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Reviews | How I got over the grief of my mother

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After the awkwardness of taking my long neglected bike for a tune-up (“I love working on these vintage bikes!” Said the technician), I started riding the club last winter, layering thermal shirts under windproof jackets, tucking the warmer foot into my fleece-lined hiking boots. I rediscovered roads that I had not taken for many years. I regained awareness of the towpaths and trails and muscles. In the midst of a pandemic, in a country that felt like it was being torn apart, I had found my tribe and an activity that kept me sane.

Then, last spring, my mother passed away.

It was suddenly, a dizzying slide through the guardrails and into the abyss. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in early March. She was in and out of hospitals for the next four weeks. She passed a round of chemo and was able to briefly come home and marry her partner for 18 years. By the first week of May, the doctors determined that she could just let her die, painlessly, in peace.

An ambulance brought my mom home on a Monday afternoon in May, and I drove to Connecticut to be there until the end. His wife and I put her in a hospital bed, with her Lincoln rescue dog by her side. We brushed her hair, rubbed her hands with lotion, dabbed her lips with ice and petroleum jelly, put morphine under her tongue.

Every morning that week I would leave my hotel and get on my bike for a fast ride, gasping for miles along a bike path, pedaling until my heart pounded and my legs burned and I taste blood in my throat. I would go back to the hotel, shower, buy bagels, drive to my mother’s house to resume the evening. I saw his bike in the garage, his helmet hanging on the handlebars, and I was like, She’ll never ride that bike again. I want to cry. I drove instead.

My mother passed away early on a Sunday morning – Mother’s Day, the day before my daughter’s eighteenth birthday. I bought a cake, and the birthday girl used frosting to divide it into three and write Happy Birthday / Happy Mother’s Day / Sorry for your loss. It was like life: the good and the bad overlap, all at the same time.

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