I was 18 years old the day my mom died. And this year was the 18th anniversary of her death. I’ve been dreading this one for a while. Because as of 7:30am Monday morning, I have now spent more time on this earth without my mom than I did with her. It’s a really strange milestone, and it’s one that’s very hard to explain to people who haven’t experienced this kind of loss.
Over the last 18 years, I have never really acknowledged April 7 (Particularly because it’s two days before my birthday and that roller coaster ride is just exhausting). I don’t have any traditions or special rituals to remember mom. I used to feel really guilty for that, and sometimes I still do. Like I should be making an annual trek to the mountain where we spread her ashes. Or baking her favorite recipe. Or planting a tree. Something. But everyone’s loss is different, and our grief is ours to own. I believe it is as unique to us as our fingerprints.
My parents were divorced when she died. She married my former stepfather, who I despised, and he moved her hundreds of miles away. We were very close for most of my life, but she remarried and then got sick, and then moved away, and when you combine all those things together, we were disconnected from each other long before her death separated us. That’s a very hard thing to admit, but it’s the simple truth. And it’s no one’s fault. It’s just how it was.
I remember the last time I saw her. It was March 1996. Spring Break. I flew from Texas to Illinois to visit her, knowing it was going to be the last time I spent with her. The morning I told her goodbye, she was so drugged on morphine she could barely hold a conversation. She was piled into a hospital bed in the living room in a house that was unfamiliar and unwelcoming to me. Her body was frail, her face was gaunt. I remember thinking how large her head looked against the pillow. The Young and the Restless was on the TV; I think it was muted. We were both crying, but I don’t remember any details of our conversation. Just the tears. The one thing I do remember her telling me was that she was sorry she would never see me get married or have kids. Funny now, the way my life is going, no one may ever see that happen.
I don’t remember leaving. All I remember after that was riding to the airport with my former stepfather. I hated him. I hated his face. I hated the sound of his voice. I hated him for moving my mom so far away from everyone who loved her. I hated him for not taking better care of her. I hated that he was the one taking to me the airport. I still hate him.
So here I am 18 years later, with splotchy memories that will only get splotchier. From now on, every new day is a day farther away from her. And while time has helped, and time has made it easier to manage the loss, the idea of continually moving away from her sometimes makes me miss her even more. The feeling of loss is always, always there. Some days it’s so palpable that I can barely function. Other days it’s just a whisper. But it’s always, always there. But through that consistency is familiarity. And over time, there’s comfort wrapped up in the grief.
Maybe that’s what I need to hold on to. The fact that even after 18 years, and even though time has tipped, the grief is still there, which means she’s still here, somewhere. And that’s strangely, oddly, absurdly comforting.
let it go – the
smashed word broken
open vow or
the oath cracked length
wise – let it go it
was sworn to
let them go – the
truthful liars and
the false fair friends
and the boths and
neithers – you must let them go they
let all go – the
big small middling
tall bigger really
the biggest and all
things – let all go
so comes love