Today was my mom's birthday. But the last 8 years have gone by with no candles and no cake... and sadly, no mom. Sometimes it feels like I hugged her yesterday, but most days it feels like forever. It is a missing and a longing that never leaves, one that can make me cry in the blink of an eye. But don't think I cry everyday. I don't. But I do miss her, and Dad (6 years) and my sister (7 years), every... single... day.
It's a 2 year window in time I wish to never repeat, nor hear of anyone else having to go through. A time when if I heard "what doesn't kill us only makes us stronger" or "they're together now in a better place" one more time I was going to curse someone. Here was a pretty great place. It was meant to be comforting and supportive, but most of the time it just bothered me. I can't say I have expectations that life after death is great or even there. I couldn't ever imagine them together somewhere happy, as I know none of them would have been happy without the rest of us beside them. I'm not sure what I think about it all, mostly more scientific fact than wishing. If I live a good life and treat others well, then I'll just play the cards I'm dealt when it's over. The hands they held could win the game.
Over the years, I've heard many times how strong we were through everything.... As if there was a choice? You go from one tragedy to another, all while trying to breath and hold life together in the meantime. You don't have time to think, you just react. You aren't some strong rock, you're just trying to not sink. I think it was the strong, silent rock next to me every day that helped me survive. The relationship that existed at home, and the partnership that allowed me to get what needed done done, while he held down the fort. Knowing that if I did ever finally crack and crumble to the floor, he'd be there to pick me up again and dust me off. The strength and the comfort, usually without a word, just a feeling.
My oldest sister and I kept each other in check. We plowed through each event as it fell. I can hear the daily words "You okay?", "I'm okay." in my mind. I think we wouldn't have faired nearly as well without the love and support of the other. We were a team through and through and are closer today because of the rough journey. I think she's one of the few people who knows all of me.
It is hard for them to be gone, but the memories are vivid...and wonderful...and eternal. Our family life was the farm Cleavers, if I could explain it. Mom stayed home and did all things homey and caring, while Dad worked and was a great provider. Their marriage was great and long, and they were wonderful parents, structured and hard in youth, but with an amazing outcome and love from their raised children. Every weekend, we were together- BBQing or visiting- because we wanted to be. Not a day goes by that I say "what if" or "I wish I had said...". I don't. Even in sudden deaths, we all knew how the other felt and there were no things left unsaid. That is very comforting.
The part that continues to be the hardest? One is sleeping down the hall and the other is growing inside me. It is our girls missing out on such wonderful people that kills me. They will never see Gma & Gpa Js farm, crack eggs for a cake in the kitchen on a summer's day, mushroom hunt on the hills in the springtime, cane pole fish in the pond, pet the real bunnies at Easter, plant flowers with Aunt Debbie and her puppy or hear Gpa's tall tales of his Tennessee youth. I can tell them stories of all of those times, but they'll never experience it. And I'll never see my Mom's eyes light up when a cute little girl in a sink bath splashes her with suds, see my Dad tear up and walk out because he's so overjoyed by seeing his granddaughters for the first time or watch my sister be another of the best aunties our girls could ever have.
Those things are not very fair.
Life can be not very fair.
I grew up the youngest on both sides of the family. It always seemed by the time I loved and appreciated someone, they were gone... too soon. We do not have the family that lives to be 100. Maybe I should think of them as flames, so bright, but so short. It's true. The lives we do have are vibrant and fascinating and happy. So maybe a short time of great is better than a long time of dull or unhappy? I can always see goodness it in all, don't worry or think I'm depressed. I'm not. But there are those days or those moments in life that you just so wish they could see and be a part of. That you wish now that you're older, you could ask your parents things or sit and have a long glass of iced tea. But alas, the time is gone and you cannot.
And that part of life is just not always fair.