My mother passed away a year ago. It has been a very up-and-down year emotionally.
OPINION: It seems like even after a year, the loss of a parent can feel extremely recent and can — and likely will — put you through an emotional ringer.
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
On Feb. 8, 2023, I observed the one-year anniversary of the passing of my mother. There have been very few days in my life whose approach made me feel anxious, but this “anniversary” was definitely one of them. I thought I was going to be more emotionally drained on her birthday — Feb. 2 — but when that day arrived, I felt OK. I didn’t feel like I needed to take a break or put my day on hold. I called my sister to check on her, and we both agreed that while we were sad, we felt better than expected. But the 8th of the month was right around the corner, and I think we both felt a sense of dread about how that was going to go.
I woke up that day thinking I was good. Perhaps part of that was the routine of the day: get up, get my boys up and get them bathed and ready for school and then take them to school. Because of how much has to happen within a short amount of time with two kids who would much rather kick balls around the house, there wasn’t a ton of time for thought or reflection in the morning. But as the day went on, I found myself thinking more and more about my mother and feeling less and less … well. I was sad. I thought about all of the phone calls that didn’t happen in the past year for birthdays and holidays. And I thought a lot about my kids. My three oldest children at least have memories of her, and fun ones. But my youngest, my 2-year-old, will never know her. He won’t have any memories, and she’ll just be a person he knows he’s related to whenever a conversation about her comes up.
That was the part that really had me in my feelings. Despite whatever difficulties my mother and I had on and off, she loved her grandbabies and truly relished the time she had with them. She came up with cool little things to do with the kids, almost specifically so they’d remember her. She told me that once — she wanted to make sure there was something she did with them that they’d remember. That was the last time we saw her. And it worked. One of my boys, while asking me if I was OK because he knew his Nana passed away that day, told me he wished she were still around because she gave them gifts. She’d created a little “treasure box” that the boys could earn small gifts out of when they did things around the house for her. They loved it. She’d made a lasting memory.
And then she was gone.
It’s that stuff that, the little things, flooded my thoughts. I just kept thinking about how she was gone too soon and how many of those memories she was so looking forward to creating that will never exist. Obviously, we will honor her memory and keep her alive by talking about her and sharing memories with the kids and helping them understand who she was and where she came from and how that impacts who they are. It would just be nice if she was still here to help do that.
Over the course of the day, I felt myself feeling less and less “good.” The day felt a lot like the past year. Some days are great, and I’ve gotten used to this new version of life even if I don’t love it. But other days, like Mother’s Day, had me completely in my feelings. My wife shares a birthday with my mother, and while celebrating my wife, she asked that we also sing “Happy Birthday” to my mother as well, and in that moment, I had a brief flood of emotions.
I think the thing that also makes it difficult is that it still feels so … recent. I can so vividly remember the day she passed, from the phone call — to even the moments right before I got the phone call — to the aftermath that it literally feels like it happened last week. I suppose that’s just how this is going to work. Some days are etched in your memory, emotions and subconscious that no matter what, the details remain clear and present.
I’m aware that it will get easier and easier each year as we mark each “anniversary” in the future. I expect it, even. But I guess once an event happens that rocks your world, you’ll never be fully past it. I suppose that’s just life when you miss your mother. And that will never change.
Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said: “Unknown” (Blackest).
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