Today, as my brother, father, and I spent the afternoon assembling a puzzle, I realized how profound Mom’s death will be for our family. Mom has always been the one to level us all out – my brother’s frustration, my dad’s depression, my hyper-sensitivity – she has always been the even one, the one who never lost her head to emotion and who managed to love us each in just the way we needed. For this, I will deeply miss her.

I will become the only woman in the family. I don’t even know how to process this change. I do not even know how to begin to fill my mother’s shoes. Yet, already I can see that people will, in some ways, begin to look to me for that. I see that in the nurse’s face when she addresses me with information even when my brother and father are there. I see it when my cousins come to me to ask the important questions that only family can ask, bypassing my father and brother. I see it when both men look to me to give Mom water when she asks. These tender, strong acts are ones my mom would have shouldered with flawless grace and acumen. I feel like I’m just playing dress up in Mom’s role – like I’ve donned not just her make-up, dress, and jewelry but also her wisdom and insight. Except that like her dresses on my 4-year-old body, her wisdom drapes over me in folds that I can’t even begin to control.

So tonight, while my brother runs off his frustration and my dad sleeps to stave off his depression, I lay on the couch and listen to my mother breath. I pace my breath with hers and pray that her grace will infuse my very being.

Dress Up