I saw my mom right before I went to New York to visit my youngest daughter, on March 4. By the time I got back, I was pretty sick. I went to the hospital about five to six days later and got the results about four days after that. While waiting for results, I got a call from the place where my mom lived; she had passed away. She had just called to get her meal brought up to her. It was her favorite: chicken-fried steak. By the time they came up with the food, she didn’t answer the door. By then I was just in bad, bad shape. But what do you do? I just got out of bed and screamed as much as I could.
And then I had to call my sisters. And my beautiful babies. My mom didn’t have a plan, and since I was her main caregiver for the past few years, the funeral home called me and asked if she wanted to be embalmed. Now, in my family my dad wasn’t embalmed, and when my niece died she wasn’t embalmed. But I know my mom would want to be the queen, so I told them to embalm her. They had to transport her from Fort Worth to Austin, so it just needed to happen. And I’m so glad I did now, because for some reason the casket got stuck in Phoenix.
When my sister-in-law died a few years ago, we were just all there immediately in Cincinnati, in the hotel room with Doritos and levity, just laying on the beds together. I remember taking a picture of my brother’s legs dangling off the bed. It was his wife, and he was just so mentally—in every possible way—exhausted. But there was something so meaningful about being there in that room with him. You don’t realize how much you need that kind of tribal meeting right now. How much I need it.
We decided to have a graveside service, even though the minister and nine family members would be the limit—my mom had five kids, and each of them has their own family, so we knew we’d have to go in shifts.
It was ugly. It was not what I wanted at all for my mother. There was a minister there. She stood far apart and didn’t say a word. And I know that my mother is a religious person and would have wanted a minister—even one that didn’t know her—to say something. So I’m going to try to remedy that when I go to Austin to see my mom’s grave.
I was the only sibling that wasn’t there. I was alone in my house on the video chat. Each little family unit stood very far apart, and that was weird. The bluebonnets were blooming. Oh my God. That was beautiful. I know my mom would’ve loved that. We took turns saying a few words—on the video chat, even. I kinda forced my oldest daughter Chloe to say something.
Everyone felt so far away. It just didn’t even feel like a funeral or a graveside service. Nothing. It was like a bunch of people just stumbled around and ended up in the one spot. Everyone stood far away from the coffin and far away from each other. It was just bizarre. No one has any closure. We couldn’t hug each other. We couldn’t go get barbecue afterwards. We couldn’t do anything. It was like “Okay. ‘End Chat.’” I hate it so much. I know somehow, some way, I’m going to redo the graveside service, with a minister, even if it’s just me and my husband. I want that for my mom. And I’m gonna have that for my mom.
It’s just terrible. My daughter Chloe came over the other night and I was in my robe and a mask. She was just pitiful. She was crying. And I hugged her and I felt so horrible for hugging her. But she was mourning, you know. And it’s the only thing that will work in the moment. And I could barely breathe because I had that mask on. But I want to hug my kids! And I can’t. And I want my sisters. I want to look at all their faces together. You know, how you do at Christmas and stuff. Eat potato salad. “Where’s the honey-baked ham?” This is a funeral. This is what we do. And we can’t do it.
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