Anniversaries are funny. Some of them are lovely and come with cake, but some of them sneak up on you while you are going along minding your own business and whack you over the head.
On Sunday, it will be two years since my mother died. There won’t be cake.
It wasn’t until my neck muscles all released last night that I realized I must have been walking around for a week with my shoulders up around my ears. No wonder I’ve been tetchy. It’s hard to allocate resources to patience and forbearance when your brain is fully occupied with denial. Nothing to see here. Everything’s fine. No, I don’t know why you’re developing an ulcer. It’s a mystery.
I told my friend Annie I seem to be veering into an emotional ditch, and she said (more or less) well, ditch out then. Are you going to write about it?
Turns out I am.
The morning my mother died, I sat at my kitchen table with my sister. “I was supposed to be in a wedding today,” I said, and put my head down on the table and cried.
That was Annie’s wedding. We’ve known each other since we were 18 years old and lay in a strange dorm room, uncertain of the stranger lying wordlessly across the room. If you had asked me if I would ever in this world miss Annie’s wedding, I would have said never. That would never happen. I would fly across the world if I had to. I would’ve, but the way things turned out I was flying the other way.
It’s a shame, Annie said yesterday, that my wedding will always be associated with this for you.
It is, and it isn’t. The thing about death is that for a little while, everything in your orbit comes to a screeching halt. Work stops, people watch your children, and your fridge fills up with food you didn’t purchase or prepare. It would be luxurious if it weren’t all so devastating. But in a few days, you’re running an errand and you look up, and the people in line in front of you are just going about their business like the world hasn’t ended. It’s disorienting. It helps to have anchors thrown out; reminders that things go on.
Children are great for this. And weddings are, too. People die, and they grieve. But people also hope, and they laugh, and they love.
So if a wedding is all wrapped up in my mind with a funeral, well, I’m okay with that. There are thorns on the rose, it’s true.
But there’s a rose.