As I am looking through the photos from Mom’s memorial celebration, I come to one that shows the back of someone’s head looking up at the pulpit as one of the ministers was speaking. This mystery head has white hair, and it looks like the back of Mom’s head! Something about the shape, the way it’s tipped, the hair…it definitely looks like the back of Mom’s head! As if Mom was there watching her own memorial. And I think to myself, “Who is that?” Then I notice that this mystery person is wearing the same scarf I was wearing that day, and sitting where I was sitting. Yes, indeed, it’s me!
This reminds me of something that happened perhaps a decade earlier when Mom had broken her hip and I had come to Chicago from Springwater, New York, where I lived at the time, to be with her during her recovery process. She was around eighty, and it was a time in her life and in my own view of her when she was just crossing the borderline from a very prolonged “late middle age” into being truly old. We were at a physical therapy session in the hospital, waiting for the physical therapist, and I looked across the room and saw a middle-aged woman sitting next to her elderly mother, who was in a wheelchair. It was a very poignant sight at that moment because I thought to myself, “All too soon, that will be my situation: I will be middle-aged and my mother will be an old woman like that.” And then I realized I was looking into a mirror. The opposite wall was a mirror. I was looking at myself sitting next to Mom.
[Excerpted from Death: The End of Self-Improvement, a work in progress.]