I slept late and ate my usual breakfast at about noon. I checked my email, played FreeCell and Fishdom, watched The Three Faces of Eve, two episodes of Star Trek the Next Generation and some episodes of Downton Abbey.
I took a late afternoon nap while listening to a podcast of Stephanie Miller, Daily Kos Radio, The Rachel Maddow Show and the Professional Left with Driftglass and Bluegal. When I woke up I made a nice dinner of steak and broccoli.
It was a low energy day with no unusual ups or downs. I talked to my best friend on the phone, but we talk almost every day anyway.
I did not get any serious work done. I basically just wasted time. I had a day off with no particular place to go and no particular thing to do. I remember most of what I did on Saturday, but I didn't do much that was interesting.
I also did not cry.
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On February 9, 2007, I barely remember what I did in the hours after my mother died.
I called my cousin and asked him to call everyone else in the family. The hospice worker called and I told her we no longer needed to have a consultation. I found my friend who was the hospital chaplain back then and she stood with me while I read the Litany at Time of Death over my mother. Then I gave the news to the nurses on the dialysis unit. Somehow I managed to drive myself home. I assume I went to sleep when I got home. I just don't remember anything. It's all a blur. I do remember that I cried when I realized the aides who cleaned up my mom after she died accidentally threw away her rosary. I wanted that rosary so bad. I cried and cried and cried over the lost rosary, but I was really crying over my lost mom.
The days and weeks and months immediately following are a blur of crying to the point of physical pain and difficulty breathing. I was even hospitalized for unusual heart rhythms a few weeks later. I dragged myself through a fog of days, with all manner of memories keeping me in a constant state of anguish. Remembering her last day at home, her last meal, her last words. Crying when they came to take away the hospital bed. Trigger after trigger collapsing me into inconsolable gut wrenching sobs. I barely managed to get any work done.
I never could have imagined, during those days of pulling over to the side of the road to weep when certain songs came on the radio, or suddenly doubling over with sobs because of a casual well-meant comment, or crying myself to sleep with an endless tape of “what if” and “if only” and “why didn't I” playing in my head...
I never could have imagined that at the six year mark my mom's death anniversary would be pretty much just another day. Even a boring day. I had to set an alarm to remind myself to light the yahrseit candle. It bore its silent witness all night and all day while I goofed off and didn't think about it much.
I knew what day it was. I wasn't actively avoiding it. I wasn't fighting to hold back tears or deliberately distracting myself with mindless nonsense. Every time I passed the candle I looked at it. Yes, it is still burning. There is enough wax for it to make it through the rest of the 24 hours. At one point I took her urn down off the top of the cabinet and gently washed off the accumulated dust and grime since I had touched it last. Then I put it back. No pangs, no palpitations, no knife slicing through my gut. I washed the urn and then made breakfast.
I am still grieving, of course, but as I said last year, grief is sort of moving about in the background now, rolling along at my feet, or hovering just over my shoulder, instead of pressing on my chest like an elephant foot. It is not gone, but I have gotten used to it. I just live my life anyway, like sweeping around a piece of furniture in the middle of the room that is too heavy to move. Every once in a while it grabs me and shakes me hard. But not last Saturday.
My mom held on to life with both hands for much longer than anyone expected, and part of the reason was that she was not ready to leave me, and she knew I was not ready to lose her, and she worried about how hard grief would rock me, and whether it would send me into a spiral of depression from which I would never escape. She held on to spare me the heartshock of grief she knew I would have to deal with. Depth of grief is one measure of depth of love and remembrance, true. But I am also fairly sure my mom does not want me to grieve that way forever, because she tried so hard to avoid causing me pain.
So I believe my “ordinary boring day” last Saturday was a good thing. I remembered mom on February 9 without falling all apart as I used to do. All she ever wanted was for me to be happy, and I believe she would not want the memory of her to tear my heart out and make me cry uncontrollably for the rest of my life.
The grief anniversary came and went. Without drama. Without emotional intensity. Without tears. It just came. And went.
And I think my mom would want it that way.