The last time I saw my mother was the day our friend Jon Cavaluzzo died. I was visiting Mom at her home in Cookeville, Tennessee, and Tuesday, February 9, 2016 was the last day of a sorrowful visit. Her health was bad, and her state of mind matched the cloudy winter sky: gray, tired, and not able to hold the heaviness much longer.
After a teary goodbye, I was filled with dread. Mom had been beleaguered. Something deep and dark hollowed out my insides as I left her apartment. Maybe this really would be the last time I would hug her, be embraced by all her fluffy warmness, feel her claw of a hand pat my back and intuit that one-of-a-kind love that housed only in her watery, hazel-green eyes.
I got off the elevator and walked into the common room of her building where a Bible verse was written neatly on the whiteboard in blue dry-erase marker. Cheerful potted plastic plants with flowers sat on top of board games and a row of Britannica Encyclopedias. Sweet people lived in my mother’s building, and I was so grateful to know she was safe. I walked past the long table covered in items other residents were giving away (half a package of cinnamon rolls, adult diapers, a Christmas tree candle) that ran the length of the room. I hurried across the parking lot to my rental car because it had started to sleet and I wanted to get to my hotel room near the Nashville Airport before the weather got too wild. I buckled the seatbelt and checked my phone. There was a text from my husband that said he had very sad news, and how sorry he was to tell me that our friend, Jon Cavaluzzo, had just died.
My husband and I do not have children and our friends are our chosen family.
I gasped. The motor idled. The headlights lit up a retaining wall. I looked up at the darkening sky and sobbed. We knew Jon had serious and difficult to diagnose health concerns, but he was only 55. I texted for more information then looked back at my Mom’s window. I had hoped she would be there, bathed in golden lamplight, watching me leave as she usually did for one last wave goodbye. But she wasn’t. I cried for a few more minutes then put the car in reverse.
Mom died November 30, 2016, one year ago today.