That moment, it changes you. Not like those other big events, a first kiss, that broken bone, a high school graduation, the ‘stay in bed for weeks’ breakup. This moment, it’s different. It sends you into shock and then destroys you, puts you to sleep and then haunts you harder. It shape shifts, fades in and out, but never leaves you. You’ll dream on a loop and wake up shaking. Terror is animate.
I’ve known loss. Grandparents, neighbors. Even a college friend gone too young, an open casket that spun me through months of depression. I’ve danced atop rock bottom, contemplated purpose and existence. I’ve lost, found, and dismissed God. Death, heartbreak, addictions, funks, dispirited periods, all just sessions in this life, those brief lows followed by long highs. Adventures and stories to one day tell. Perspective.
Motherless life is a dystopian place, where comfort is no longer a phone call away and I’m that child panicking in an open space, lost, every moment of my every day. Irrational. Though I float on, I do so knowing there is no grounding here, that there is, in fact, a dead end.
The first year is numb, I was told, and it’s true. Then, the second year is complex, raw, despair deeper and with less hope. And that’s where the wisdom stops. Once you’re there, you know why.
The hurt doesn’t fade. It just changes. I grow in some ways, regress in others. Lose a job, shrug. Total a car, walk. But then when I hear a cough, panic revisits. I see the ends more than the means and play victim to the whimsy of my evil imagination. I contemplate things, too, tangle with perpetual nostalgia even as I question my memory, my childhood, everything I’ve ever known.
And though I search in cloud formations, in the sounds of middle of the night silence, or in the eyes of a bull elk encountered on a peaceful run, she’s not here. She’s not on the other end of a phone, or in the room watching over me. She’s not that moment of déjà vu or the invisible hand that guides me out of harm’s way. She’s just not here anymore.
I know this now, in year three. But I linger on, find my way, and encounter peace in random places. In one squirrel chasing another, in the smile of a homeless woman, in my toddler’s awe at the crashing waves, in the way he looks at me as if I’d placed that beach there just for him, a playpen of uncountable toys and no ticking clock.
This is life and it just happens around me, finds a way to drag me along with it. And though I’ll never be blind again, never be able to shake away the truth of my own existence, there’s comfort in the stillness, beauty to be captured in those small moments, lessons to be learned in the consequences of those inevitable failures.
I’m home here now, in this motherless life, living on instinct, following her path, honoring her memory. It’s not where I expected to be, not this young, but there’s no turning back, no way to go but onward. There’s a shadow behind me, following my every step, mimicking my every move, expecting me to share with him this wisdom I’ve gained, this perspective I’ve earned.