THE SINGLE TEAR

Most people’s times of grief last for a season. Mine has lasted for a lifetime. As I looked at the single tear on the cheek of my mother after she had died, all the pain and grief of a lifetime – mine and hers – seemed to coagulate. It was only when I experienced that grief for the first time in all its fullness that I began to learn more who and what I was.

“I wish I could cry,” she had said to me a few weeks before her death. I wished that she could too.

“If you looked back too much you would go mad,” she had said, on another occasion, and I knew what she meant.

I showed the photograph of my mother’s face taken minutes after her death, to my closest friend. I am blind, but sometimes I can just see photographs on an iPad. I had not been there at the moment of her death, having had to leave earlier, due to a family disruption. My husband had taken me home, but just as we drove up to our driveway, I was seized by a deep desire to return to my mother’s house. We drew up outside the house, and at that moment my husband’s mobile rang. It was my brother.

“Mum died one minute ago,” he said.

Numbed, I went into the house, and into the living room where laid her dead body in a hospital bed into which she had got just one week ago. As I was not able to see her, my brother took the photograph. It was then that the tear became apparent.

I looked at the tear and felt a grief too deep for words. I fell silent. Whilst in life she could not cry, in death she found release.

My closest friend, upon seeing the photograph, declared,

“Your mother has the most beautiful blue eyes.” She had seen the beauty of my mother and not the cavernous mouth hanging open. In that moment, I, too, cried.

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