“It’s just an object. It doesn’t mean what you think.” – River Tam, “Objects in Space,” Firefly
I am surrounded by objects.
I am surrounded by my mother’s objects.
I sleep in her bed. I use her bathroom. I drive her car. I eat in her kitchen and cook on her stove. I go through her papers and accounts and emails. Everything around me reminds me of her. For me, right now, in New Orleans, there is no escape.
I know they are “just objects.” That, in the end, they don’t mean my mother. They’re not there to represent her, to be her, only to remind me of her because once, they belonged to her.
But the one object that overwhelms me, the object that has taken me to the darkest journeys inward, is her mausoleum.
My father always wanted to be buried in the ground in New Orleans. But my mother used to work at a funeral home, and found the mausoleum to be peaceful, calm, serene. When they purchased their plot, she convinced my father to purchase a mausoleum.
I think it’s almost worse for me, the mausoleum. Only a slab of granite and some wood separate me from my mother. She’s entirely too close to the surface, and I can feel her, hear her, right on the other side, if I strain hard enough to listen, to feel.
I thought, with time, this would get easier. Instead, it’s gotten harder. It’s as if the first month was shock, the surprise of it all, the unexpectedness. Planning the funeral, family coming to town, organizing paperwork. Now that it’s begun to calm down, it’s begun to sink in.
My mother is dead.
We have been to the mausoleum 4 or 5 times now, and each time, I sob. I am so close to her, but forever far away. In New Orleans, we can’t bury the dead in the ground, not if we expect them to stay put come the first major flood, but there’s a comfort in the dirt. There’s a comfort to the six feet of separation between you and the vessel that was once a loved one.
I know, as Firefly says, “We’re all just floating.” As Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson argue, we’re all just “star stuff.” Our lives here are temporary and when we think of the vastness of the universe, of life and beauty, it’s so precious, so fragile, so incredibly amazing that we get any time at all together. I know all of this, and still, I miss my mother.