Because I forgot to cancel it, a reminder vibrated my phone: “Plan Mother’s Day.”
It was the latest unwanted affirmation of our continued loss.
The book of life we’d been following for decades abruptly added a new chapter last June when my mother-in-law unexpectedly died. We’ve since marked the passage of time by placing check marks on a tear-stained list of less sparkly special days.
In a few weeks, when we arrive at the one-year anniversary of her death, social standards say we will have made it through the worst and can tuck the list away.
I know we will try to do what is expected. And, from experience, I know we will fail.
Many times I’ve tried to put into words what it is like to lose a loved one, especially a child. The best analogy I’ve come up with is that the death of someone you love is like a shotgun blast to the chest. At first you are so shocked that the only thing you can do is stare in disbelief at the gaping hole. As your brain begins to process the horror of what’s taken place, hot pain becomes all-consuming.
Even when desire to step back into the world emerges, everything and everyone appears to be alternating between slow motion and fast forward, contributing to a lingering feeling of otherness.
With time — days, weeks, months, years — pain and confusion eases as the ragged edges of the blast begin to heal. And yet, the hole remains.
Pushing against those tender edges is the realization that I can’t recall the gift we gave last year or the specifics of the no doubt mushy sentiment of the card we signed. I did not understand it would be the last, which made it one of many that simply blur together. Plants, perfume, dishes, figurines, candles, cookery, books, clothing, jewelry ... nearly all of which have now been thrown out or given away.
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How wonderful it would be revisit the previous chapter, to plan something more memorable and important than what’s available on a store shelf. And, yes, I can ferret out the silver lining of regret by funneling that desire into loved ones who are still here, or by adopting someone with no one.
But doing so does not change the past, does not negate the fact that I was complacent enough to merely go through the motions.
Next year around this time my phone will vibrate again, reminding me to create lasting memories. Stuff comes and goes. Food gets eaten and forgotten. Flowers bloom and wilt. The people we love won’t be here forever.
If your family is fortunate enough to still be in the previous chapter, do what you need to do to make today count.
• Comments: @LyndaIowa, (319) 368-8513, firstname.lastname@example.org