In some ways it seems like an eternity, and in other ways it seems like just yesterday that I said my final good-bye to my mom.
Life has completely changed without my mom here. I would be lying if I said that things weren't all around easier without the chaos of coordinating caregiving schedules and hurrying over in the mornings to bathe Mom and worrying about her throughout the day, worrying about the future. But I still miss her. I miss being able to touch her, hug her, tell her things; even if she didn't understand what I was saying, there was still some sort of comfort in talking to her.
They say that time heals. I don't believe that's true. The hole is never filled; we simply learn how to maneuver around it. The hardest part about the passage of time is when people expect that you will heal; that you will some how "get over it". The world moves on and slowly forgets the person you've loved so dearly and lost, but you never do. You remember. I remember.
I remember laying across her lap while she scratched my back. I remember the way her face would light up when she talked about her grandkids. I remember the smell of her hair and the scent of her lotion. I remember the way she would play with her hair and tuck it behind her ear when she was nervous. I remember the freckle in her eye and her front tooth that was slightly crooked that she was always self-conscious about, but that we loved because it was a characteristic of her. I remember laying on her bed at night, chatting with her about whatever was on my mind (until my dad would come and kick me out of the room). I remember my mentor, my cheerleader, my mother, my friend. I remember all of her.
But I'm also afraid of forgetting. If I live to be an old lady, I will have lived more than half my life without her. How can that be when she is such a big part of my life? Will she slowly start to fade away?
There are no new memories being made. There are no new pictures to share. And I worry that I will forget. I worry that my children will forget. I am afraid of losing this part of who I am as the time passes and as everyone else around me moves on, and forgets.
Not a day goes by that I don't think of her. Not a day goes by that I don't miss her. Not one single day. There will always be a void.
And so, I cling to the memories I have of her. I continue to talk about her to my kids. I imagine that she is there, cheering them on, cheering me on. And I hope beyond hope that I will see her again one day. What a glorious reunion that will be.
We have been through our firsts of everything without mom: the first holiday season, the first birthday, the first Mother's Day. And now, the first anniversary of the day she left us. They say that it gets easier with time. If that's true, then why does it still hurt so much? Why have I spent the entire day (and the days building up to today) feeling so down and in tears?
I knew it would be hard. I tried to give myself a distraction. Several months ago, we planned a family vacation for the last two weeks of July. It seemed like a good idea at the time-to get away, having family fun so that our minds don't wander back to that dark time. It helped a little, but I'm really not sure if it was a good idea or not. It did help to keep my mind busy throughout the day, but I also felt a dark cloud lingering over me the whole time. Every morning I woke up remembering what we were doing on that day one year ago; it's impossible to forget. The memories of those last two weeks replay vividly in my mind, the good and the bad; memories of hospice stepping in, of the doctor delivering painful news, memories of taking her for rides around the block in the wheelchair when she could no longer walk, memories of her looking up at me and touching my face, memories of snuggling in bed beside her warm body as she slowly slipped away. I tried to push them out of my mind, but at the same time I want to remember, I want to hold on to those last moments that I had with my mom. I don't want to forget her. And so the memories creep in, haunting me, leaving a deep ache in my chest.
We returned from our vacation last night. We wanted to be home to visit her grave on this day. I wanted to plan something special, something meaningful, for the one year mark. But, I couldn't think of what to do and it was just too depressing to think about, if I'm being honest. It isn't exactly a celebration; this is the day she died. Yet, we couldn't let the day go by without acknowledging her. We ended up keeping it simple: a visit to her grave followed by dinner at my house with a small group of family.
We had a meal that reminded us of her. Mom's spaghetti dinner has always been a favorite, so I made her delicious spaghetti sauce. Some of my early readers may remember Mom's obsession (in earlier phases) with tortellini and mixed vegetables, so Dad brought that, although we didn't use quite as much garlic as she used to. Dad also brought the root beer and we drank with straws, just how she liked. She went through a phase of salad obsession, so Aunt Sharon brought some salad. Of course, the meal would not be complete without pb&j sandwiches, so my sister-in-law, Amber, brought those. For dessert, I whipped up a batch of Mom's chocolate chip cookies, taking me back to the good ol' days when I'd walk in the door after school and inhale the sweet scent of homemade cookies awaiting me for snack. It was sweet to share a meal together-a meal Mom would have been quite pleased with-as we remembered her. By this afternoon all I really wanted to do was cancel dinner and stay curled up in my bed by myself, but I'm glad that I didn't. It helps to be surrounded by family.
I made it through the day, and I even blogged about it. I think that's a victory. My head hurts from crying and I want to go to sleep now. Sorry to sound like a Negative Nelly, but that's just keeping it real. The pain doesn't go away, even with time. You just learn how to live with it, little by little. There are good days and bad days. Some days I feel strong, some days I feel weaker than ever. This is so much harder than I ever imagined.