Dateland: Gone, But Still In Me


In June, my mom was diagnosed with cancer and she died two months later. She was staring into my eyes as she died and I felt her soul flow into my body.

“Dad, I think mom is inside of me,” I said the following day.

“Yes, she’ll always be with you,” he said.

“No, I mean that literally. She crawled inside of me and is using my body as a command post,” I said.

He looked at me skeptically for a moment, and then said, “Well, you did criticize what I was wearing this morning, which isn’t like you….”

“And I feel an overwhelming desire to vacuum, tell my brother how to raise his children, and deadhead the garden….” I said, with growing alarm.

“There’s no other explanation,” he said. “She’s taken you over.”

My mother controlled my life for the past 47 years. While death might cause lesser forces of nature to lose their power, it’s only strengthened my mom’s awesome command.

My mom wasn’t scared to die, but she was not happy about it. Mainly, I suspect, because–as the ultimate control freak–she feared the mess her family and friends would make of their lives without her constant advice and bullying.

Even on her deathbed, she was planning our future. She told me what food to serve at her memorial service (“lovely finger sandwiches and lots of champagne“), drafted a punchlist for my contractor to complete on my kitchen remodel, and made me promise to manage my father’s social life.

The widows smelled blood in the water the day my mom was admitted to the hospital, and they began bombarding my dad with casseroles and concern. My mother watched the action with amusement from her sickbed and offered a running narration of the widow offensives like a sportscaster doing color commentary. “Get out a pen and paper,” she said, “we’re going to make a list of the women you should let your dad date, and the ones who are only attracted to his money and the fact that he can still drive at night.”

In the final days, I felt that she finally was serene in the knowledge that she had turned over stewardship to me. She presented me with an epic list of “final requests”—everything from promising to “give up your stupid ideas about not eating pork” to making sure my nieces attend good colleges.

But, then, a day before she died, she changed her mind about my competence. “I can’t die,” she said. “You don’t even have enough sense to wait until after Christmas to buy a winter coat…when they’re on sale! You’ve never learned the importance of separating delicates. You just throw them in the wash with your cottons and hope for the best.  And your hair is an absolute mess.”

“Mom, I’m ready to take over,” I said with as much confidence as I could muster. But she knew as well as I did that I was faking it.

So, the next day, as I held her hand and she took her last breath, I wasn’t surprised when she locked eyes with me and I felt a passage open that allowed her soul to travel deep into me.

Yesterday, as I tried to help my dad recreate the holiday decor my mother had expertly orchestrated for the past 50 years, he pulled out an intricate garland from Denmark.

“I can’t remember where that goes,” I said.

“Let’s ask your mother,” my dad said. So I closed my eyes and a voice I recognized immediately for its supreme authority and self-assurance blasted through the noise in my brain.

“Hang it on the chandelier in the dining room—the same place it’s been for the past two decades, you fools,” I channeled.

And with a familiar sigh of annoyance and relief, we did exactly what she told us to do.

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