Last night, as I sat in my living room I heard the squeal of my mothers favorite fireworks echoing over Cheney Stadium.
I was at work that afternoon when my phone started ringing for the second time and my coworkers called the front of the store to let me know somebody named Jessica V. was calling me. I knew it must have been urgent because she wouldn’t call twice. The store phone rang again soon after I set down the receiver. 912—my sisters area code. Something was wrong. My coworkers got to the phone before I did, and I watched the god awful red light waiting for it to start blinking indicating my sister had been put on hold so I could pick up the call in the front of the store.
“Mom’s gone.” She said to me over the phone as I was standing behind the counter waiting for some guests to be ready to check out.
I didn’t understand. Where had she gone? My immediate reaction was the assume she had just gone to the store and to tell my sister not to worry, surely she was calling because my mother had her daughter and wasn’t at home when she got there to pick her up.
“Where’s Alexia?” I asked.
“With me.” She responded.
“Oh…where did Mom go?”
“No, no, no, Stephen, Mom is gone.”
That’s when I knew.
Falling—the weight in your chest pulls you down like the ground has been pulled away from you—you know you’re standing on the ground but it isn’t there to support you anymore. The morose faces of your family standing outside of the green split level your sister moved into when she came home the first thing that greets you as you drive by the fire truck, the ambulance, and the sheriff parked outside.
Their lights are out, much like their sense of urgency.
“T!” Your niece affectionately calls as she sees you step out of the car, not fully understanding the situation.
The truck for the coroners office backs into the drive. The driver steps out. She goes on and on about funeral homes and her number and what’s your number and holidays and here’s her card and autopsies. The coroner won’t be able to look until at least Tuesday, it’s a holiday weekend. The chaplain walks up and starts talking about how losing a mother is hard, and how he’s here for you for whatever we need to talk about and here’s his card.
Everybody has a card. Everybody is sorry.
I watch as they carry my mother down the steps and onto the gurney and into the back of the truck. They shut the doors and repeat the same things about autopsies and cards and numbers and dates and time.
“You have time.”
They leave. My mother’s shoe is on the porch next to the door. The emergency workers must have tripped over it on their way out.
Fireworks. The initial boom sends my cat running, my dog unfazed. I listen as they go off. The screeches the squeals the booms the clashing and the bangs like some sort of horribly timed glorious send off to my mother.
She loved the squeals.