I opened my mailbox yesterday afternoon to find a “Special Welcome Back Offer” from Time magazine addressed to my mother-in-law.
“If we subscribe, will Mama Honey come back?” my husband asked when he came home from work and saw the notice on the counter.
Does Time have the power to turn back time? If so, who needs a special offer? Even cover price would be small price to pay to welcome my husband’s mother back, to be wrapped in her loving embrace, enfolded by the sweet sound of her voice on the other end of the phone.
It’s been more than two years since Mama Honey left this life. More than two years since I contacted Time to cancel her subscription, writing deceased as the reason.
Every day my husband and I remember that she is no longer present, he in ways more visceral and potent than I. Memories of her float in and out of ordinary days as my husband works with tools she first gave him, as I refill the spice jars she gave me at my bridal shower, as we share stories of her at family gatherings. Visitations come to my husband in dreams as he dances with her, or cares for her again at the end of her life. Ephemeral moments evaporating into morning’s light. And no matter how powerful they are, our memories and dreams never reunite us in person with the solidity of her physical body, the sound of her voice in the room, the sweet hospitality of her spirit that drew everyone close.
Was Time’s offer a cruel trick or a welcome treat? Was it a computer glitch omitting the instruction to delete her name from the database, or the inability of an automated system to honor our loss?
Whatever it was, the special welcome back offer arrived on Halloween, and I am writing this on All Saints Day. The veil between worlds is thin in these holy days, when we do indeed welcome back the dead, bring them to life in our mind’s eye, dress like our best and worst visions and nightmares, offer sweets to those who remain to ease the ache, and visit their resting places, which may be only in our hearts.
So, thank you, Time, for the opportunity to place my welcome back order. And thank you, catalogues and insurance and random special offer profferers, who manage to slip by my cancellation requests. Because of you, I open my mailbox on occasion and see my mother-in-law’s name in bold black print. I lift the envelope and carry it into the house as if my hand is cradling something precious and rare: Her memory bequeathed to me and those who love her still.
I began blogging about "This or Something Better" in 2011 when my husband and I were discerning what came next in our lives, which turned out to be relocating to Puget Sound from our Native California. My older posts can be found here.