I am so sad today. But not for the reason you would assume. Or not just for that reason. Today is the one year anniversary of the death of my host mother. My sorrow over the 50 people dead in Orlando, members of my beautiful queer community, mingles with my grief over the death of my incandescent host mother, Susanne, grief so intense that I can only look at sideways. Every time I have thought of her in the past year, I have cried. Sobbing in the shower for days after I found out she had died. Walking down the street, something will remind me of her, and suddenly my eyes are full of tears and I’m trying to pull myself back together.
To call this grief feels melodramatic, like I am coopting someone else’s tragedy, but it is the only way I can describe this feeling. This desolate sadness that a 50 year old woman, a veterinarian, a Scrabble player, a lover of perfume and John Irving novels, a wife, a mother, an only daughter, a friend, a beautiful amazing wonderful human being is dead of cancer. She was the best and I cannot fathom that she is gone. I cannot make sense of it. There is no sense to cells, growing out of control. There is no sense to dead at 50.
It feels tragic. And unfair. And scary as hell. Your mind, selfish as ever, calculates. I am closer to 50 now than I am to 16, the age I was when I lived with her in Germany. If I were to die at 50, Frances would be 16. Not even out of high school yet.
Suse has amazing children, my host brother and sister, both in their 20s now. Early to mid. Not late. Not old enough to lose a mother. Are you ever old enough to lose a mother?
She has a husband. Had. I can’t, even on my most morbid melancholy days, imagine the death of my wife. How do you go on? My mind rejects it.
There is no sense to this.
At least a mass shooting makes some sort of sick sense. People call it senseless, but it follows a pattern: Man (and it is almost always a man) gets mad, has access to guns, takes that anger out on people he hates or resents (women, gay people, classmates, coworkers).
And here I go, back on the safer ground of national tragedy. How sad that a mass shooting is so common place to be “safer ground”. How privileged that I am so unfamiliar with this unrelenting personal grief.
With national tragedies, you can take strength in community, your anger has a place to go: public policy changes to support, money to donate. I have felt so alone in this grief. Unwilling to dump in to the circle of her family: husband, son and daughter whose grief eclipses my own, but with no one really to dump out to who knew her. Not really.
Is this how it always feels? That no one knew this person that you loved? Not really?
How scared I am that this is a preview. That this is my life now. As years go by, those that I love will keep dying. I will keep grieving. It will only get harder to shove that grief in a corner and look at it sideways. The seal has been broken.
How scary to love so much and hurt so much. How death can blindside you. You think it’s an ordinary day and then your wife says: “I got a Facebook message? From someone named Rabea?” “That’s my host cousin,” I say. “She says your host mom is dead.”
There is no solving this. No way but through.
She lived. She was loved. Not most by me, but most definitely not least either. She died. It makes no sense.