Sunday, November 15, 2015

No Shoes

I thought the navy blue dress would look nice.

No dice. My two sisters-in-law didn't like that idea. Even though I was grown and living on my own, they were older and still thought of me as a child. Apparently that meant they were in charge.

But I wanted to participate. "What about shoes?" 

Photo by Josh Bluntschli

An awful, awkward pause.

"I don't think she'll need shoes," one of them said.

No shoes.

My mother had been dead for only twelve hours, and I was still adjusting to the idea.

But no shoes?  It had never occurred to me that dead people don't wear shoes inside their metal boxes. Not only was my mother dead, but she was barefoot. My mom loved shoes and purses and now she had neither. Not now. Not ever. 

Photo by THOR

I knew it was silly. I knew this whole line of thought was ridiculous, but somehow it made her seem a little more dead. 

A person you love, I was learning, doesn't die all at once--but day by day, piece by piece.

The night after the burial it rained. I imagined the raindrops falling on her casket there in the cemetery. Raindrops pounding and pounding with cruel force. Of course, that was also absurd because she was already underground. The rain was only falling on a mound of dirt and the many containers of flowers.

Photo by Juni

I couldn't cry that week. I don't know why, except I guess I'm more of a let's-get-through-this-and-cry-later kind of person. My relatives kept saying, "You need to cry." But even though they were in charge, I couldn't oblige. Maybe that night the clouds were shedding tears I couldn't seem to conjure.

In grief, I think it's really the little details that stab you in the heart. The milk jug in the frig. My mother bought that milk this week, I thought. Now it's still here, but she's gone. My father's mournful voice as he paced in the yard praying aloud. The new hairstyle the morticians gave my mom. It was nice, but it wasn't the way she wore it. It wasn't the way I wanted to remember her.

And no shoes. 

Just little things. Little things that keep pounding, pounding -- killing and rekilling the one you love.

Thinking back to that morning when they told me my mother didn't need shoes, I remember a spiritual we used to sing in grade school music class.

I got shoes. You got shoes.
All God's children got shoes.
When I get to heaven, gonna put on my shoes,
Gonna walk all over God's Heaven, Heaven--
Gonna walk all over God's Heaven.

Photo by Thomas Steiner

No shoes? 

I read an article in the Poughkeepsie Journal that said shoes tell the story of your life. Every stain or scuff mark tells about where you walked and what you were doing.  Shoes are a diary we keep unconsciously.

Photo by SoHome Jacaranda Lilau

My mom had only two kinds of shoes--house shoes and church shoes. The black leather moccasins were for cooking, cleaning, and chasing after children and grandchildren. The church shoes were for services at the Baptist church--at least three a week--and for weddings, parties, and funerals. My mom wore out her shoes taking care of her family, visiting friends, walking to the store to get groceries or down to the school for a PTA meeting. Since she didn't drive, she did more walking than most.

I guess my mother really had no more use for the shoes in her closet. They were worn out anyway. They told the story of her life on earth, but that story was over. It was time for a new life, new shoes. And someday I too will put on sparkly celestial shoes, and hand in hand, my mom and I will walk all over God's Heaven.

Heaven, Heaven. Gonna walk all over God's Heaven.

My mom, about the time I was born


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  2. Thanks for sharing, Patty. My dad passed 6 years ago and I still catch myself stumbling into unexpected tears when I come across something small that reminds me of him, although the more time passes, I find a smile more often than tears. Dad and I used to discuss how wonderful the library in Heaven will be. Now I look forward to the day I'm home with Jesus and Dad can show me around the library. :)

    1. April, thanks for stopping by my blog! Sorry to hear about your dad. Coping with a loss is an ongoing process. But, oh yes! The library in Heaven must be amazing!

  3. Love this post! It's been awhile since I"ve read any of your posts. This is a great one. And makes me sad. Lost my mama this year. :(

  4. Carole, so sorry about your mom. But what a fantastic reunion awaits us! Your mom must be so proud of your success as a prize-winning author!

  5. Precious, tender...loving. The photo of your mother shows how pretty she was...walking here and heaven...such good exercise, such good genes passed on to you! Peace and grace in memories and futures.

    1. Thanks, Judy. A good mom keeps on being a treasure, even after she's "gone." I know you will leave that kind of legacy to your sons and grandchildren.

  6. "Just little things. Little things that keep pounding, pounding -- killing and rekilling the one you love." Very powerful and poignant. Thank you.

  7. So powerful!! Beautifully written - you are such a wonderful essayist - if that is the correct word. You are so capable at taking one small thing - like no shoes - and distilling the thought into the emotions that all of us carry around and don't know how to express. Poignant but powerful.

  8. Love this, Patty. I catch a glimpse of the amazing person your mommy must have been, still is. How Jesus must be enjoying her!