If They Have Car Washes In Heaven

My mom always had the best sense of humor. She was quick-witted, poetic, and cynical enough to make a Sailor blush.

It was Christmas of 2012 and I couldn’t afford to buy my mom a nice present. She had been talking about how badly she needed a car wash due to the mucky New England roads for months, so I took what little money I did have and bought all the supplies. I snuck out of the house at 4am and washed her car– my little fingers freezing. By the time all was said and done, I realized there were frozen bubbles and water droplets covering the car. It finally clicked in my naive mind that I never checked the weather…it was 18 degrees out.

Come 9am, I coaxed my mom outside to sheepishly show her the freshly washed, and suds-covered car. She started crying. I apologized profusely, thinking I ruined the paint, but she stopped me and said it was the best gift she ever got. She bragged about it to all her friends and told the story for years to come. It was truly the essence of, “it’s the thought that counts.”

Flash forward almost a decade later: March 26, 2022. My mom, still in Georgia, had been in hospice for over a week, and they told me day after day that she had only hours left to live. Across the country, I was washing my truck in the self-service bay early in the morning, freezing my ass off. I got a call from the hospice facility, and I just immediately knew. They broke the news that she had passed. As heart-wrenching as it was, Aiyla’s comedic timing remained impeccable as always, even after she had left this world.

Today marks one year since I lost my hero, and one year since the world lost one of the kindest people to ever grace its presence. It’s been 365 days of attempting to untangle this thing called grief, in which I’m not sure I’ll ever finish.

It’s been 365 days of missing her at every turn.

Some big milestones have happened this past year without my mom. I got promoted to Petty Officer Second Class and earned my Aviation Warfare Pin. I went through my first big breakup. I became a shift supervisor and went to career school. I met a woman who looks at me like I put the stars in the sky, and I wish my mom could have met her. So many things happened, and she should’ve been the first one I called to celebrate or cry with.

But just because I lost her doesn’t mean I have to lose her memory. I still wear her Northeastern University sweatshirt from the ‘80s. I listen to all of her playlists. I tell people stories about her and all of her antics. I keep her phone line active to text frequently whenever I feel the need to update her on life or just say hi. And I find myself acting just like her in my everyday life.

And at the end of the day I realize that no matter how heartbreaking this grief is, I am lucky to go through it. I am lucky because grief is simply the consequence of love; so for me to grieve this deeply still, I had to have been loved more than I ever knew.

So, Mom, if they have car washes in Heaven…I hope your car is always clean.

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