March 8th marked a year since my mom passed away from ovarian cancer. (You can read more about it here.)
I’ve loved you fiercely. I’ve wished for more time. I’ve had breakdowns in places I would never have imagined and been brought to my knees in grief. One of the hardest parts was not knowing what would trigger it or when it would happen. Whether I was reading a book or in the middle of the grocery store, emotions of this intensity don’t allow for any sort of logic.
My memories of you in your final moments have yet to escape me. There’s something about seeing those whom we would do anything for, especially you with your limitless strength, in such a fragile state. You were a wisp, so thin and so frail. I don’t know if that goes away. I just keep holding on, day by day.
I know now how hard it must have been for you to have me see you like that. You were so stubborn while raising us and you held on to that stubbornness, even while you were sick. I loved that fight in you because looking back on my childhood as an adult, I am thankful for all you gave. How badly I wanted to take away your pain when you were sick paralleled how strongly you had loved us our whole lives. No distance was too great and no battle too difficult. You were our rock. The keeper of our secrets from dad. The glue that held our family together. The woman who could do it all and then some. You amazed the hell out of me.
I wanted you to be old and gray with dad. To meet the newest addition we welcomed to the family 2 months ago, who would have been your first grandchild. To share in the memories we continue to make together. I wished and wanted and then….nothing happened. I came to the realization that all the wishing and wanting in the world could not bring you back. You were gone.
This has been, by far, the toughest loss I have had to come back from. I almost feel OK again, finding your strength in me when it seems unbearable. I could have turned away. I could have settled in the darkness and made myself content. I could have lost my faith and blamed it on God. For awhile, I did all of that. Yet, for every loss there is something to be found again, whether that is in ourselves or in the acceptance of both the fragility and beauty of life.
The process of grieving is unlike any other, looking different for each of us, yet still so the same. That’s why we can recognize it in others. Until you have walked through that isolated hopelessness and found peace somehow, even your closest friends and family can seem incredibly far away. I counted the tiniest milestones such as surviving the holidays, your birthday and not completely losing myself on the 8th of every month. The first 6 months were the most painful and while it didn’t seem like I was making any sort of progress, in some way I did. The darkest days, weeks, and months have allowed me to appreciate what time I did have with you. You physically left us, but my love for you continues to thrive.
There is no way anybody is ever prepared for loss, even those that are imminent. If I could offer up anything in this, it’s that there is no quick-fix for the pain. No manual for how to heal. No words of encouragement, no matter how uplifting or inspirational, will make it right. And finally, time doesn’t make it better. It only lessens it, until the next holiday/photograph/pretty much anything brings memories flooding back. As I shaped my life around how I could best carry on, the loss became a part of me.
But, what also became a part of me was every good and wonderful feature you brought to this life. Every laugh. Every car ride where we listened to Elton John. Every moment you fought for us. Every single sacrifice. Life after loss relies not upon residing in that space of sadness, but in living out what you gave me. The greatest way I can honor you is by living my very best life. I will hope I do right by you in loving deeply and being kind. You will forever be one of the most important women in my life and I am eternally grateful for your unbounded love.