Self Expression Magazine

The Alpha and The Omega

Posted on the 22 March 2021 by Laurken @stoicjello

Timing really is everything. You make an arbitrary decision to turn left for reasons you can’t explain, and you pass by a shop you feel compelled to enter. Shopping makes you late for your non-stop flight from NYC to LA. You’ve got an important meeting in the City of Angels, but you end up missing the meeting because you missed your flight, which due to a rudder malfunction, crashed in a remote field in Iowa. There were no survivors.

Your fate had different plans for you that day. Why? Because you didn’t turn right on the sidewalk that fateful day. You weren’t supposed to. It wasn’t your day to die. It wasn’t your time. Simple as that. There were hundreds of stories like that 20 years ago on a balmy September morning in lower Manhattan.

On September 11, 2001, Fate determined those who would wake up to live….or die.

Oddly enough, that was the first thing that entered my head when the phone rang at at the unusual time of 11:12 Sunday morning, but when I looked at the number, everything changed. I knew. My life turned right when it should have turned left. A frantic voice on the other end told me to get to my mother’s long term care facility immediately. She was unresponsive and cyanotic….her face and other parts of her body were turning blue due to a lack of oxygen. Her breathing was labored. There wasn’t much time. The famous words the that you learn from hospice:.death will come soon, vs death is imminent has finally become a reality.

The call came minutes after I’d just awakened after a fitful night. I got caught up in a Martin Scorsese retrospective and got very little sleep. I was so tired. Even so, my adrenaline kicked in when ordered to come to the facility. I threw on a dirty caftan that was on the floor…I put it on inside out,, I slipped into closest pair of shoes I could find, I didn’t even have time to brush my teeth and my breath had this dense, slice and bake cookie dough quality about it. I popped several Pepcid Complete tabs that were in in my car’s glove compartment to help my breath and slathered hand sanitizer under each armpit. My hair could’ve been mistaken for a greasy spoon diner,. I grabbed my purse jumped in my car. With less than five miles worth of gas in my tank, I made the seven mile trek to that place I’ve learned to loathe. Like a Maccabee miracle. I parked and ran to the lobby door. It was 11:24 am. No one was at the front desk so I began banging and screaming stevedore approved profanities at the front door, kicking it too, cursing the scourge of Covid that was keeping me from what I knew what was on the other side of that big glass partition —the inevitable.

Kelly, a nurse I’d come to know finally opened the door and said those words that are bronzed in my head…like what one to immortalize baby shoes: “I”m sorry, she’s gone. We called her time of death two minutes ago”.

I was two minutes too late.

Two mealy fucking minutes.

So, I did what all Kendrick women do when upon receiving DNA altering news. I started crying as my knees buckled. I didn’t fall all the way to the floor. Kelly caught me. Once inside the lobby, I found a chair and became this a masala of emotions which ran all through me. And I sat there, forced to hear all the details surviving children never want to hear.: cold storage at the local funeral home until she can be taken to a facility to be cremated. I learned about death certificates and urns and what hospice can offer me and my family in terms of bereavement counseling. .Maybe she said more, I can’t remember. I do recall, the hearse would be there in about 20 minutes and I was asked if I wanted to see her one last time before they arrived. I politely declined choosing my last memory of her to be from some other time— to be determined later. I didn’t want to see her being wheeled out in a body bag.

I left, got gas and drove straight home and spent the next hour making phone calls repeating the same story. Several family members have been arriving throughout the day. By mid week, this place will look like a poorly run La Quinta. A private memorial service is planned for this Saturday. We can’t honor all her wishes that she established when planning her grand exit back in 1995, but we’ll do our best.

I’ll speak at the affair. Right now I don’t know what I’ll say to 29 grieving relatives at a sit down meal with a full bar. Perhaps, I’ll prepare something; perhaps I’ll let a three fingers of Johnny Walker Blue label help me be extemporaneous.

I’ll think about that later, Right now, I’m dealing with the fact that my mothers has died. She’s dead.

I’ve spent the day thinking, reminiscing, laughing, gallows humor mostly, and going through her effects, like her purse. Her glasses made me cry, as did an address book, a gift card and a wadded up Kleenex. Then, I’d stop crying, talk more, laugh some, then another swath of sadness/reality would overwhelm me. I’m told this will be how will go for a while.

I’m in bed now, and fortunately rummaged through a drawer and found a renegade Xanax from another time in my life. I don’t know if it’ll help, it couldn’t hurt. I hope to wake up tomorrow and hit the ground running. My mother has a very complicated estate and there are people to talk to, plans to make, tough decisions to resolve, groceries to buy, alcohol too and then after the memorial service, everyone will leave and it’ll just be me. The house will be quiet and empty and trust me, that’s when it’ll be the worst. You look up snd its 4:38 in the morning and you’ve cried at regular intervals and and the world makes even less sense. There is no lonelier feeling in the world than first few days after the funeral,

I retired early from a 32 year career in broadcasting. I moved to this small, Texas Hill Country town in 2012. I could’ve moved anywhere in the world but I chose to move here with the hopes of redeeming a turbulent relationship with my mother. In a way I think we did and in others, we only made matters worse.

I loved my mother as much as I could. She loved me as much as she could. It was hard to tell each other this however. I hoped I implied that I did by moving here when everyone who once lived closer, left to pursuit new lives. I suppose she tried to tell me she loved me placing coupons in my purse for dark age spot removal, wrinkle erase creams and sending me magazine articles about finding love after 60. A soupçon of passive/aggressive behavior, but I was willing to take crumbs for a while.

But, that’s was love and how we shared it. What we had was never anything like those wholesome and sanitized mother/daughter relationship storylines in a Lifetime Made For TV movie. Our relationship was problematic, rarely great, but real.

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A few hours ago, I didn’t reach for her hand. Instead, I mindlessly reached for her memory, As I’ve done a million times before, I’d call her to inquire about the name of that guy who back in’73, lived in that house on the corner near that girl who was killed by an wayward cream truck. She’d know. She could always remember things.

It’s been less than 24 hours since she died and I miss her. Yes, I miss her. I feel it deep in my gut which prompts the waterworks. I’d like to believe she’s someplace where she’s pretty and young again, out of pain, in an almost magical place where she can walk and talk and employ logic like before…or maybe she’s on some cloud playing cribbage with God, Jesus, Allah, Ganesh…even Zeus and not only is she beating these deities, she also feels at least, periodic twinges of missing me as well. I want to believe this. No, after years of therapy and so many hurt feelings that cost us so much senseless wasted time, I need to believe this, for my survival.

Nonanel Crews Kendrick

June 30, 1930 – March 2021


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