prom dresses

Over the weekend, my mother in-law, Deolinda DaSilva, passed away quietly in her sleep. I can't say enough about the medical staff at St. Anne's Hospital for their care and compassion. Her family was always with her during her final weeks and many friends as well (thank you dear Maddy). On this night, my wife and daughters, my brother-in-law Manny and Victor, my two sisters-in-law Michelle and Aldavina, her brother and my nieces all sat with her. And watching my father-in-law gazing at the partner he had been devoted to through 60 years of marriage was as difficult as anything I'd ever experienced. In death, she looked peaceful and the suffering she had endured from her last illness was finally gone from her face. She was an incredible wife, mother, grandmother, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, aunt and friend to so many. A truly selfless person whose generosity of spirit cannot be measured. It is so hard to lose one's mother. I know. Yet, there is something about the mother daughter relationship I think, that can only be known to them. I don't believe a day ever went by in my married life, that my wife did not speak or visit her mother. Speaking little English, my wife shopped for her clothes (she always dressed up, even when she was ill), took care of medical needs, helped her dress, on and on. Though my father-in-law always doted on his wife, there are some things only a woman can do for another woman, and only a daughter can do for her mother. Today, my wife went to her mother's house to pick out a dress and bring it to last time. This final duty, this final act of love reminds me of a poem I read many years ago by Daphne Gottlieb..."My mother gets dressed." I will post it here along with a short video that gives just the smallest hint at an incredible life lived well. prom dresses

It is impossible for my mother to do even
the simplest things for herself anymore
so we do it together,
get her dressed.

I choose the clothes without
zippers or buckles or straps,
clothes that are simple
but elegant, and easy to get into.

Otherwise, it's just like every other day.
After bathing, getting dressed.
The stockings go on first.
This time, it's the new ones,

the special ones with opaque black triangles
that she's never worn before,
bought just two weeks ago
at her favorite department store.

We start with the heavy, careful stuff of the right toes
into the stocking tip
then a smooth yank past the knob of her ankle
and over her cool, smooth calf

then the other toe
cool ankle, smooth calf
up the legs
and the pantyhose is coaxed to her waist.

You're doing great, Mom,
I tell her
as we ease her body
against mine, rest her whole weight against me

to slide her black dress
with the black empire collar
over her head
struggle her fingers through the dark tunnel of the sleeve.

I reach from the outside
deep into the dark for her hand,
grasp where I can't see for her touch.
You've got to help me a little here, Mom

I tell her
then her fingertips touch mine
and we work her fingers through the sleeve's mouth
together, then we rest, her weight against me

before threading the other fingers, wrist, forearm, elbow, bicep
and now over the head.
I gentle the black dress over her breasts,
thighs, bring her makeup to her,

put some color on her skin.
Green for her eyes.
Coral for her lips.
I get her black hat.

She's ready for her company.
I tell the two women in simple, elegant suits
waiting outside the bedroom, come in.
They tell me, She's beautiful.

Yes, she is, I tell them.
I leave as they carefully
zip her into
the black body bag.

Three days later,
I dream a large, green
suitcase arrives.
When I unzip it,

my mother is inside.
Her dress matches
her eyeshadow, which matches
the suitcase

perfectly. She's wearing
coral lipstick.
"I'm here," she says, smiling delightedly, waving
and I wake up.

Four days later, she comes home
in a plastic black box
that is heavier than it looks.
In the middle of a meadow,

I learn a naked
more than naked.
I learn a new way to hug
as I tighten my fist

around her body,
my hand filled with her ashes
and the small stones of bones.
I squeeze her tight

then open my hand
and release her
into the smallest, hottest sun,
a dandelion screaming yellow at the sky

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