I didn’t know where to sit. How big was this church? The back corner of the
back pew, in the third row, seemed a little crowded. I couldn’t see past the
pavement. The man next to me said, “You can put me there,” and I nodded and
put him there, and turned.
So I’m sitting here, and she was dead. I always imagined it would be worse,
when Mom died. All of us waiting in the hospital room. I got here sooner,
though, to get out of the house. I wasn’t quite sure how to get out. It was
my first day in a different school, in a different house. They didn’t think I
wanted to move here. In fact, they thought I would come back to the city and
work for my mother. But I hated having to go back to school, hated it as much
as, if not more than, I hated going back to the orphanage. I was glad I had a
job. I was grateful to have a regular, steady paycheck. But you know what I
knew about that?
Mom and I went back to the orphanage when I was fourteen. I was still
twenty-two. I’d been in school all my life. She, on her own, could have had
a different life. That’s one of the reasons she kept on. I was grateful she
did. I just wish it didn’t end.
The church was full, but you could hear the murmurings and whispers. They
were always a little loud, it seemed to me, on a Sunday morning. I started to
wonder what Mom would have expected of me in that church, when I remembered.
She would have been sitting in the back pew, but she wouldn’t have bothered
with all of the people, would have just sat beside me instead. She would have
touched my hand, held mine, if I needed it, and she would have told me she was
happy for me. She would have told me she loved me, told me she never forgot
me. She loved me, and she loved us both.
I wish it could have been different. If only we hadn’t gone to her, to Mom.
The memories, they fade. Even the happiest ones become shadows. Even the
most meaningful ones become small pieces of a bigger picture, pieces out of
A light turned on somewhere in the house, and people started clapping, and
it felt like a celebration, even though I didn’t know what it was all about.
A good old-fashioned church wedding, like the ones Mom and I did sometimes,
sitting in the back pew and looking on as the preacher said things we didn’t
understand, or that sounded like something Mom would say. It was something
about us, something we should have thought about, but we didn’t. We went
back to the orphanage, to the institution where we’d both spent our formative
years. I remember, in the orphanage’s hospital room, where Mom would die, I
saw my grandfather in the hospital bed there with Mom, her sick eyes staring
at us, begging us to help her. He would have died before Mom did, if we’d
given him her medicine.
He was a good man, I think, and though the years have proven me wrong about
that, I was grateful I had him. Even if he was only one of Mom’s brothers in
law. I looked to Mom to make things right. I always hoped she would come home.
There’s a photo of that. She sat in my place at the wedding, with me. And I
was happy for her. For her to have a family, of sorts. She was the perfect
woman, the only woman I knew for sure I could be happy with.
But she didn’t care what any of us thought of her anymore, and she didn’t
care about the pain of me. I looked to Mom for that. She’d never let me
believe it, her life was full of pain and joy, of disappointment,
disillusionment, the kind of pain that makes everything seem meaningless.
I’d always looked to Mom, though, to make things right. It was easier, in a way,
after Mom died than it was when she was alive, because I knew now that it
wasn’t her doing. I couldn’t blame her. You can’t blame people for things
they don’t do. It would be impossible for me to blame someone I loved, who
had helped me at every juncture when I needed help, for actions I had no
cause to regret.
“Are you ready, sir?” I heard a voice, a young man’s voice, above the crowd at
the front. He spoke up, his face and figure filling the front of the church.
His father had died that day. His mother came to church every Sunday, and he
was her only child. He was her son, and she would be gone in a few days. I looked
up to him to thank him, to give him an encouraging nod.
The congregation sang, “In Sure and Certain
Desire”, and the young man sang, looking up at the choir above. He sang
long and loud, so others could join in. As the song ended he turned and walked
toward me, his face filled with happiness, and my heart felt as if it had
swelled for him.
I shook his hand, and he shook mine. He said, “Hello, Jason.” His name is
It’s a simple enough name, except for the fact that my father used mine before
me. I still don’t know how much my mother knew. I never knew hers. Not a
I said, “Hey, Jason.”
“You were so good in church today,” he said. He sat down next to me and
waited for me to speak. I talked to him, like we had been doing for the last
three years. I said, “Thanks, I mean it. It’s good to be here.” He nodded.
I said, “Mom died today.”
He looked at me and seemed surprised. I said, “No I mean it. She’s gone, and
I’ve really missed her.” Then I asked, “Do you miss her?”