Fill your suitcase with black. Tell your mother you're on the way.
And when she says, Are you coming to see me kick the bucket?
say, I'm coming to see you kick it across the room. Later,
when you remember the last time, when she said she would never
see you again, tell yourself there was no way to know.
She was the kind of person who said those things.
Fly. Think about nothing. Think about air pressure, wind,
the speed of clouds. Pray for timing. Pray for time.
And when you arrive, and they're all there waiting for you,
allow yourself one mistaken moment of relief that everything
is all right, otherwise they wouldn't all be there to meet you.
Then look at your father's crumpled face. Fall down.
They will all pick you up eventually. But for a while, just stay there
and let everyone else flow around you. They will know.
Forget the rest. Getting to the car, the hospital. And then:
seeing her. The room with a curtain and some chairs,
the temperature of the room. Try not to remember
this picture of her instead of all the others. It's not really the last one.
She is already gone and this is just her body, except this is the body
you've always known. The first one. Of course you have to touch her.
It's been hours, while you were flying. So. She is cold.
And not there. Somewhere, but not there.
Forget the rest. Back in the car, back to the house
where she should be greeting you. Think about nothing.
Stay up all night with your sister and let her tell you about it.
About the oxygen and the organ failure and the DNR,
about how Dad kept telling her you and your brother were on the way,
she had to wait. About how it was before you got there.
Forget the rest until the next day. Blur it. The room full of display coffins,
the cemetery plots on a map. Writing her obituary on the computer
in the office of the funeral home with its bright artificial light.
Lose all sense of time, of place. Put on the blouse your sister bought
because it's something you have to tear and can never mend.
Listen to the rabbi. For once he is saying things that matter.
The people washing her body have asked her to forgive them
for any indignity they might cause. And inside the coffin, that plain
pine box, there are handfuls of dirt from Israel. Listen to the rabbi.
When he says it's time to tear your clothes, hold onto your brother and sister.
Hold on. The tear is on the side over your heart, he says.
Feel the fabric resist a little before it gives.
In the room with all the people, read what you've written for her,
and then lose the pages somewhere on the way to the cemetery.
Maybe she has taken them with her. She always loved your words,
especially when they were about her. Let them go. Follow the box,
and everyone else will follow you. Wear your mother's fur coat.
You are the only one it fits. Remember how cold it is,
and how the coat is so warm. Remember how the frozen leaves sound
under your feet. Notice that the hole in the ground looks exactly
like it's supposed to, roots and stones along the edges.
Listen to the rabbi again. Chant the prayer, the one you will be saying
over and over for the rest of your life. Take the shovel in your hands and
turn its back to the mound so that you're reluctantly using it,
so that it becomes a tool of your sorrow. Let the earth fall away.
This is the most righteous kindness. The one that can never be repaid.