An Essay On Yesterday. Grief 17 Years Later
Well I actually started writing the blog post two weeks ago but I sort of lost my steam to share. I told my husband what was on my mind and heart, to which he responded, yes definitely, you need to share this.
So here we go.
The thing about loss 17 years later is that it doesn't surface as much. I can easily go weeks even months without a tear. The strange thing about grief is that I then feel guilty to not be feeling it. It's an attachment to the lost, to my mom. Such a silly fiercely real thing. And it took a very long time and years of counseling to realize that just because I don't always feel the pain of her loss, does not mean I am not loyal to her and my memories.
But it's still inside. Sometimes it's as little as the flutter of a butterfly passing by. Other times it's like getting hit with a monster wave that I didn't see coming. Shocked to be knocked off your feet you can gasp for breath and stay rigid, getting knocked on your ass - or you can swim with the wave allowing it to awaken all your senses. This is a new thought process for me, years in the making, and I still need a reminder. Fight or flight is a powerful human extinct, meant to literally save our lives, so again I still need reminding to hold that little girl's hand and let her know she is safe, the wave will not overtake her. And then I remind my heart that it will not stop beating.
And the gift of awakening my senses is the flood of new memories, those I had forgotten. Sweet sweet gifts of remembering. With that tears, but these tears are part of my story. And feeling her near is what I long for more than most anything at times.
It also turns this day, what would be her 60th birthday, when the tendency is to crawl into bed under all the covers and wait till the storm passes, into a day of empowerment. I am stronger than I think I am, and grief will always be a part of me, but it doesn't win. And pain is not the only way to stay connected to my mom. This is not the end of the story. The hole in my heart is real and valid but the darkness shall not overcome.
So trusting in my strength and the power of God's reconciliation, today I gave myself the space to deeply feel, with all my senses, in the hope of feeling how I've become like my mom in ways I haven't even realized.
Like a conversation we never got to have.
Starting with my almond milk latte. Not sure she would appreciate paying $3 plus dollars for a cup of coffee but could I talk her into trying almond milk? I like to think so.
I just love this photo because I look so much like her but I can't pinpoint exactly why. I already chuckle over my love of Mom jeans, I can't get enough, she was rocking this look two decades ago. She is totally saying "I told you so." Dare I say I even just ordered taper legs. and those tee shirts, she tucked ALL the way in. Commitment. Right there with ya mom.
But a new realization, wearing my tennis shoes all day long. As I type this I am sitting in my tennis, in my home. As a mom I just get more stuff done, and they are comfy. She was on to something. The last one's I remember her wearing were all white.
Crying at the first day of school every year, and lots of days in between. I got this from her.
Cleaning my kitchen floors is therapeutic. I get it, I should it more often.
Belting out my favorite songs in my best singing voice, which is terrible, and inherited from my mom, kids cringing. Brings a smile to my face and heart.
That big mom purse. She used to sport a big leather backpack, like santa's bag, everything we could imagine we needed inside, yet she was the only one who could find it. I mean really. This is a trait we absolutely share. A leather backpack has been on my wish list for a while now. Gosh I almost hate it when she's still right.
And my kids making me braver than I ever thought I could be.
This was today's treasure.
I happened to have a date planned with my oldest son. In the spirit of truly living this day, I decided to remind him of what today meant to me. The vulnerability is that my heart is 100 percent exposed and children get to have the response they want to have (which is both refreshing and maddening as a parent.) Being vulnerable without expectation is so hard. Ultimately I want him to know my mom so badly but this is NOT a burden I want him to bear, and I want him to have the freedom to feel what he wants.
I let him know what the day was, we decided together to celebrate my mom's birthday over cupcakes. In public. And the rest unfolded in a gift I will always cherish. And maybe Riese will never know. And then I wondered what moments like that happened for my mom, that as a kid I never realized.
They happen to have candles for sale, when asked by the server who we were celebrating, Riese said, "it's my Grandma Chris's birthday." So matter of fact like we do this every year she just happens to be in Hawaii because it's her 60th and yet so momentous to me that I will never ever forget that moment. Then we sat and lit the candle, and sang happy birthday. Something I've never had the courage to do since she died. So simple, and brought into the light. And she was there with us in that moment. In my son, and in me.
It's both liberating and terrifying to publish this, thank you for letting me share.