’Til death do us part

From the editor - September 2005


Susy Schultz


OK, I’m not sure why, but I have been thinking a lot lately about death.

It’s not the morbid musings of a depressed soul, I promise. Nor am I trying to say I have any particular malady, except mortality.

I think it has just occurred to me, after all these years that, well, yes, it will happen to me.

As a logical person, I’ve always known it on one level or another. And I’m sure that, like any other full-blooded teenager, I even flung it in my parents’ faces.

"Really, Mom, we’re all going to die. So, what’s the point of chemistry?"

Perhaps this was brought on when I visited www.deathclock.com. The Web site calculates your "personal day of death." According to the site, mine is Nov. 18, 2056.

That is sobering enough. But, I think, rather than the death clock, my revelation has been hastened by my two boys. Too many times of late, I have found these words tumbling out of my mouth: "Just what would you do if I died?"

I sense, and I could be wrong here, but I think these feelings are much more common to mothers of boys than of girls.

I may be standing out on a sexist limb here but I think boys are passed a secret note in utero. We know they are different. They embrace the laws of motion with a much stronger grip than the opposite sex. And I believe boys are born knowing: Moms abhor a vacuum—almost as much as my boys hate the one in our closet.

This boy conspiracy probably dates back to Aristotle’s mother. While this great philosopher understood a vacuum, what do you want to bet he never helped his mom with the laundry?

Boys know that if they appear helpless, their mothers will help.

And we do. OK, I do. So, I have to wonder—when I die, what will they do?

I want my boys to be healthy and happy long after I am gone. Well, maybe not as happy as they would be with me here.

And maybe—and this I feel a lot these days—maybe I hope they have one, just one, moment where they say out loud and in a crowded room: "Mom? MY mom? She did THAT? Yes, she was special. I guess I just never realized how special. Oh, why didn’t I realize when she was alive? Why did I take her for granted?"  

So, let me try this again: When I die, I want my boys to be healthy and happy, with a few wistful moments, occasional pangs of loving mom memories and a few mandatory thank-yous in the speeches they will give for awards and accolades. 

Yes, I want them to be healthy and happy.

But how can they live without me? Because they are doing everything in their power these days to convince me that they won’t be able to.

When they were little, I was vital to them. The connection was physical. I carried those dear boys inside me. I ate well and slept well, so they would grow well. All my vital organs moved to accommodate those growing bodies. Without me, there was no survival.

Later, when I breastfed those two beautiful boys, I held them close and everything I put in my body went to them. If I ate Mexican, they burped refried beans.

During their toddler years, I filled them with kisses and watched them walk away. Then I ran after them, steering them away from the fireplace, the busy street and the hot oven. 

As they have grown, I figured my role would be to move steadily away, graciously stepping towards becoming obsolete, while standing ready with love and support.

But how can you be obsolete when you still perform mandatory underwear checks in the morning?

"Young man, how many days have you been wearing that underwear? What? Four does not mean they are seasoned, it means they need to be changed. Upstairs."

Or when your end of the phone conversation sounds like this:  

"Hi Honey. What? Really, Sweetie, it’s not that difficult.

"Just go into the other room and look to the left. Yes, it’s the big white metal box on the floor. Yes, that’s right. Now, stand in front of it and just lift the lid. That’s right. The lid is on top of the machine. Now, put the clothes inside, fill a cap full of laundry detergent and pour it into the machine. No, it goes on top of the clothes.

"Now, press the power button.

"Wait, wait. Did you close the lid?"

I wonder who will ask that question when I am gone.

See? How can I die?

So, I’ve come to another decision and this one I think is totally reasonable after thinking about death and my boys.

If I want to be a really good mother, I am just going to have to live forever.


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