April 11, 2017

When someone close to you dies there is a huge outpouring of empathy and talking about how wonderful the person was and what a hole they will leave in your life, very little of the talk is of much use in preparing for the impending fallout of a family member’s death.  Only one person said something to me after my mother died that I have used in this first year after her death.  She said to me, “This first year is going to be hard.  It is a year of firsts without that person.  Remember, when a new first happens you can fill that hole with the joyful memories of the past and add new memories to them!  First doesn’t mean bad, just different.”  This has rung true so far.  She died one month to the day prior to my birthday, that was a hard one, it’s still very new and “fresh” in your mind and life.  I woke on my birthday expecting the simple “Happy Birthday, Christian!” text that she usually sent… and I waited for it… and waited… and then remembered… and then broke down.  I told my brother, “Just don’t have anymore birthdays, they are really painful without her simple messages.”  This was said through tears, uncontrollable and saltier than usual it seemed.  Next comes Thanksgiving and another family get together, minus one.  It’s somewhat somber until everyone finds their new flow and realizes that this can still be a joyful occasion, we can still be joyful and happy in each other even without this person’s physical presence.  Christmas.  She always had a penchant for large parties and planning them, Christmas was… different.  And now we come to today, the day before her birthday.  My mother and I, up until I turned about 19-20, had a tenuous relationship.  It wasn’t horrible, just different from many other relationships between mothers and sons that I have heard about.  So, today I wake up and it hits me… I won’t get to tell her “Happy Birthday”, no hugs, no gentle exchanges of the love that had grown in us over the years… just a silence, deafening and huge.  Probably filled with a few whimpers and sobs, as well as tears.  The firsts are the hardest, but are what I think give me strength after they pass.  The lead up to and journey through the firsts is hard, but on the other side of each first is a new day, a new moment, a new chance to live… fully.  Firsts this year are hard, but are not the death of me. I’m surprisingly optimistic today and even happy, tomorrow may be different.  So, I will put it here:

“Happy Birthday, Mom!  I do miss you, but I am going to be fine.  I love you!”

Christian Sanders


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