Two years ago today I lost my mom to cancer. It was quick and painful, and there was hardly time to process what was happening before she was gone. After she died, life picked up speed and the spaces of time that she filled in my life got filled in with other things and people. Then, we entered the twilight zone of 2020, the lost year, so revisiting this day (these past few days, really) feels like hardly any time has passed since she left this earth.
The raw emotions I experienced, losing someone I love so unexpectedly and watching her take her last breath, come back with such force at this time of year. It is hard to slow down and let grief have its way. I don’t know if I ever have, really. Grieving means remembering, and those memories, though brief in nature, were wrought with such pain, uncertainty, and regret that I don’t want to feel them again, even though they try to resurface.
I guess a visual reminder of my need to deal with my feelings of loss is the black plastic box that sits on a shelf in front of my van in the garage. It contains the remains of my mother, her pulverized bones and bolts from her broken arm they put back together just days before she died. I see the box every day as I get in and out of my van, but it feels dishonoring to leave her like this, in that dusty, temporary holding container. It’s not her, really, not the real Joy; she is living out her name in Heaven as I write this, more than she ever could on Earth. Still, this is a part of her temporal body that I struggle to deal with, much like my emotions surrounding her death and the days and months that led up to it.
I don’t have answers, just these thoughts as I remember my mom today. I’m still stuck in emotional limbo, as so many of us are these days. I am aware of my mortality in a way I never was before, of the days ticking by, of chances lost, of dreams slipping away, of relationships growing, changing, ending, beginning again. I ran out of time to mend the still-broken parts of my relationship with my mom. I don’t want to run out of time to make good on the relationships I still have, especially with my own children.
In remembrance of my mom today, I will end by sharing a few of the dreams she held and released during her 68 years of life. Becoming a nun. Teaching high school English. Traveling to Israel. Seeing the Northern Lights. Living in a pretty, yellow house. Visiting her mother one last time.
I’ve got to say, I’m thankful the first one didn’t come to pass and also that, even though they missed seeing each other here one last time, my mom and grandma have since been reunited in heaven. So, I don’t grieve as one who has no hope. I know where my mom is, and I know that I will see her again. Grief is countered by anticipation, mourning comingled with joy.