Today marks the fifth anniversary of my mother’s death. And while I suppose it’s true that time eventually heals all wounds, my soul knows that there are some losses that take a piece of you with them, leaving behind a deep, deep fissure.
Most days, you carry on and the crack is small; not visible to the naked eye. Life and time continue apace, children grow (so fast!) and your life fills up with joy again. Sunsets, music, the company of loved ones, laughter; these gifts fill your soul with light and keep your head well above the choking despair. As the years unravel, you float more and more effortlessly, and if you stand sometimes at the lip of the fissure of your grief, it is only to look down from safety and marvel at its depth.
Everyday remembrances like photographs and familiar stories are like this. Well-worn and thumbed-over, they kindle a wistful kind of fondness in the heart: oh yes, she loved to watch the birds at the feeder. Especially the little yellow ones. But there are things out there in the world that will cast you back into the chasm without warning. There are memory triggers so visceral you feel the loss afresh, as if it happened only hours or moments ago. Dreams have the power to do this, or a long-forgotten smell (White Shoulders).
Or a voice.
Last week, I had all my old home movies transferred from video tape to DVD. I have been working my way through watching these movies, marvelling at the sweetness and innocence of my daughters as babies, toddlers, preschoolers. Their blonde, blonde hair! Their piping voices! Their saggy diaper-bums!
There are memory triggers so visceral you feel the loss afresh.
And suddenly, there she was: my mother.
Her voice, her face, her mannerisms… the real her. Not a two-dimensional photograph. Not a fond memory, all sepia-toned and faraway-sounding like a scratchy vinyl record. Instead I saw my real mother, in living colour on my television. Walking, talking, holding her granddaughter and smiling at the camera. Waving. Laughing.
And just like that, the chasm gaped wide and I was falling. Falling and chasing the piece of me that I lost five years ago today.
I miss you Mom. I always will.