"Sometimes, only one person is missing, and the whole world seems depopulated."
-Alphonse de Lamartine, Méditations Poétiques
June 15th. Never has a calendar day held such meaning for me. So much so that I tried to run away from it. I was meant to be in another country when June 15th arrived but at the last minute plans had to be changed. Of course, the simple fact of me being in another country wouldn't have made a bit of difference. How can a person successfully run away from a day? Days happen. That's their job. That's what days do. I suppose I thought that if my eyes gazed upon different scenery my memories wouldn't be so easily accessed.
Lately these memories keep playing like a movie on a loop in my mind. A memory movie of this time last year when I was by your side watching and waiting. Watching your body start to wind down. Watching your speech completely vanish. Waiting for you to fully surrender. We knew that there was nothing left to be done. We knew that this is how it goes. If we're lucky, we will all get to live such a full life. If we're lucky, loved ones will surround us as our curtain closes, gently escorting us off the stage, patting us on the back with many a, "good job" and "well done." I waited with you in your home. I surrounded you with photos of loved ones who have passed. Hoping the idea of them meeting you on the other side would guide you. Before you lost your speech you told me that you saw your sister. I asked you if you had dreamt her. You said, "No, I saw her." I knew then that it wouldn't be much longer.
In our last week together I had my friends come over to serenade you. Music and love surrounded you. I brushed your hair and made sure your lips weren't dry. I whispered in your ear because I knew you could still hear me even though all evidence pointed to the opposite. I knew you heard everything. I could feel you. So this is how we waited. Until the day it was no longer necessary to wait. June 15th.
The year that followed started off in a daze. Is this real? Is this what the world looks like now? What do I do? I'm not religious but I will admit that sitting shiva worked for me. In Jewish law, first degree family mourners sit for seven (shiva) days immediately following the funeral. Friends and family visit the mourners bringing food and keeping them company for a bit. The mourners just... sit. They aren't expected to do anything for seven days. This ritual surrounded me in a comforting cocoon. It's the opposite of running away. It's staying put. But it only lasts seven days. Then, it's up to you.
Year one is a year of firsts. The first Hanukkah without you, the first New Year's Eve where I don't wake you up at midnight with a phone call yelling, "HAPPY NEW YEAR!" The birthday that we share -- it always made you so happy. You loved to tell people, "She was my best birthday gift!" This year was my first time not sharing it with you.
This year was my first mother's day without a mother.
But my entire year was not spent in painful longing. I took the advice of a friend who told me to "be gentle with yourself." When I felt like being with friends, I was able to be with friends. When I felt like being alone, I did that. I read books that brought me comfort; Grieving the Death of a Mother and Healing After Loss.
I slowed myself down a bit. I took a mindfulness course. I went on a five day silent retreat. I spent time in nature. I listened to people who were also going through loss. I took my time with it all. I did a lot of yoga. I wrote. I wrote. I wrote. I shared photos and stories of you but not too much. You would often admire my ability to live in the moment and to see the positive, funny side of life. So I allowed my year to have plenty of joy and laughter in it as well.
When we were packing up your condo I grabbed your last few cans of soda water. When I was a kid, whenever I was in the kitchen you'd call out from the living room, "Annielah bring me a soda water!" Along with coffee and cigarettes, soda water rates high on your list of things you enjoyed. In my fridge at this moment sits your last can of soda. I haven't been able to bring myself to drink it. It's your last one. I'm sure you'd agree that saving it for you at this point isn't necessary. But I don't think I'm saving it for you. I'm saving it for me. It represents the last of my letting go. I didn't mean to save it until now. I didn't mean to keep it in my fridge for an entire year. But here we are. And there it is.
June 15th. I open the fridge and reach in. I bring the soda towards the front of the fridge and I just look at it. I stand there, leaning on the open fridge door, cool air on my face and I'm back to watching and waiting. Waiting for the can of soda to tell me what to do. I take a deep breath. It's time. I reach in for the soda. The chill of it waking up my palm. The memory of you filling up my senses.
I take that can of soda and I make a cocktail. I toast to your memorable life. To your unconditional love. To myself for getting through year one. I will always miss your quirky ways. Your laughter, your warmth, your strength and your... youness. There's never been and there will never be anyone like you. My soul-friend. My soul-mom. I won't allow that missing to get in the way of what you always told me to do. At the end of every phone conversation you'd say, "Enjoy your life. Be happy!" I do. I will.
For you. For me. For us.
The first year of grief, a blog for my mom: deareema.blogspot.com