Monday, September 30, 2013

Toughest Day of the Year...

…for me, is today, September 30th. For you see, my mom Joanie died 7 years ago yesterday, and my darling sister Maureen died 32 years ago tomorrow. Today, I live in suspension between grieving for what had happened, and grieving for what was still to come. It’s an uncomfortable place to be.

I spent Mo’s last day on earth, totally oblivious. I awoke to an early AM phone call from sister Carolyn. There had been a car accident in Atlanta. C was heading to the hospital and would call soon. I prayed. Let her be OK. Please God. And then came the answer to my prayer: C calling back: “Elise, can you come home today?” I remember flying to Atlanta that afternoon, praying again—this time that I would die too. That prayer wasn’t answered the way I wanted either.

Mo on her last day

Every year on September 30th, I would focus on my Mo. I’d play Billy Joel (her favorite) and cry. I’d re-read the box of letters I have from her, the last only days before her death. And so the September 30ths passed, decades full of them.

Then came September, 2006. Mom was diagnosed with an ovarian tumor. The doctor told us it was terminal, but that she’d likely live for weeks. Mo’s anniversary was approaching. Mom announced abruptly that she would be in Heaven with Mo by October 1st. No one believed her. And yet… at 2:15 PM on September 29th, Joanie reunited with Mo at last.

I want to write about the miracles: the sorrowful email from the boy driving the car Mo’s last night, who tracked us down through a website. Mo’s appearances to my grandma (Grandma hadn’t been told Mo had died). The many times in the past 7 years that I have felt Mom’s presence as if she were just in the next room.

But I find that miracles in this day and age are a pretty hard sell. All well and good for you, people seem to say. It’s tough to swallow, though. And I totally understand, because that doubter was once me, too.

Just as we create our story, day by day and action by action, so I believe God creates us, not once but constantly. Joanie and Mo created beautiful stories. It was crushing to come to the end of them. But is it the end? I firmly believe it is not. Somewhere, maybe just out of sight, my mother and my sister live on, waiting for C and me to join them. I’d love to scribble my story fast and make that day come sooner, but I can’t. So on I live, in the blessed story that has grown to include five amazing children. I am so comforted by them. I can wait.

I look at the clock. 4:50 PM. Come on, September 30th! Be done for another year! Let me put my mourning in mothballs because otherwise I couldn’t bear it. And Mom? Mo? Watch over us, until we meet again.



  1. Elise...I will never forget Maureen. What she, you, and Steve did for me and my life when I was a teen was a God-directed gift. I am grateful everyday. She is in good company in Arlington, with my mom and dad.
    ~Michael Baran