one year: I know what it’s like when the stars go blue.
I hate the term anniversary. Anniversaries are supposed to be happy – full of cake and dinners and fun. Anniversaries are a celebration. So, to call the one year milestone of my mother’s death an anniversary feels wrong. But I don’t know what else to call it. Occasion? No, it sounds like a category for a Hallmark card. Event? That sounds like someone that happens on Facebook. There really is no good, single word that I can conjure up. So, I’ll just say this: it’s been one year since my mom died.
One year. All at once, it feels like it just happened yesterday – and yet, it feels like it was a lifetime ago. Someone else’s lifetime. Someone else’s story. Except, it isn’t. It’s my life and my story, and I haven’t quite work out the plotlines, yet.
Here’s the truth, as I’ve found it. People tell you that it gets better. That time dulls things. That you hurt less or what have you. But that’s a lie. It’s a kind lie, mostly. But it’s still fake currency in the emotional world. It doesn’t really hurt less. I still miss her as if I’d just lost her. Again, there’s a strange word: lost. She’s not misplaced keys. I’m not going to stumble upon her on the way somewhere. She’s not lost. She’s gone. But gone feels wrong, too. Dismissive, I suppose. As if I’d just drank the last of the milk, and now it’s gone. But back on point: it doesn’t hurt less. It hurts differently. The best approximation is having an injury. You get surgery. Bones mend as time passes. Skin knits back together. There may, or may not, be a visible scar. By all accounts, you’re fine. And yet, when it rains or when the wind is slightly chilled, you can feel that old injury. It’s not gone. It’s not the same as it way. It’s just different.
And, honestly, so I am. That is okay. That is what it is. But it has also been hard for me to accept at times. I am not broken, but there are things that hurt now, things that didn’t hurt last year, things that I couldn’t fathom last year. And that, I suppose, is what catches the light, sunlight glancing off a mirror. For the past week, without invitation, I’ve been playing the last week of my mother’s life over and over in my head. Where was I today? What happened that day? I remember feeling a mix of emotions, of seeing and not seeing how everything was happening, of believe and not believing – the emotional paradox of those watching something unspeakable occur. For me, there was no magical thinking. There was no bargaining. There was no avoiding the truth. I stood in front of the train, knowing it would hit me.
And it did. And I’m still here. And yes, it still hurts. Sometimes, that hurt is an odd thing. It makes me stupid. It makes me raw, unexpectedly. Things come out of nowhere, bits of anger that I don’t quite understand, even though I acknowledge them. I see it all happening. I know when I’m left of my own middle. Even still, I know that the world doesn’t set and end on my sadness. It shouldn’t. It can’t.
But that also doesn’t mean I’m invincible. I’m a big believer in calling out my own weakness, and so I will tell you this: right now, I am sad. I am okay with that sadness. I have made peace with its inevitable, indeterminable existence. Sometimes, it wears my smile, half-cocked. Sometimes, it throws me in a corner. Sometimes, it leaves me bewildered. But you know what? It also does not own me. It may sneak up on me, pick the lock, and sit on the couch – but it does not own this house. It isn’t me.
Honestly, when I first sat down to write this point, I didn’t know what I’d say. Then I had too much to say. Part of me wanted to talk about my mother – who she was, what I miss, and all the little details that fill up the space of a relationship. But today is not a day meant to mark who my mother was. It’s a day to recognize her absence.
It’s been a year. Not an easy one. At times, an insane one. I have been on all ends of every spectrum. I’ve grown. I’ve laughed. I’ve loved. I’ve been broken and breaking. I’ve seen and done and followed my heart. Maybe in ways that I couldn’t before. Maybe with the perfect abandon everyone always talks about. I’m not afraid of being a fool. I’m not afraid of trying. Because I know that tomorrow isn’t a guarantee. I know that it’s a gamble. I know that it’s an uncertainty that we try not to acknowledge. I’m acknowledging everything. The good. The bad. The crazy. The wild and wonky.
The past year has taught me a lot. I know what I’m capable of. I know what scares me. I know that what I’m scared of is never enough to stop me. I know what I want, without question. I’ve found things in the absence. I’ve found beauty in the shadows, and I’ve dug memories out of the silence.
If you’re me from a year ago – if you world feels like it’s been wrecked by an earthquake and Godzilla – know this: it’ll be okay. It won’t be the same. But you’ll find your way through it. Not around it. There is no shortcut. There’s no passing go. There’s just straight through the mountain. It will not get better. It will not magically be a not sad thing. It will just be different.
And that’s okay.