a room on fire

I went home last week. My sister and I got on a train to Richmond. Our father picked us up. We drove to Williamsburg and had dinner with our mother and newly minted college brother. That I’d wanted to go home for Charlie’s first few days of college made my actual journey even sadder.

For I did not want to go home crying. I did not want to lose someone so full of life, that the suddenness of her death left everyone who knew her asking “but, how?” And I really, really, never wanted to see someone I love suffer from the loss of her mother. 

I can’t continue to write about my daily life in Charleston, my mishaps and mangled tries at life, until I have written about Linda Jabs. What can I say? Words–something I think I have a pretty decent handle on, are simply not sufficient. You know how people describe their loved and lost ones as the kind of souls who lit up a room? I hate that. Everyone says that.

But if someone were to ask me–“did Mrs. Jabs light up a room?” I would say, “well, yes.” She definitely didn’t walk into it though (she strolled). Her smile may have been flint on wood, but it was her swinging hips, her raspy voice, her opens arms and exclamations of “where have you been all my life handsome,” that really set the room on fire. Finally ignited, of course, by her burning cigarette. 

Mitchell’s house was the mecca of my high school existence. It was the house upon a hill, with the yard gently sloping towards the York. Some of my most painfully poignant teenage memories took place there. And Linda was the queen. The hostess. The mother. The confidante. So unlike any mother I’d ever met, I marveled at Linda’s vibrancy. In recent years, with Mitchell in college at Florida, and me only a few hours away, I encountered Mrs. Jabs sans the connecting link of her daughter. And then we were just connected ourselves.

How could I make you understand about the cream cheese eggs and toast the morning after a party at Mitchell’s house? The insistence on dancing around the living room, under the sign that read “Life is Good”? Those scratchy animal hair pillows that were some dead animal only Mitchell could ever remember? And then I wonder and wonder and hurt and hurt because I only have snippets to haunt me with happiness–and Mitchell has a whole lifetime. 

There’s no “moral of the story” in death. There is neither rhyme nor reason, no matter how much you seek answers in sadness. At 22, I cannot fathom death. Nor can I attempt to rationalize it, or bask in some semblance of what it may represent. I can only remember Linda. Her life! God, it was full. I can close my eyes and see her dancing. Hear her voice. And I can try my very best to live as she did. I can be good, I can be happy. I can remember her every day. And maybe that’s what death’s about–the refutation of its own existence. The keeping alive of a life that cannot simply disappear. Image


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