My mom died on April 5, 2008.
That first year hurt. I sobbed more than I thought possible for a person to do. My snotty nose and swollen eyes reflected loss.
The big days (Mother's Day, July 4th, the opening day of football (she loved the Broncos), Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, New Year's Day, birthdays) melted away with less pain than I had imagined they'd bring. I'd girded myself to the point of numbness maybe. But they never were as bad as I anticipated.
The surprise pain came often at 4 o'clock when I picked up the phone to make my daily call to her. The gut wrenching tears came out of the blue just because my heart caught on hers and I felt alone and without. Those moments of selfish loss.
I'd gotten a little bit used to not seeing her regularly because she'd moved to Tucson. Before her move, I saw her at least once a week. We'd spend hours together with my sister. Having lunch, playing cards, running errands.
She was a soft place to land when my dog died. I could count on her to love me unconditionally. Even if I was wrong, she would try to find a way to take my side. She was always, always there.
She was my mom.
When she moved to Tucson, I had to get nourishment from her voice over the phone. To soak up the love in every little present or card she sent. I tried to see her a few times a year, but it wasn't always easy to get to the place where I could feel her arms around me again. As hard as it was to not have her Near, she was at least There.
Many of the days following her death were rote. One foot in front of the other. But that's how she would have expected me to live. Keep going. Be strong. Miss her, but don't let missing her hold me down.
It was a hard year.
But the biggest sock of reality in my gut came when I started in on the Year of Seconds. There was no longer any filter explaining her absence. It wasn't that she'd moved. It wasn't that she was out of town. The finality punched in to my consciousness.
My mom was no longer even a phone call away.
The Year of Seconds marks the reality of the separation between this world and the next. I'll sense her—even feel her—but she'll never crochet another afghan for me. Or buy me another sweatshirt that says "Feed the Birds." Forget her rum cake, or silly little gifts like the frog that croaks when someone passes by.
I'm holding on to the tangible things she left, hoping that as they fade and crumble she'll somehow fill me up from the inside with her love, making everything else just so much dust. I'm holding on to my sister, who is more like me biologically than any other human being on this earth. Who has at least the same hole in her life that I do.
So, this Second Thanksgiving, I'm wanting to find thanks rather than selfishness. In light of that, I'm thankful for the strength Mom passed on to me. For the stubbornness of the Hovaten clan (but not so much their bad knees). For the sureness that something better lies ahead. I want to make her proud. Not only of my accomplishments (getting published will be huge) but of the woman I've become. Of how I age and the choices I make even at this stage of my life. Please God, let my aging and my choices be based in grace.
Look at those close to you this Thanksgiving. Make sure they know how much they mean to you. There's a good chance that one day, either you or them, will be going through a Year of Seconds.
Be thankful this Thanksgiving. I know I am.
CR: Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger.
It's all better with friends.