It’s been thirteen months since my mother died. I thought when the anniversary of her death came around, words would pour out of me, but somehow, when the date came around last month, I couldn’t decide what I wanted to say. It was hard not to be with my family on that day, though my daughter spent a long time on the phone with me. (She and her grandmother were tight.)
Sarah Collingwood (Feiertag)
I’ll tell you a story, then make confession.
My mother’s mother (she’s the one on the left) was an obsessive letter-writer. She wrote several letters every day, every letter several sheets of paper (remember, this was before e-mail, before cell phones, back when a long-distance call was expensive and usually meant a birth, a wedding, or a death), and at least one of the daily slew of letters went to my mother. Unfortunately, Grandma extracted a promise from my mother that Mom would destroy all her letters after Grandma died. I think Mom kept one, but I haven’t been able to find it.
But a year to the day after my grandmother died, a final letter that had gone astray in the postal system arrived in our mailbox. I don’t know what it said; I don’t even know if Mom kept it. (She thought she had, but she didn’t remember where it was.) But its arrival affected my mother strongly. It was painful, but also a reminder that my grandmother had loved my mom and, I think, Mom took it as a hint that there might be a possibility of, not life after death exactly, but of some sort of lasting connection that could not be severed.
And here’s the confession: a month ago, when the mail came, I realized that I had been expecting there would be a letter in it for me from my mother. There wasn’t, and I think I felt so silly for expecting that there would be that I couldn’t find any words for my mother that day.
I want to note that I realize not being with family on the anniversary of my mother’s death was a small sacrifice compared with the losses of health and life so many others have suffered from COVID-19, from social injustices, from so many other causes. But neither could I let this moment pass without taking the time to remember my mom.
I still miss her like mad.