Thunder storms are rare in southern California. Rare enough, at any rate, that I remember sitting in the living room in my sleep shirt, watching through the sliding glass doors, counting seconds between flashes of lightning and deep rumbles of thunder.
It's not a scientifically sound way to tell how far a storm is, but it works as a rule of thumb.
Thunderstorms are rare in Southern California, but they are decidedly un-rare in Nashville. And so I find myself counting seconds an average of once a week.
Sitting at my desk at work...1...2...3...4...5...
Cooking dinner in my apartment...1...2...3...4...5...
On the edge of sleep...1...2...3..4...5...
Listening to hear whether the storm is moving toward me or away, trying to guess how intense it will be when it's directly overhead.
Friday night I visited my Mimi in the hospital. She had fallen a couple days earlier, had been stricken with pneumonia, and was gasping for breath. We were told to see her if possible.
So I did.
I glanced at the monitor showing her heart rate and breathing, looking for some sort of answer, some sort of clarity. In an odd, sort of disconnected way, I noticed I was counting seconds once more, though this time with no real reason to do so.
She passed away yesterday morning.
I am reminded, once again, that this part of grief - the beginning of the eternity that is grief - is a thunderstorm. Something triggers - a smell, a song, a memory - and I start counting seconds, waiting for the boom of thunder, wondering whether the storm is moving toward me or away.
I hum a Dean Martin melody, and I remember when I was in ninth grade. Mimi telling me that no, the song was wrong. Being loved by someone doesn't make your life valid. You are certainly already somebody before somebody loves you.
Standing in my kitchen, remembering mealtimes with her, remembering that she may have told me not to get my hopes up when trying out a new recipe, but that she was also the first to sing my praises when it turned out well.
Giggling during Pascha liturgy, laughing when we were absolutely not supposed to.
Being SO MAD when she flew out to be with me after knee surgery, because she made me walk around the next day. She made me pick up the project that had led to the injury. She told me in no uncertain terms that the danger was not in the setback, but in the giving up.
Learning that, "as a seamstress you rip what you sew," and not understanding the pun until far later.
Looking up after a mistake or a setback to hear her say, "Oh well," before laughing about it.
Counting seconds. Wondering whether the storm is moving toward me or away.
Trying to guess how intense it will be when it is directly overhead.
With the saints give rest to the soul of Your servant, oh Lord, where there is no darkness, so sighing, so sorrow, but everlasting life.
And for our funeral song, we sing the song: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.