here and there

that space between here and there is dappled in sunlight, one part heavy one part lightness… we tiptoe around that space with dancing feet and singsong hearts. diving in with both feet, the ocean water is warm, it rinses while it stings. one part sweet one part salty.

i wasn’t sure what to expect, with a fistful of daisies from her garden, i found her walking (always walking even if slowly most days) and her eyes lit up when she saw me. “Hi Momma! it’s Meredith.” she walked towards me with her mouth open, tears in her eyes. one part crying one part laughter. we hugged and i could hear her breathing, in and out, laughing crying. we hugged a long time and i wished i could just carry her away with me. pick her up and free her from what locks her in that space. that space between here and there.

the nurses noticed her expression (typically void of expression) “Amity, you’re so happy! who is this?” they asked. she shuffled her slippers across the carpet, with my hand in hers, both of us with tears on our cheeks. “Meredith Winn” she told them, so knowingly, with no prompts, she knew exactly who i was. i was her baby girl.

i wasn’t sure what to expect after being gone for so long. last time that space fell silent, and there was nothing but a gaping hole. no recognition, simply a woman’s hand to hold, i had become another caregiver, someone to walk her around the garden. this time there was a spark, and it was the best welcome i could have imagined. and yet surprisingly it didn’t make our time any easier.

searching his face, she knew something about him. she knew there was love there. deep love. and she hugged him in that same manner. laughing and crying. and she was right there, each and every time she searched his kind face. as he told her his love for me. as i told her my love for him. she sat in between us, smiling. the best gift of that day was her crooked little smile.

her natural state, when not walking (always walking) is eyes closed and humming. she is slowly curling inward, as is common with Pick’s Disease. i would sit beside her as she held her nose to the hydrangea flowers i had picked from her garden long forgotten. eyes closed, humming. that day she was somewhere else, far far away. when she would open her eyes it was as if she saw me for the first time. “i love you” i would tell her because that’s all that matters. her words are so few, if any. she’d close her eyes and hum some more. she was somewhere else as i held her hand and kissed her mouth.

gardenias were her favorite, most fragrant flower. i had noticed a few blooms left in her garden so i picked her a bouquet the last day we had together. we walked around as she often does, and found a nice shady spot outside. her laughing crying was back and it had me teary because i knew i had to say goodbye. i was the adult and she was the child, unaware of the reality i felt so heavy in my heart. i tried being present with her as she enjoyed smelling the flowers. i told her she was always in my heart, i reminded her that those were her gardenias, from her garden right off the deck. she turned to look right at me, with full eye contact, and repeated “right off the deck…” then immediately burst into tears. i can only imagine it was 2 seconds of lucidity as it all came rushing back… she had a home, she had a garden, she had a deck, how did she get here?…. i nodded and kissed her cheek as she cried, and then it was all gone, the moment, the lucidity, the connection we made. and we were left holding a bouquet of gardenias, our hearts in our mouths and our vision blurred from tears. she was my momma and i was her daughter. and we both knew it and it broke our hearts at the same time it brought us joy. in that moment i felt as if my heart would break into a million tiny pieces and fly away with her spirit. “i love you” is all i could say, because it’s all that matters.

when it was time to go i wrapped my arms around her, words like home and maine and love flew around on the breeze, i was unsure if she could catch them. unsure if she knew the importance of my goodbye. “see you soon” i told her as i wondered if i would, as i wondered what the future would bring us. she started crying and didn’t stop. and i kissed her and kissed her and kissed her and then had to walk away. turning my back was one of the hardest things i’ve done, forcing my feet to walk away, quickly, before i would fall over in tears.

i told myself she would close her eyes and hum, then awake to a new moment, one free of emotion. but she remained in that space, between here and there, for quite some time. when asked “why are you crying?” she replied on her own, “i’m sad.”

that day i curled into fetal position on my childhood bed, his arms wrapped around me, and the tears wouldn’t stop. the fear of the unknown. the longing for what is missing. the need for what i can no longer have. it broke me down, as it did her, in that moment of lucidity.

“It is still so new & all we see is the empty space,
but that is not how it is in the landscape of the heart.
There, there is no empty space
& she still laughs & grapples with ideas & plans & nods wisely with each of us in turn.
We are proud to have known her.
We are proud to have called her friend.”
~ storypeople