Your Last Advice

by Sharon Tjaden-Glass

Mom,

It’s your birthday. Just a few days before Mother’s Day. You would have been 69 this year. 

It has been nine months since you passed.

Seven months since I asked for a divorce.

Four months since I left the courtroom, an unmarried woman again, trying to hold in my tears as I walked from the courthouse to the parking garage–and failing.

Your grave has a headstone now. I took the kids to visit you a few weeks ago. When I was taking pictures of your headstone, Henry walked into the frame and did this.

Felicity walked the cemetery’s pavement while Henry sat in the grass with me on your grave.

“Do you miss Grandma?” he asked.

“I miss her every day, Henners. You know why?”

“Because you loved her.”

“Yes. And because she was my mom.”

A moment passed and then he said, without any irony at all,

“Wow, you were really lucky.”

“I was,” I said. “I really was.”

****

After you passed, a few hopeful souls assured me that your spirit would visit me, in some way, in the following months. 

There have been no apparitions. 

But I did have a dream about you. 

I was standing inside Sam’s Club (who can say why?) and you were just walking in, the large sliding doors opening to reveal your dark outline etched against the brightest of sunshine. I recognized you immediately. You raised your hand to wave at me, a huge grin on your face, as if you were telling me, I am having the time of my life. Or whatever this is now.

The thoughts came one by one.

Mom. You’re dead. I am dreaming.

And I just knew.

I wasn’t going to be able to reach you before this dream ended or before you disappeared or before I was transported somewhere else. 

I just knew.

I would need to launch myself across the space between us. I would need to summon an unfathomable amount of psychic energy, just to come close.

I flinched.

And then I woke up. 

****

My new life is full of moments like this, when I feel my heart stretching all the way back into my past, grasping at the years when everything was woven together, over and under and through. So safely and securely. I’m reaching back for the time when my life had parents. When my husband apologized when he hurt me. When I was one-half of a beloved couple among our friends. 

I’m still grasping. I hate that I’m still grasping at the past. It yields nothing but longing and pain. And yet I do it. Even as my feet keep stepping forward through this life, even as I continue to build new walls and establish new rhythms, I am still Lot’s Wife, looking back at the city being destroyed by God’s wrath, daring the Divine to turn me to salt. 

Why salt? Was it the salt of her tears? Were her tears so numerous, her grief so strong that she was consumed by it?

No, not consumed. She was frozen. That’s the difference. Her grief, her longing for her past life didn’t erase her. It transformed her into something else. All the soft, pliable cells in her flesh–capable of repair and regeneration–grew rigid and fixed in place.

This is what happens when your gaze becomes fixed on the past.

You become your tears.

***

You knew how to forgive, Mom. You knew how to let it go when people hurt you. You were an absolute master of this. You forgave even when everyone else believed that you shouldn’t have. But you forgave.

Forgiveness was so important to you that you even wrote it in the journal that I gave you for Mother’s Day in 1999.

It amazes me how strongly you believed in these words. You didn’t just say them. You lived them. I saw the healing that forgiveness brought to your life. You have shown me the wisdom of these words–that forgiveness is not only for the other person.

Forgiveness is for you.

It is your freedom from the past. Forgiveness is the force that uncoils the thick ropes that anchor your heart to the shore of your past, so you can set sail into your future.

***

I’ve restarted this next part over and over again, trying to explain what I’m struggling to forgive my ex-husband for. I tried brutally honest. Then, compassionate. Then, detached. Then, reflective. Each time I’ve written it, I’ve told the truth.

But in the end, whether it’s true is only a small part of this story that I’m now living.

Is it kind? Is it helpful? Is this healing me?

And then I’m staring at my mother’s words.

“Never remember details of a fight with a loved one.”

So I erased the words.

I don’t regret writing them. They needed to leave my head.

Some words, you write to free yourself.

Some words, you write to free others.

My mom would agree.

I am trying, Mom.

For you, I will try.