my mom and i used to e-mail back and forth multiple times a day. usually only one or two sentences, and mostly silly things – “roxy rolled in poop.” “classes are good, my students are funny.” “your father fell asleep in his chair, i’m watching american idol.”
the day k and i came back to CT after leaving my house, my mom sent me an e-mail: “miss you guys already, awful quiet around here!” that was january 4th.
on the 5th, i hopped online and got her message, wrote back: “we miss you too! really cold here.”
as an afterthought, i sent one more message: “love you!”
that night, she died.
the day after the funeral, i made it my task to do as much as i could so my dad wouldn’t have to. i called the phone company and had them change the name on the bill to just his; i wrote out all of the thank you cards and put them in the mail; since my dad doesn’t even know what to do with a computer, let alone the internet, i called and had the house’s service cancelled.
when the paramedics had come the night she died, her laptop had been on the table. now it’s sitting on my bookshelf, closed and quiet. i pop it open and it whirs to life, bringing me right to the page she had been on four nights ago. the internet service takes 24 hours to shut off; i log into my mom’s email account.
error message. try again. error message. new password. different error message. i double-check the post-it where she had written her password, try it a third time. error. error. error.
i call the service provider again.
“hi, i was just wondering why i couldn’t get into my e-mail account. i’m using the correct log-in and password but it’s not working.”
“oh, the e-mail account is linked to the service. once you cancel the service, the account is permanently wiped out and closed.”
i hang up the phone slowly, don’t say a word. panic is crawling up my throat and the tremors are back, making my breath ragged and pained.
“i need to see,” i think frantically, tears clouding my vision. “i need to make sure she got my last e-mail. i need to make sure i got to tell her i loved her, one last time. i need to know that she knew!“
everything i have ever known about life has been erased and rewritten. when i think about the permanence of what has happened – the truth that i will never see my mother again – the weight of it is bone-crushing. i cling to the hope that my e-mail got there in time. that my last “i love you” made it to her before she died.