Age withers me like dry leaves. My life bleeds out in rivulets. I sit here in a churning cesspool of all the things I left undone. I feel myself caught in the undertow, draining, drowning, disappearing into the stream of fading away.
Life has hit me pretty hard of late. Just as the family was planning a Mother’s day celebration in conjunction with Thomas’s birthday, I received news that my stepmother, Jean, had died. It hit me harder than you would have thought losing “just” a stepmother should; it hit me harder than I could have imagined.
Mind you this was not totally unexpected. She was 77, and had been in decline for over a year. But as much as you prepare for something, as much as you think you’re ready, you’re not. There is no way to prepare for something like this. I cried like the 6-year old I was back when she became my stepmother. There was no thinking, only feeling. And sobbing. And, like a 6-year old, I called my mommy. At 2 AM. Only vaguely coherent. But she did the right thing, just comforting me until I got the words out. She was there for me. After all, she’d loved Jean too. Everyone had.
Jean was one of those people that just made you happy by being there. She was open to any and every person that walked through her door. She helped several teens by taking them in until it was safe to go home. The door to her and my dad’s house was never locked. Even if they weren’t home, you were welcome to come in, sit down, and have a glass of tea.
I didn’t come to live with her until I was 15, but those 3 years before college helped me grow in ways I didn’t know I could grow. I learned a different way of looking at things and a different way of being. I became a calmer, kinder, gentler person because she was kind and caring and poured her strength into you. All the kids and teens that knew her would tell you so. Your anger or fear or meanness just didn’t faze her. She reached out and helped you release it.
Others have said that the world is a littler darker without her. But I refuse to let that be. Jean wouldn’t want us to forget her love and comfort and be bereft. Her legacy lives on in me, and my brothers and sisters and countless friends of ours. We are now all her light. We can continue to live in the light, and with kindness, and she will always be here.
We love you, Jean.