Archive for August, 2018

A Lifetime in Six Years

August 6, 2018 2 comments


Tomorrow, it will be six years since my mom died. It’s an unasked for tradition that my brain runs through the events of the weekend before her death, lingering in the heavier moments without permission. Grief, you will learn or will have learned, does not ask for permission. It is a feeling that simply exists, wailing of its own free will, corralled by nothing, but transformed with time. It never ceases to exist; it simply changes shape, twisting into something new. It is never something anyone can truly brace for, springing up at odd moments, without provocation or warning. What triggers the feelings can be predictable, but it’s the unexpected ones that leave me breathless. But, for this moment, I do not want to dwell in the pristine bits of sadness, whirling about.

This year, perhaps in an effort to combat all of that, I am choosing to remember the moments of kindness. Because in life, catastrophes are unavoidable, and you cannot run from the fallout, no matter how much you may try or wish you could. But there’s a lot to be said for the kindness of the people around you, who shows or steps up. In the intervening years, one person who mattered to me then is no longer in my life. While I could dwell on that fact, I won’t. A person’s absence in the present doesn’t dim the way the shined in the darkest moments of the past. For this particular instance, I am holding to the kindness.

My best friend, Kim, let me cry on her couch, drink her wine, and generally be a mess more times than I care to count—not because math is evil (it is), but because that’s not a debt I’ll ever be able to repay. Right now, reading this, she’s mentally telling me to shut up, because that’s not how we work. But I digress. Kim, after working overnight, came to the hospital and didn’t leave my side. I honestly don’t know how people exist without a best friend like her, because I would less of a person without her. She’s family. And she’s not only kind, but she’s also good. Plus, she’s seen me at my absolute worst—and seen me through it. Trust me, I’m a handful.

My insanely amazing friend Liz (and her sister Catie), who drove all the way from Montreal to spend a couple of hours at my mom’s wake, only to have to make the long trek back. It was the most amazing thing—a stunning gesture and effort, really. I mean, who does that? An exceptional human, that’s who. It was especially meaningful given that there were people who lived much closer who couldn’t be bothered. And Liz just showed up, like it was simply across town, and didn’t require a passport, a hotel stay, and an insane amount of driving. Liz is also family, and I do not say that lightly.

Lastly, I suppose, the person I don’t talk to anymore, whose voicemail I cried on (and I hate to cry), who called me at the ass crack of dawn to comfort me, and who keep an eye on me for a whole two weeks afterward. This person gives good hugs. Despite the ocean of nope between us (something that hasn’t really settled all that well, some days), I would’ve been even more of a wreck without those gestures, without the sweetness. They mattered then, and they still (even through the chaos) matter now.

Tomorrow, it will be six years since my mother took her last breath. I have learned a lot since then, some things I could’ve done without. I am definitely not the same person I was before that day. In certain ways, I am stronger. In others, I am not. But in looking back, the goodness of others still breaks through the dark. The people who made me laugh, when I didn’t think I could. The people who made me feel loved, when I was aching. The people who were sweet and patient, even when I was fragile and difficult.

Love you, weirdos. And that is the lesson, really: love. Love, when you feel it, when it seems impossible, even if it is difficult. Love is the one constant thing that cannot help but light up the dark. Not simply a lighthouse, love’s more like the sun: warm, illuminating, shining because that’s what it does. It simply is, asking for nothing in return.

And one last thing? There’s something Mr. Rogers said about looking for the helpers, when things go sideways. He meant it in a larger context, but the same applies to everyday life. When life turns to chaos, the people who don’t waver? They matter. It’s a reminder, too, that kindness is a type of superpower. It doesn’t come with a monetary value, but it’s damn near priceless.

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