Grief has taught me that it is possible to be ok, to be happy, to be normal–and at the very same time to be in pain.
It has taught me that I can say, “I am ok,” and mean it—mean it totally and completely. But the truth in that ok is that I am ok sitting in a place of pain and missing.
I’ve learned that I can go on and do day to day things. I can laugh and have fun. I can celebrate. I can breathe in life and love it. I can be in awe at the wonder of my children and of sunsets and the soothing sound of the ocean. And under it all, I can still be grieving. I can still be aching. I can still hurt. That doesn’t change the living and the laughing and the celebrating. Sometimes it even intensfies it. But the loss hasn’t changed. And the feelings of the loss haven’t either.
Grief has taught me that life is joy and fun and wonder and delight. And pain and hurt and loneliness. And that sometimes–often–it is both at once.
This week I am ok. I have been happy and bubbly. I have looked at myself in the mirror and seen smile lines. I have felt… really, really content. I REALLY have. But I’m also sad. I’m also remembering. I’m also wishing she was still here, even as I ‘accept’ that this has happened and it isn’t going to change.
Tonight. Tonight I am angry. I am angry for all she has missed. I am angry for the two years of Little Miss’s life that she hasn’t seen. I am angry that I can’t call and tell her about Little Miss praying for “Bobo the monkey who is sad” tonight after reading her bedtime story. I am angry that she will never meet Baboo and that Baboo will never meet her Grandmother. I am angry that every single day I have several moments when SHE is the only one I want to talk to… and I can’t. I am angry that I have become this new person… I have weathered these new things. I have grown and changed and matured… And she hasn’t been here to see. I am angry that my life looks so radically different. That ‘home’ is so different. I am angry that I can’t go back to that place that feels familiar. I am angry that I cannot be folded into her arms.
And tonight I’m grateful. I’m grateful that she gave me life. Grateful that she was so incredible. Grateful for the time I did have with her.
Last year at this time I was beating myself up for not going home to be with her sooner. And then I remembered how life had worked before she’d gotten sick. When we were first married, Husband and I lived near Mom and Dad. We saw them a few times a week. They came over and played games with us and ate pizza and homemade ice cream. When Husband was deployed…. they were my support. I was back at ‘home’ with them more than at my apartment sometimes. I spent precious times chatting with Mom while she pinged away at her computer poker games (not real ones). And before moving out to the Northwest, something made me long to be ‘home’ again… and I got to be with her again then. All of this is not enough… but something. I am so grateful for that something. So grateful for that time.
I look at pictures of her and it’s like she could walk off of the photo and be right here with me. She is still so alive to me. When I look at those photos it is incomprehensible to me that she is not just somewhere else… And that both comforts and tortures me. It keeps her so near… but it forces me to be reminded again and again and again that she is gone.
Patti Davis in her excellent essay “The River of Memory” writes about the feelings of the second anniversary of the passing of a loved one. She writes,
“To some it will sound strange that I feel my father in every gust, hear him in the movement of leaves as the breeze sweeps through the trees. But there are those who know exactly what I’m talking about.
‘The second year was harder for me,’ a friend of mine said. He lost his son to a drug overdose three years ago.
‘Why is that?’ I asked him, grateful for the wisdom of someone who is farther along this trail than I am.
‘The first year it still feels new,’ he answered. ‘By the second year, the reality of the loss just sits inside you. The permanence has hit you. It takes you to a deeper, darker place.’
That about says it. (And wow… What must Mom think of me quoting a descendent of Reagan’s?!).
Anyway… I’m thinking tonight of my last moments with her before I went to bed two years ago. I will think tomorrow of waking up to the words, “She’s gone.” I will remember the call I made to the hospice nurse, the dark, final activities that happened once she arrived… I’ll remember all of that.
And… I will remember Mom. I will try to laugh as much as I cry. I will remember her smile and her sense of humor and her vibrance. I’ll do as many ‘mom’ things as I can. I will make a special effort to honor her.
And I’ll be ok. Really, really ok. I’ll even smile and laugh and enjoy. I’ll soak into the sweetness of my girls. I’ll do all of that. The loss that always is will coexist with the life I know she wants me to live to the full. That is as it should be.