sister brings a smile to her face when she sings to her.
They don’t tell you what it takes to go right to her and stay with her when the doctor declares the end, confirming what you already know, deciding that you will not succumb to the fear.
They don’t tell you what it’s like to have to help change her, against her will, assure her that it’s 2016 and she is in control and she is safe and we are only helping her.
They don’t tell you what it’s like when you watch as your husband is the first one to give her the morphine the final night because you told him to, and somewhere inside, she is watching and still awake.
They don’t tell you what it’s like to watch a power in you take over when you tell her she’s giving birth to herself, but completely unaware of any difference you could be making.
They don’t tell you what it’s like to see her as more of a holy creature than a woman, as she pushes hard at your chest.
They do not tell you what it takes to walk away for a minute to allow her movements to have merit.
They do not tell you what it’s like to stay overnight on the floor and watch her labored breathing and feel her struggle against life twisting in your chest and decide to talk to her about the other side when you’re terrified of what’s becoming of her, of even touching her. You let her know it’s okay to fall in love with it. You put your head next to hers and stay, even when she stops squeezing your hand.
They don’t tell you that every attempt you make at keeping her comfortable, Vaseline on her lips, the painkillers, cool washcloth, giving her space to process, singing to her, doing Reiki, putting oils on her, all feels like absolute shit. Not enough.
They don’t tell you what it’s like to say your goodbye (instead of See you tomorrow) and she opens her eyes for the first time all morning, her arm moving to yours. You find a strength and calmness in you for her, that you never knew you had.
They don’t tell you what it’s like to feel so relieved and uncomfortably giddy when you hear that she is no longer suffering, that she passes on the day you decide to leave. And the unyielding wave of sorrow that knocks you out later when you see her and everyone is so good at keeping it together.
They don’t tell you that your body will ache for days after from the contorting to hold her hand while outlining her lips with ice.
They don’t tell you what it’s like to give your 2 two-year-old niece ice chips the next day, for her teething.
They don’t tell you what it’s like to finally understand her and see everything she ever did or said as a holy gift.
To the dirty-mouthed Queen, the one who could crush and build up everything, who could dance the jitterbug, host the best parties, with the ability to always find money to give to a friend in need, with the sharpest tongue and clothing, who survived things I will never even begin to understand, who everyone and their mother knew and adored and will continue to talk about for years later.
S’agapo para poli.
Maria Palumbo’s ‘soul mission’ is to awaken women to their innate power. Beginning in community mental health, Maria served as a psychotherapist with a specialty in healing the wounds of trauma. Maria integrated holistic therapies of Yoga, aromatherapy, meditation, and dance therapy with the discipline of psychotherapy. She created a model for group therapy which is still being implemented by others today. She expanded on her education and experience in psychotherapy by becoming certified in Yoga and Reiki II. Recently she burst through the box of psychotherapy to create her own model of self-discovery which stokes the holy fire in every woman she meets. Acutely aware of the innate genius in all, Maria works with women to help them remember who they are. She watches and swoons as incredible magic happens in her soul-coaching sessions. She channels this love into other work including an online virtual sisterhood called Glow Street Team, a place for all women warriors to get fed and celebrated. She is the creator and dream-maker of BodyLove Goddess photo shoot, an event that is the impetus for a body-love revolution. She is currently hosting goddess circles and workshops in West Chester, PA. To contact her, message her through Facebook or email.