September 20, 2005:I had just come home from almost two weeks at the New Mexico State Fair. My parents had met me in Artesia. We had dinner. We caught up. I told my mom this stupid story about these ducks. She laughed so hard that tears streamed down her face. That laugh is my favorite memory of her. My grandmother laughed that way. My uncles laugh that way. But hers was even more special. It was that infectious laugh, courageous in its fullness. I went to school that Monday morning in a horrific mood. I was tired. I was fighting with my boyfriend. I called her cell phone on my way to school and left a message with a list of things for her to do for me that day. I wish I could remember if I finished with “I love you.” The day was lousy. I stuck to myself…avoided my friends. I slept on a bench in the sun during lunch. That morning I had picked up a project I was working on from the Ag shop. It was a three and a half foot tall image of Bob the Builder. I had traced it on plywood and was painting it. I had renamed him Ed Aggie to use in my FFA workshops on character building. I had gone to the art room to paint him. It wasn’t where I was supposed to be—I was supposed to be in Ag. I can still hear those footsteps coming down the hall…they’re ominous now, but then they were just footsteps. I can feel the hand on my shoulder. I can see Teresa Parks, teacher and school counselor and mom of a friend I had known since kindergarten. I can hear her saying my dad is here and something is wrong. And suddenly I’m in the hall outside the high school office. I look out the window to see a 1996 Maroon Dodge truck in the street, a truck I have ridden in since I was six years old. And my first thought is “Something is wrong with my mom.” I run out the doors and yell at my dad who is stomping off toward the Ag building. He turns, and the look on his face is one I can’t describe, unusual and contorted and afraid. He hugs me and I can feel him begin to shake as he whispers “Mom was in an accident.” And when I ask where she is his answer is direct–“She’s gone.” I can still hear that detached scream. At first I thought it was coming from somewhere else, but no–that’s my scream, my voice as the world I know changes forever. He tells me he needs to run an errand. I tell him I’ll meet him at home. I fight past my principal who is insisting I let someone drive me home. I walk in the school building through the same door I walked out, but now there’s a different person in my shoes, everything feels foggy. The same teachers are walking down the halls, the same students. Doors slam around me. The bell rings and the hall is packed with my peers. Mr. Hess sees me and hugs me as tears stream down his face. I search for my friend in the crowd. “Where is he? Where is he?” There! And I grab Brady’s hand and tell him she’s gone. And he tells me it’s going to be ok. People didn’t understand me that day. I drove home. I made phone calls to tell those who were important in my life. I didn’t break down. I remember the eery calm that engulfed my brain and wrapped itself around my body. I remember the quiet peace as I pulled up in front of my house, the home I had known all my life, a peace that filled the house like a calm before the storm. Soon the phones began to ring and the house began to flood with well-wishers bringing food and paper plates and toilet paper. People not sure what to say, people with too much to say, people with nothing to say. I remember Wayne Brazil coming up, holding our hands as we circled in prayer. But I don’t remember going to bed. I don’t remember sleeping. I don’t remember the realization that she was really gone. But she was. And she is. And I long for her, for her touch and her laugh and her reassurance.
September 20, 2012:My mother is gone. She didn’t get to see me grow into a woman. She didn’t get to see my wedding day or the birth of my sons. She didn’t get to see me graduate from high school or college or earn my Master’s degree. And it isn’t fair. But each day I feel her with me. I can feel her calmness wrap around my shoulders, her hands against my face. I can hear her chiding comments, her laugh in my ear. And I know she loves my children even though they don’t know her. I tell them she’s the angel that watches over them–and they sing her songs, and I know that what I tell them is true. God has a purpose for this, and in His time I will know it. All I know for sure is that I made it another day without her–made it through another flood of the memories and grief and flashbacks. Nothing could measure or explain or express or describe the way that I miss her, how much I miss her…
A’ight, Momma. This one’s for you.
Laura Denise Neal Augustine
Jan 2, 1961 – Sep 20, 2005