It was the second hottest day of the year — temperatures in the high nineties. It was a record-setting day, only to be shown up by the 100+ heat the very next day. And with the DC area humidity, the heat index was much, much higher.
We pulled into the driveway. I was already sweating through my black t-shirt, my shorts that I had thrown on quickly, and the baseball cap that was keeping the hair out of my face. My contacts were already blurred by tears, sweat and adrenaline. Everything looked like a painting.
The police car was waiting outside at our mailbox. The officer stepped out of the car as soon as we stepped out of ours. We shook hands after speaking on the phone an hour earlier.
I shook his hand. His and mine were both sweaty and hot.
I walked up the front steps and looked at the damage. the upper lock was smashed in, and the side of the doorway was splintered with wood fragments. It was due to the paramedics knocking through the locked door to gain entry.
socKs offered the officer something to drink – a glass of water. He smiled and politely refused.
He led me upstairs. I could hear the air conditioning through the house, but was it really working? Things were still very hot. I climbed the steps with the officer, my legs shaking as I went. He talked about the 911 call. The immediate response. The way they went to the neighbors to see if anyone had a key. The way they busted through the door. And how she was already gone when they had gotten upstairs to find her. He mentioned calling my Dad and making him pull over the car on the side of the road near the Tappan Zee Bridge to tell him what happened.
The fan was running on high. The officer had thought to put it on.
You couldn’t see from the hallway. The bed was in the way. She was on the other side of the bed.
It had only been about two hours since the 911 call. And her skin was already looking purple. Her eyes were glazed over, wide open. A blanket was over her which I removed, covering her head and her open shirt with her chest exposed. I instinctively covered her body back up. Her mouth was open slightly.
She looked so very frightened.
In the next two hours I would come up there several times. Once with the rabbi. Once with the guys from the funeral home. I was left alone to remove her jewelry. I went downstairs and made funeral arrangements, on the phone with my Dad (who was still driving alone on what could possibly have been the worst road trip of his life) and my brother and my Mom’s sister. I bought a burial site. I just went into total overdrive mode, sweating up a storm, notes flying on socKs’s PDA which I was using, sweating through my clothes. I wanted to forget that look on my Mom’s face. That look of fear captured even in death.
Things have changed quite a bit in two years. We’ve all grown. My Dad and his girlfriend just purchased and are living in their own new place. The house with that room in it is on the market. Carpets have been cleaned, rooms have been repainted, and furniture has been moved out. I know that the number of times I’ll enter that room again is finite. And I retain many, many wonderful memories of my Mom. Memories that I hope to hold on to for a very long time.
But no matter how hard I try, I just can’t shake the image in my head of my Mom’s face in fright.