It’s my last night in Rome, and I am back at the beginning. The feeling that at any moment my grief will suffocate me. I am having difficulty swallowing. The inside of my mouth feels as if it were on fire.
She was alive. And then she wasn’t. What does that even mean? What does it mean how she had lived her life? Where do all her life experiences, her memories, go? Does it even mean anything how we live our lives? Does anything have any meaning at all? One moment we are living, we are a world onto ourselves, we have a vast reserve of experiences and memories, and the next moment – we cease to exist. We are not.
I don’t know what to write, but I get up from the bed and sit at the desk nevertheless. I open the notebook, take the pen, and the following lines appear without thinking:
How do you measure a life?
Moment by moment?
How many lives you touched?
My fingers hover over the page. I don’t know how to continue. I don’t know what to write next. I sink lower into my chair. I crave a blankness in my mind. I reach for my phone, turn on the Internet, and browse pictures on Instagram for distraction. I stop at a photo A., a friend in San Francisco, posted. It is only a fragment of her holding a baby. Only her hands and the baby’s legs are visible. There is a precious quality about the picture that makes me pause. I am still holding the pen in the other hand, and it instinctively glides over the page, and the words flow on their own.
The hands enfolding with love –
Blue nail polish
Some bangles adorning the wrist.
That’s one moment
That is love.
And that is –
(how you measure a) life.
In this picture, I found the answers to my three questions. It’s that simple. That’s all there is to life. When I pack my suitcase a few hours later, I no longer feel the suffocation. I take a deep breath, and my body is filled with the memory of my mother. But this time, along with the heaviness of grief and sadness, there is also the delicate fluttering of love and gratitude, and it’s a pleasant surprise. For it was she who taught me to appreciate life in its moment-to-moment existence, as I cared for her during her ten-year long disability.
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