Time Heals; But Only After A Long While
Good evening! Welcome to day 18 of my self commitment to write each day for 15 minutes.
I am currently listening to Productive Morning on Spotify and thinking about time.
This is the tenth Christmas we will celebrate without my mom. I am sure some of you are tired of reading about the loss of my mom and at the same time I hope you see how far I have come in my grief process. It’s almost as if I live a completely different life, which I guess is something you would assume would be possible by now.
But yesterday, while watching my niece for a few hours, I noticed her trying to sit herself up. She was using all of her might to lift her head and neck and shoulders upward. I reached down my giant hands and grabbed her mini hands and helped to lift her up up up until she was sitting up like big girls do. I did this a few times, probably five times, and each time I said, “Mena! Wonderful job! You are sitting up!”. I was so excited that this whole thing was happening that I text my sister. And then for a moment, I really wanted to call my mom.
Down here on earth, my mom doesn’t know about Mena. She doesn’t know about my sister’s husband or their house or my house or have even an inkling of what I have accomplished. She doesn’t know the woman I have become or what I stand for or how I carried out her love of all things wounded and lost. She doesn’t know about Billy and the way he hops each morning like a bunny on our walks. She isn’t privy to any of this.
Yet, she is a part of all of it. I know this because, well I just feel it. For awhile she showed up as a red cardinal because that is what she told my dad she would haunt him as when she was gone. But in the past few months, probably since September, I haven’t noticed her. I haven’t seen any red cardinals floating by my window or on my morning walks with Billy. Honestly, I stopped searching for her. And if I am being really honest? I stopped feeling guilty for not searching for her.
Last night a friend who has been without her mom for two years this spring, was identifying with this idea that holidays are completely different. She isn’t sure how to reconcile that nothing is the same and that it is kind of up to her to carry on traditions if that is important. She had a sense of longing for her mom and the way she did things, handled things, made things special. I looked at her from across the table and I recognized her experience but I could no longer tap into those feelings, those feelings of longing and wishing. I have left behind the longing for my mother, the craving of her touch and voice and wisdom. I have stopped craving her love.
Does this mean I love her less? I don't know. I don’t think so. I stare at her wedding picture and some random picture of her in her late twenties that is deliberately displayed in my living room. I see her. I see her all of the time, in my own eyes, in my sister’s expressions, in Mena. I see her in me when I am bold and courageous, when I drink a few glasses of wine and philosophize.
Last weekend one of my favorite people introduced me to this woman who started a diamond company. She creates diamonds from scratch made of your love one’s ashes. This discovery made me long for a diamond made of my mother. I don’t know why, it just seemed like a nice to have, more valuable to me than us tossing her ashes in Lake Michigan. I thought maybe if I wore one, and my sisters wore one, that maybe she could be more involved in our day to day, maybe she could watch Mena from the necklace around my sister’s neck.
Time is our friend and it is our enemy. I know time is limited because I buried my mother at the sweet age of 22, but I also understand that time is necessary and imperative to growth. We must give ourselves time to heal, to process, to evaluate, to discover. But what is enough time? I never thought I would be here, days away from Christmas not really missing my mother at all. For a long time it felt like a betrayal to have joy without her, to be excited without her, to go on without her. And then I guess one day, unbeknownst to me, that feeling went away completely.
I can’t imagine a Christmas with my mother, because I don’t really know her anymore. The woman she would be today I never met. The woman I am today she doesn’t know. Isn’t that strange? That life goes on? That I am a part of her yet she knows nothing of who I am?
My friend has decided on epic decorations to honor her mother. She bought the fabulous table cloth like her mother would have and she has particular decor and dishes and a plan. She has a plan for how she will breathe the life of her mother into her Holiday experience.
Me? I have anxiety about boarding my dog, of making sure my Aunt feels seen and appreciated, if I have the right necklace for the occasion. I wonder if my dad will have fun this year, if I will find true and forever love one day or if Christmas will always be me in my Aunt and Uncle’s guest room by myself. I wonder if I will ever buy a house and decorate it like crazy like my mom did. Will I ever read the Christmas story to my kids? Force them to listen when they would rather be doing anything else?
What I no longer wonder about is why my mom isn’t here. I don’t wonder about her traditions and whether I am okay. I don’t wish she would come walking through my front door because, honestly, I never imagined that she would. I try to be a good enough sister to make my other sisters miss her less. I try to fill in the gaps with my dad where I can so he doesn’t feel so lost without her. I try to show up with smiles and cheer and laughter so other people see that she lives inside of me, the best parts of her for sure.
Time, in this case, has definitely healed. I would have never told you that was possible eight years ago, five years ago, three years ago. But this Holiday season? It is more than just possible, it is true.
Do you think my mom is upset that I have moved on? That I no longer crave her? That I no longer wish she was with us? I guess my hope is that I can take all of that love, all of that desire and pour it into my life. Perhaps, without my longing for her, there will be room for a family and a partner and new traditions. Perhaps without waiting for her to show up or wishing she were here, I can be so thankful and grateful for what I have.
To anyone who is facing the loss of a loved one, I am with you. I see you. I know it is sad and scary and overwhelming. But I guess the whole point is, even though everyone tells you this and you want to punch them in the face, time really does heal. It really does get better. You find people who love you in ways you didn’t know you could be loved. You find friends and family who, when combined, make you feel the way your loved one made you feel.
And I encourage you, this Holiday season, to do whatever you need to do to get by. Honor the heck out of your loved one, celebrate their traditions, decorate that table, borrow their fine China. You have my permission to bask in their memory however long and however deeply you need to. Time heals, but only after awhile, and you deserve to be where you are in your timeline.