It’s hard to believe she’s gone. I still plan my days around trips to the hospital that I won’t make. I sit in her apartment with the furniture pushed against the walls to make room for a hospital bed, wheelchair, and other equipment that won’t be coming. I shop and add my groceries to her cabinets filled with the low-salt-no-sugar foods that were her staples. My toothbrush is next to hers, alongside the many medications she took.

She was my last surviving parent:  my birth mother.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I tried to reach her by phone on September 11th. I imagined her watching the tragic events of that day on television and worrying if all in her circle of loved ones were safe. She was always certain that in Greece, where I lived, I was close to danger, and I thought a call would reassure her.

When there was no answer, I thought perhaps she was staying with friends for a few days. I knew she wouldn’t be away from home longer than a few days at a time because of Cali, her beloved cat. My sister was also trying to reach her and when neither of us could contact her over the next few days, we got worried. My only thread of contact with Pasadena was someone I’d met on the Internet, but I needed a favor and called her. Would she try to find out if Sally was all right? She dropped everything and went to the apartment complex and learned that Sally had been taken to the hospital by ambulance on September 10th.

It didn’t make sense to drop everything and go to her. I didn’t know if she’d want to see me or if she’d be well enough to see me. For all I knew, she could tell me to go away and that would be the end of it. The thought that she and I aren’t even legally family didn’t cross my mind. I just knew I needed to do it. I threw my laptop, books, and a couple of changes of clothes in a suitcase and went.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I feel like an intruder in the personal corners of her life, and yet, to others, it seems like the most natural place in the world for me to be. I was handed the keys to her apartment, collected her mail, paid her bills, and talked to doctors, nurses, and care coordinators. I’ve been a touchstone for her many friends and family – those she held together with her frequent phone calls and notes, letting them know what was going on, and making sure they were doing all right. I’m also making sure her last requests are honored.

I don’t know if my coming made a difference to her, but I like to think it did.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
They say you should never make major decisions immediately after the death of a loved one, and I’m taking my time determining my next steps. For the time being, I’m content to walk around this city – her city – care for her cat, and celebrate – with my sister – the short years of our reunion in my heart, thoughts, and memories.

It was a privilege to help as much as I could, for the last months of her life, the woman who did as much as she could to help me in the first months of my life. We have come full circle.

In loving memory of my birth mother, Sally.
October 26, 1927 – November 18, 2001