Her death didn’t match the season. It was July. Bright and warm. The air, nourishing and jittery with little wings and sounds. Things were blooming and green and lush and lively. Fireworks every Friday night and grill cooking granted no oven to clean. It should have been the best of times. But she died in July.
She would have liked to wait two more weeks to celebrate her seventy-fifth birthday. We would have had a party. She would have loved that. She was happiest when she was the center of attention. That July, she was. So many came to see her. She lay center stage looking more beautiful than most of her audience. She was stunning in death as she had been in life.
That particular July became a dark season for me. I didn’t mind. Always hated summer anyway. The post-mortem tasks passed the time and claimed my mind, so much easier to let banking and paperwork and phone calls and emptying her house, our family home, crowd my head instead of the iceberg reality that she was dead.
Other than her leaving just before her birthday, I’m glad she chose July. I have no attachment to the month. Out of all the months, it ranks twelfth. Now that it’s the anniversary of her death, I dislike July even more.
Considering the weather and the jovial atmosphere of the month, some might say her death was unseasonable, but my mother knew that was the right month to leave. She would never have ruined October for me. Mothers are like that. Always thinking of their children first.
Death, its timing, its manner, its reason pay no mind to season. It is not beholden to accommodation, consideration, nor convenience. Death itself is always unseasonable. Its arrival is not always unexpected, but its timing is. No one is privy to death’s schedule. It’s the spirit who is departing who is likely in cahoots with God to conjure an exit plan, a departure time. That must be it.
When I remember how she called so many old friends the week before she left to say good bye, I am sure she could hear her days clicking away. She knew.
When I arrived at her house, which would be the last time I would take her to chemo or see her alive, instead of the usual hug and kiss, she held my arms when I stood to move away. She said, “Let me hold you a little longer.” She pulled me close again and squeezed me as she hadn’t done since the strength had left her arms. When she let go, she stared at my face as if studying my features for the first time—the features she and my dad created—as if to memorize them so she wouldn’t forget them, so she could carry the image of my face into her eternity. She scanned my face. Touching my cheek, she said, “You get more beautiful as you get older.”
I know now that she was saying good bye.
Death is not so much unseasonable as it is unreasonable. She would have loved to stay a little longer to see me get a little older. Would have been nice for both of us. But she died that July and left that month unseasonably cold.
This is a reprint of work originally published in Months To Years.
Maureen Mancini Amaturo is a New York-based fashion and beauty writer and columnist. She teaches creative writing, produces literary events, and leads the Sound Shore Writers Group, which she founded in 2007. Her publications include: two beauty how-to guides for Avon Products, personal essays, creative non-fiction, short stories, and humor pieces published by Ovunque Siamo, Boned, Bordighera Press, Months To Years, Pink Panther Magazine, bluntly magazine, Mothers Always Write, Baseball Bard, Flash Nonfiction Food anthology published by Woodhall Press, a poetic tribute to John Lennon published by Beatlefest, articles and celebrity interviews. She was diagnosed with an overdeveloped imagination by a handwriting analyst, and has been doing her best to live up to that diagnosis ever since.