The anniversary of my mother's death, or her "deathiversary", is closing in on me. I usually count on the foliage and cool fresh air to tip me off, but the beginning of Fall was so unseasonably warm this year, I hardly noticed.
These last few days, though, they've played their part well, bringing a dark, wet, coldness that is unmistakenly autumn. For me, they also bring pangs of grief as I'm transported back in time to October 2006 - the season in which my mother died, and when I learned what it is to grieve.
So much has happened these last 13 years, and yet, some days, it feels like my mother died just yesterday. I still miss her and the way life felt before she died; when living without her was merely a scenario I shuddered to consider.
It was hard to believe then that life could go on without her. She was the sun, and my siblings and I were planets in her orbit. Without her, we had no idea how to continue existing.
But somehow we did.
As her sun faded and became a star, we found comfort knowing that even though she was more distant than we'd ever like, she would always be present in the night sky. And bit by bit, we moved forward, we realigned, and we learned to love her despite her physical absence.
I've been through my mother's deathiversary quite a few times now, and each year I've felt compelled to honor her memory differently. Maybe this is a reflection of where I am in life, or perhaps because my relationship with her memory changes as I grow older.
To be honest, this year I thought I'd probably just coast through October. I have a new baby at home, which makes me feel connected to my mother with every snuggle and lullaby-song. But then my sister mentioned the fall weather was making her sad, and I started thinking - if I were going to recognize her deathiversary, what would I do?
I started with the obvious by asking myself, what would I do if I spent the day doing things that made me feel close to mom? Things she liked to do, things that were unique to her, things I remember about her - the big stuff and the smaller stuff. I started a mental list:
"Play the piano...watch old movies on TCM...go to Wegmans...fold laundry on the living room floor...take my kids to the mall for an Orange Julius."
I wondered if my siblings would have the same thoughts or if they would spend their hypothetical day doing different things, so I messaged them and asked. The conversation started out with some of the things I had already thought of, but then we got more and more specific as we went on...
"Pick kids up the kids just late enough that they end up having to wait with a teacher or coach...
Get mad at my brother for interrupting the end of a movie...
Ask someone to start a Word document and then call them back to save the document when finished...
Get sucked into a good book...
Do a child's homework for them...
Fall asleep with one of the kids at night...
Show a child, any child, unconditional patience and care...
Remembering the little quirks and qualities that we loved about her gave me so much joy. By the end of the conversation, I was laughing through tears. We won't actually do all these things - maybe one or two - or maybe even none - but it was so comforting just to think about.
I was reminded that this is how we went on living after my mother died - we wove her memory in the fabric of our every day lives. We remember the little things that made her who she was and we repeat the things that help make us the people we are today.
I'm sharing this with you because I was thinking how nice it would be to learn what other people would do if they spent a day like their loved one - doing the things they loved, getting annoyed by the things they loathed, embracing their eccentricities, etc. You don’t have to actually do any of it – just imagine it – and don’t stop until you’ve remembered at least one thing that makes you smile.
Share your hypothetical day in the comments below
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