I never laugh when it rains (draft three)

I never laugh when it rains. A family trait; rain has never crept into the laugh lines of my face. I’ve never stood in a rain that I thought was warm and comforting.
I stand in the rain now, missing her.
She would yell now. Something about paying for me to go to the salon only to mess up my hair.
Then it would move into selfishness. We were always selfish. She could have gone to Broadway. But we were selfish.
Was she thinking about that when she died?
She was alone. She knew she would be.
But she made an appointment to meet with friends. I don’t know them. She never kept friends for very long.
She knew they would worry. She wanted them to.
Did she mean to leave this behind?
She didn’t leave a note. That makes it worse. I have composed the note for her.
It is short.
“Finally. I can be someone.”
It sounds like her. Something she would write. Something she would want written.
I search the house before it is cold. There is no note. No words of goodbye. No accusations.
Through the cloud of death, the grey-white pallor of her void I feel her disappointment.
That’s what no note feels like. Asking for it—thinking about it at all—I can feel her. The heaviness of her disappointment.
Even in death we let her down, wishing to pull words from her. She left us with none.
Mid-sentence she signed and ended the conversation without us.
My best friend stands beside me, close enough so that I can feel her heat, but far enough so that I don’t think she’s touching me.
There is no sensation that burns like that of a grief touch.
The pity will drown you far faster than the tears.
“She was brave,” she mumbles. Her words come out so softly that I wonder if I’ve imagined them.
They sound like my best friend’s words, but it feels like my mother would say it.
I want to ask, “what part? What was brave?” but I don’t want an answer.
What if she says leaving. Making the choice.
Taking death into her hands.
Embracing it.
I don’t want to hear her answers, what she feels was brave, so I don’t respond.
We choose the gravestone together. I remember one that we saw years ago, when Grandmother passed away.
Grandmother was old. Older than Mom. It wasn’t as much of a surprise.
When we saw, “how terrible it is to love something that death can touch,” Mom drew in a breath, held it for longer than I thought was possible. When she let it out it was cold as it swept across my cheek.
She was calmer after. Somehow those words made her calmer.
I choose them for her stone. It won’t be ready in time. But she will be there where I can find her for when it’s ready.
The rain begins as I stand in front of her space. The space that she will occupy. I lay on the ground next to it and the director stands looking away without judgement. As if he’s seen it before.
That death can touch.
It grips me.
Death grips me.
I wonder if she’s here. Or anywhere. And then my mind empties and I can only think about the rain. Wondering if it can do what Grandmother’s lake could not.
Later when I leave I search myself.
Am I like my mother?
No.
The rain did not finish the work of the lake.
I find myself relieved. I take a breath, let it pass over my lips when it has cooled in my lungs.
I am glad that the rain did not.

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