2. Mrs. Oh
Permission to Wait Three More Days
I laughed out loud, as my dad pretended to steal from me the cherries I was eating. My dad was just playing with me. It was a Sunday morning in May, and the cherry season had just started after a long winter. My sister also laughed, and it was the first time in a long time we all gathered in the kitchen and laughed out loud like that.
That winter, I had my second ever trip with my mom, just the two of us. We were in Florida soaking in the sun, going for long walks and taking naps during the day. It was during one of those afternoon nap times, when my mom looked straight into my eye without saying a word, her eyes full of love and with a smile on her face. If I were to draw “I love you” without putting the words on paper, the way she looked at me would be exactly what I would draw.
Actually, the eyes silently asked me these questions:
‘Can you even fathom how much I love you?
You are the first fruit of my love, my womb, my youth.
How much longer will I see you? Let me look at you so I can remember your face.’
She looked into my eyes. Her pupils shook for a brief moment. Her eyes moved to my forehead. She looked at my cheeks, my nose then looked into my eyes again.
I was so overwhelmed that I couldn’t look into her eyes. I tried to speak, but my voice squeaked. She had been battling ovarian cancer, and all of chemotherapy and conventional treatments including late stage human trials no longer worked. We both knew that this could be our last trip together. But I did not want to give off any hint that we were both thinking that.
“Why are you looking at me like that Mom…?” My voice still squeaking, I had to look away.
After all, I was only 24 years old and my sister 21, and none of us was ready to let her go.
After eating those cherries, my sister went back upstairs to her room, and she called all of us up.
“Guys, I think you guys better come up.”
Why?” I asked, as my dad and I headed upstairs. My heart was pounding. In these last weeks, Mom was visibly losing hope.
I didn’t know what death looked like. I had never seen someone pass away. But my dad knew. He immediately burst into such a loud cry, and I had never seen him cry like that ever.
I did not cry. I did not want to accept that she was gone. From within me, a small voice said, “Jewish people wait 3 days before they bury someone in case they wake up and come back to life”. I wanted to wait 3 days.
Waves and waves of our family friends came in. By the late afternoon, my house was full of our guests. Then the funeral people came, to take my mom away to prep her for the funeral.
‘Oh no! They are here! I don’t want them to take her away.’ Then when I touched her, she was cold.
The coldness shocked me.
I vaguely knew that people would turn cold after death, but I had never felt that personally before. The moment I felt the change in the temperature of her body, the courage in me disappeared. ‘Maybe she is gone for good.’
I was afraid that waiting 3 more days would sound crazy. As I sat by the front door of my house, I watched the funeral people take my mom away. Then the small voice in me said again,
‘Should I stop them now? This is the last chance.’
Another voice in me said,
‘Are you crazy? The doctor pronounced her dead. Let her go.’
More than 10 years passed since that day. I sometimes think back to the 24 year old me that watched Mom get taken away. Had I known then what I know now, would I still have given up on waiting 3 more days? What if I listened to the right small voice and stopped the funeral people? Why didn’t I at least try what I had in my heart? Only I knew what I had in my heart, so I was the only one who could try what I believed in.
Through Fresh Fire, we want to give you the permission to wait 3 more days. It does not mean we want you to go out and do whatever is the most erratic thing you can think of. What we are saying is, if you know that the small but firm voice of your heart is telling you to do something - even when everything you have tried seems to be dead - we will stand by you.
One day I hope to get an email from a 24 year old girl with a younger sister, whose mother is facing the last days of cancer. If the 24 year old firstborn girl has the heart to wait 3 more days, I want to believe in it with her. Whoever you are my darling, I hope I meet you one day.
Cherries remind me of the morning she passed. Perhaps the only time my family laughed out loud like that during the last weeks. I believe our laughter somehow put my mom’s mind at peace, and she chose to go to heaven then instead of all the other times.
‘My sweet daughter, I cherry-ish you. I cherish you. You made my life so sweet - thank you.’
My sweet friend, I cherry-ish you. I cherish you. What will you do if we stand by you on your decision to wait 3 more days? How will your heart respond? Thinking of you my friend makes my heart jump. You make our lives so sweet - thank you.
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