Tuesday, November 24, 2009

OT - The Year of Seconds

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.


  1. Oh, Peg, you made me cry. And think. Spending Thanksgiving with my parents, one sister, one brother and their clans for the first time in more than 20 years. You're so right. I lost a brother in 1991 and there's still going to be an unfilled chair at the table tomorrow. Treasure those loved ones.

  2. I think there's a reason we don't choose our family while we're living on this earth. We'd forever be switching them around.

    There's something to be said for being "stuck" with people who, if you chose them, you have absolutely no idea why from time to time. Family is a way God gave us to figure some things out. Exactly what, I couldn't say.

    All I know is that I love mine dearly. Those that are here, and those that have passed away. No one can irritate me more than my sister, but she can also fill me with joy and love and comfort. She's one of the most steady elements in my life. I will always love her. Family has power.

  3. Foarte interesant subiectul postat de tine. M-am uitat pe blogul tau si imi place ce am vazut.Cu siguranta am sa il mai vizitez.
    O zi buna!

  4. This is what Google Translator offers from our friend Cioara in Romania:

    Very interesting topic posted by you. I checked your blog and I love what I am sure vazut.Cu visit to him in May.
    Good day!

  5. I was touched by your post. I've been a caregiver for my grandmother for many years, and I know that I'll miss her when she's gone. It's terribly hard to be a caregiver, but at the bottom of it is the knowledge that I'm loved in a way that's different from the love than anyone else can offer. I am thankful.

  6. Janice, caregiving is amazingly difficult and you are a hero in many ways to have cared for someone, even a loved one, for as long as you have.

    We brought our son (my step-son) home after he had a stroke at a young age for rehab. Fortunately, that only lasted a couple of years, and he's once again living independent of us.

    I don't know what your beliefs are, but I remember taking walks and praying to be filled with the kind of unconditional love Jesus had while my son was with us. The kind of love that would just pour out of me and I wouldn't even have to try very hard. Because some days required more than I had to give.

    My mom had been ill for about ten years, but it was only the last few months of her life that she failed, requiring hospitalization and, in the end, hospice care for what turned out to be only a few hours. Some caregiving moments at the very end of her life are among the most intimate we ever shared and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to serve her.

    Bless you, Janice Campbell, for the love and dignity you blanket your grandmother with.