My first words were, “I don’t want to die.” Mom laughed nervously and then said, “Mama?” again to reassure herself. Dad didn’t believe her when she told him.
Last year, at a family friend’s birthday party, I sat across from my mother at a picnic table. We were eating birthday pie and sipping diet soda when I told her, “I don’t want to die.” We had been talking about my mother’s religious neighbors and whether or not we thought they were happy. My mother was convinced they were secretly miserable. She heard them yelling late at night, and one time she had caught the wife with a bottle of antidepressants, even though their church was publicly and adamantly against the idea of medication.
“Those were your first words,” my mother said. She choked down a bite of pie.
“What?” I asked, perplexed at my mother’s response and also embarrassed that I had uttered an implied desire to live forever.
“Your father didn’t believe me. I didn’t believe myself for years. But you said it plain as day.”
My mother is a good woman. She provided and cared for me. But I wasn’t sure if she ever really listened to me. I suffered from a terrifying fear of death for a lot of my life. Whenever I expressed this fear, my mother always pooh poohed it as a childish unease. It was easily dismissed.
Life is…good sometimes. That day when we ate pie at the family friend’s birthday party marked the end of my fear of death. That day when my mother believed her memory.