Late in the afternoon on Mother's Day, Kim was in the kitchen talking on the phone and I was opening bills. For historical reasons, there are some bills that Kim tracks and takes care of and some that I do. We write the checks from a joint account but we split the administrative tasks. She takes care of the medical bills and so she's had to handle the stream of little claims for Elena's last day. Forty dollars here, fifty dollars there.
Among the bills I take care of are those from the funeral home. The last envelope I opened was from Schulte and I assumed it would be for some amount we had overlooked.
Kim could see on my face from the other room that this was different. She wrapped up her phone call and joined me in the dining room and asked what it was.
I shook my head.
"It's Elena, isn't it," she said.
"What is it?" she prodded.
It was Elena's death certificate. Another document to file. The last for her short life. It listed her as being six years old. As if it wasn't obvious from that fact, there were also notations to indicate she'd never been married and had never been employed.
I folded the paper up and put it back in the envelope. Kim picked it up.
"Don't do that," I said. "Not now." The unspoken thought between us was "Not on Mother's Day."
But how could she not look.
She had to open the envelope and pull out the full sized document. She had to open it up and read the same details that I had. And, like me before her, she couldn't stop looking. She couldn't put it back down. She sat with it for a long time while I stood and watched.
In a way, it was a card from Elena. A last note from her on Mother's Day.