My stepmom died one week ago and I feel broken. She and my dad met when I was eight years old and she immediately opened her heart to my sister and me and made us a part of her large and wonderful family. Claudia had this amazing blend of magic and practicality that I haven't ever seen in anyone else. My life is so much richer for having had her in it all these years.
She and my dad were both diagnosed with different terminal illnesses many years ago, and they defied all odds. I think part of their strength came from having each other. They would always tell me that it really wasn't so bad because they could lie in bed together and read and talk all day. When my dad was dying almost exactly two years ago Claudia was right there with us that week in the hospital, even though it was incredibly hard on her. Together we cared for my dad in his last days and as I stayed with her last week I knew I was there for myself, but also for my dad. I hope that she could feel his strength coming through my hands. For me, there is comfort in the care taking, the last act of tangible love I can give. I can suspend myself in that moment and know that however hard it feels, at least I am doing something.
The not-doing part is harder for me. It's strange, going through this a second time so close to the first. I'm not surprised by how I feel right now, my inability to listen to the news, or even read a book. I'm back at work and it's good to be forced to focus on something else for a few hours, but I still feel like I'm sleepwalking half the time. It's hard to convince myself to care about issues that seemed incredibly important two weeks ago. All I can think about most of the day is how badly I want to get in bed, and then when I do get in bed I can't sleep. I didn't realize that losing Claudia would also rip open the grief of losing my dad. I feel like the life we had together all those years, both the big adventures and the quiet moments, are suddenly, irrevocably, gone.
I don't have any amazing insights into how to deal with grief. I just go through the motions as best I can in public and give myself permission to do pretty much nothing in private. I stumble on. This weekend my sister will be here with my niece and nephew, and I want to make them blueberry muffins on Sunday morning, the way Claudia always did for us. We'll see our huge, amazing family, and try to remind ourselves that love doesn't disappear into thin air, that she has bound us all together, forever.
Easter Day photos, approximately 20 years apart.