The Birthday Girl

Yesterday was Mom’s birthday, and August 14th used to be one of my designated annual sad days. Every year after 2005, I went to the cemetery and sat on the lawn next to her stone…and completely lost it.

I hate visiting her there. The place smothers me emptiness and loss, and I shake with the effort to contain the sudden, desperate sadness…digging my nails into my palms to stop myself from wailing, “Why?” No answer would be good enough anyway—the question itself is destructive. The setting seems to summon my worst feelings. My mind becomes a skipping record hung up on the last few days of her life.

Yet, I put myself through it a few times every year: I don’t know why exactly. I suppose I feel that it is the respectful thing to do, visiting a grave…conventional. I was driving along the road that led to the cemetery yesterday afternoon, feeling the tears clog my throat as I approached.

Then a goofy memory of her plopped itself in my lap, and my entire body relaxed. I felt lighter. Instead of stopping, I drove on with a smile tickling my lips. Finally the voice in my head started talking some sense: Enough…this needs to stop. I want to remember what the world gave me instead of what it took away.

I do not have the words to articulate how much I loved her…how much I love her still for the ways she shaped my life. Go on. These are two of the simpler words in our language but so difficult to put into practice. It has taken almost seven years for me to be able to remember her without an undertone of sadness. She lived a life worth remembering in smiles rather than tears.

Mom - July 2005
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