There’s an episode of Gilmore Girls where one day, Luke just goes missing for a day, and Lorelai was looking for him everywhere, trying to figure out where he was hiding, and finally she discovers that he is having a “dark day.” The day every year when he stops living his normal life because it’s the anniversary of his father’s death, and he takes the day for himself to grieve or go fishing or whatever feels like life will suck less. Well friends, today is my dark day, only I didn’t have the foresight to take off of work, so I’m having a dark day where I pretend to be normal.
One year ago today, I was at a hospital in Charlotte, waiting for news on how my mom did during her nephrectomy. And then she was doing fine. I saw her, and talked to her, and made plans to bring back whatever she thought she could drink on her clear liquid diet later that night. I hugged her and said, “Look, we survived now. Don’t do anything stupid like throw a clot. We’ve suffered enough already.” And then Other Half and I left so we could get some food, pack my bag, and bring me back later to spend the night with her. And then my dad called and said something was very, very wrong, and by 5 pm, my mom was gone.
I have learned all the things about grieving this year, it seems. I have been the angry girl, and the sad girl, and back to the angry girl for a long stretch of time, and maybe I’m finally leaning towards acceptance? Who can really tell. The stages of grief are more merry-go-round and less stairs so I’m afraid to commit to a trajectory. There are some lessons that are set in stone though, one of which I found on Monday while reading Anne Lamott’s “Stitches.” She’s writing about any number of hard things, not limited to grief over death and loss, but her words resonated with me so much.
She says, “So when hardships and terror appear in our lives, we first ask “Why?” I usually add, “Would it have been so much skin off Your teeth to cut us some slack here?” But then I remember that “Why?” Is rarely a useful question. After that, we ask, in a cry from our hearts; What on earth are we supposed to do? It’s perfectly rational to expect or hope for an answer from God—I’ve never thought Job was being unreasonable. I personally would like more stuff around here to make sense. But when something ghastly happens, it is not helpful to many people if you say that it’s all part of God’s perfect plan, or that it’s for the highest good of every person in the drama, or that more will be revealed, even if that is all true. Because at least for me, if someone’s cute position minimizes the crucifixion, it’s bullshit. Which I say with love.”
This sums up my experience nicely, profanity and all. Here’s the thing: when people are grieving, other people don’t always know what to do, so they just try. They try by bringing food, and through phone calls, and through cards and hugs and anything else they can think of. They do that because it’s all they can do, because something horrible has happened and they can’t make it unhappen, so they just do whatever thing is in front of them to show the grieving person that they are not alone. My friends from work spent hours making white chicken chili. They brought Starbucks. They stood in line for hours to give hugs to my family. And Christina Yang held my hand and tried to help distract Mary Ann with play dates. Other Half kept things running smoothly with funeral plans and tried to do literally anything that would keep me from feeling as lost and broken as he had felt just a year before when he lost his dad. There’s a list of people a mile long that have helped to drag my family through this loss, and I want to say to them, “Thank you. You tried to make my year and my family’s year suck less. And I can never repay you.”
Because this is a depressing blog, and something about this needs to be happy, I leave you with something I discovered Sunday night. Mary Ann wanted to borrow one of my old cell phones to use on WiFi, so I charged it and when it fired up, my last text message thread from my mom was near the top. I haven’t looked at any of these messages in probably 10 months because it just sounded so painful to do that. Anyway, apparently she sent me the last text message she would ever send shortly after I had given her a lecture about why she couldn’t just suck it up and drink her bowel prep stuff to prepare for the surgery. She could be so childlike about things like that. Anyway, I finally got a text that said, “I’m pooping.” I’ve polled my family members, and Christina Yang. The consensus is that if she knew that was going to be the last text she sent, she would’ve kept it that way, just so I would laugh when I saw it a year later, because that’s who she was. Love you Mom. You were one of a kind, and life will never be the same, but I’m learning.