One year ago I got on a plane and headed across the continent to Florida to say goodbye to my mother. I did not make it in time to say goodbye. I was somewhere over America when she passed over. I didn't expect that. I expected her to hold on long enough for me to have one last chance to hold her hand. The way it happened, though, was the way she wanted it to happen. She waited until she was alone, except for my father, and she just...left. In terms of the many ways people die, she had a good death. Quiet. Peaceful. On her own terms. No unfinished business. My sister later told me that, near the end, she'd told our mother that, while I was on my way, she knew I'd understand if she couldn't wait. It was the right thing for my sister to do. This wasn't about me. And I don't believe it would have been any easier on me if I had been there. We had no unfinished business, my mother and I. We said all that needed to be said to one another. We didn't have the tension or rivalry some mothers and daughters have. We had genuine friendship and respect between us. Being together at the last moment wasn't worth as much to either of us as having been there for one another throughout my life.
One year. In most ways today is like any other day. But we tend to mark anniversaries in this culture. One year. One year without my mother. One year without the daily check-in by telephone. One year of not being able to pick up the phone and ask how to cook a certain dish, or who starred in some obscure 50s movie, or laugh over a funny story. One year of the phone not ringing, of no happy visits or sunny days pushing her wheelchair along the Sponge Docks. One year alone.
Nothing will ever be harder. This I believe. Friends who have had this experience - the ones who are brave enough to be honest - tell me it never gets easier and it never stops hurting. They say it just becomes something I'll get used to. The way this stupid hand injury I have has never healed, and never stopped hurting - I've just gotten used to it. And they're right - I am getting used to it. And I hate getting used to it, because it's like giving in to the obvious, the inevitable, the truth.