A Quiet Time of Year
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Jan. 26th, 2010 | 06:07 pm
Four years and two days ago, I awoke to a voicemail telling me news that I knew was coming but didn't want to hear.
I've thought more and less in different ways at different times as the years have passed, always marking the anniversary of my mother's death, and noticing the way that my feelings have changed. I've been sad and I've been okay, and I've thought I was "over it" and realized that I'll never really be "over it," because losing her changed me fundamentally. It changed how I see the world and how I see life and how I see people.
My feelings about her death change, too. I spent my first two years seeking to replace what I'd lost, seeking to find the one person who could see and understand me as she did, better than anyone else. In the time since, I've come to realize that no one can be that person... and, perhaps more importantly, I don't want anyone to be that person.
I think it's opened me, in a way, and let me love and appreciate others more, both for the things I thought could exist only between me and my mother and for all the new experiences and viewpoints that I can see when I'm not busy seeking out the approval and guidance of one particular individual all the time.
I've discovered that what I missed at first were pretty big things. Coming first to someone. Being seen. Being understood. Being silly. Being spiritual. Being taken care of, even when my stubborn, independent little self fought the caregiving. Taking care of someone. The things I miss now are little... things like finding each other in a crowd by whistling songs from obscure musicals or banter and wordplay. But, not always looking to one source to find those things, I discover that I have a life full of people with similar sorts of quirks. Not the same, not replacements, but the sorts of things that fill those funny voids that, for the most part, I don't see until I notice them being filled.
It feels odd, in a way, to be married to a man she's never met and likely never will meet... but less weird than I expected it would. (Not the marriage part... just the part about two people who are so essential to my life not knowing each other). My wedding day was a day filled with love and joy and I discovered that I am so incredibly lucky to have an amazing biological and emotional family. I expected to feel a huge void, a gaping hole where my mother should have been... and I didn't. (I did feel that, at times, during the planning stages and resented that I didn't have a mother to say "I know it's scary and a ton of work and men totally don't get it, but it's really going to be fine, now here, which of these invitations do you like best?") ... But on my wedding day, I remembered her, but it was a loving, happy memory... one that fits with my other cherished memories of the day.
I learned three important things from her (and particularly from her dying)... the first was that one must cultivate joy, and from that many good things follow. The second was that it is just as important to let people love you as it is to love them. The third was that what you get to keep forever are the memories that you make with other people. The investments you make in them and the ones they make in you and the relationships you build together... and I believe that those, really, are worth anything and everything.