Colleen's Journey

Time: Friend or Enemy?

It will soon be five months since our mom died.  I can’t tell if time is flying by or moving like molasses. On one hand, so much life continues to happen that when I sort through all of the events in my head, her death feels like a year ago.  But when I think about her, it feels like yesterday.

The fact that I am pregnant only confuses the time warp I’m living in.  It seems so long ago that I had the true blessing of being able to tell my mom that Pete and I were expecting new life in our family.  That was only ten days before hers ended.  Here I am now, six months pregnant.  My sisters and I debate as to whether this has been the longest or shortest pregnancy in history.  There is no right answer, it’s both.

Since her passing, we have had the honor of spreading her ashes in of the two places she requested, Kauai and the cabin.  For the cabin ceremony, most of her siblings were able to join us, along with some of our cousins.  It was such a beautiful experience and I am glad that we were able to share it with her family.  My sisters and I know that each member of her family has unique and special memories with our mom and we wanted to make sure everyone could honor her in their own way.   Rather than throwing her ashes all at once like we did in Hawaii, everyone was given a small amount of her ashes and the opportunity to spread them anywhere on the property they were drawn to.  We all met back in the house and watched several videos of our mom where she talked at length about what the Forest Lakes property meant to her, the memories she shared with her family, and how important it was to her to share it with, and pass it on to, her children.  She expressed that the land was her quite literally her sanctuary and how it was her wish to have her ashes spread on the property where she felt the greatest amount of peace and clarity.  What an honor it was to be able to fulfill her wishes in that regard.

Some of her family had to return to Phoenix after lunch, but others were able to spend the entire day and even the night with us.  We had such a great time telling stories, playing games, and enjoying each other’s company.  It was an evening our mom would have loved and appreciated.

I am coming to realize that one of the greatest difficulties I am facing in my grief is transitioning my mom from being a person who was central to every aspect of my life to being a memory.  My memories are so strong that it seems impossible to convince myself that she no longer exists on this earth.  It’s so hard to comprehend that we will not create more memories, that she will not be there for the big and small events in our lives – everything from dinner on an ordinary Tuesday evening to the birth of our daughter.  It’s impossible to absorb the fact that, the older I get, my memories will become distant and my mom will be a person from my past.  Nearly all of my thirties, and each decade thereafter, my forties, fifties, sixties, seventies,  etc., will be spent without her.  New experiences, moments, and memories will be made where she is noticeably absent.  I can’t help but wonder, will I still remember in detail the unique shape of her nose?  What about the sound of her laugh, her words of wisdom, her grace, the way she could light up a room?  How do I convince myself that she, and her wonderful qualities, don’t exist anymore, except in my head?  How do I keep them safe so the memories are not lost, forgotten, or distorted or faded with time?

People often ask if it is getting easier with time.  The answer is so complex and depends on the moment.  I guess in some ways, yes, it’s getting easier.  For example, I think I’m adjusting to my daily routine without her.  I no longer expect her to join me for an early morning workout, carpool to the office, or share some laughs over dinner or a glass of wine.  Although, I would give anything for her to show up.  In others ways, it is actually getting more difficult.  The emptiness I feel in the space she occupied is inexplicably heavy.  It sits on my chest like a one ton brick.  I miss her all day long.

In an effort to overcome this otherwise palpable sadness, I try to remember our mom’s mantras for getting through tough times: “Sometimes, you have to fake it to make it.”  I try so hard not to focus on it, let it affect my mood, or my ability to be enjoyable company around others.  I try to keep myself busy and do things that make me happy in an effort to actually feel happy.  Does that even make sense?  I take deep breaths and remind myself of my blessings so I can be the best mom to Blake and our unborn baby girl that I can be.  That’s much easier said than done at times.  I guess that’s why grieving is more like a roller coaster than a linear process.

People we know whom have suffered great losses in their lives have told us it takes three years to really  come out on the other side of the grieving process – or at least for the dark cloud to lift.  They also share in total honesty that even though it does get easierat some point, we will never stop missing our loved ones.  There will always be an emptiness in the space they occupied and we will never stop longing for a hug, a conversation, or a good laugh.  This honesty I appreciate – mostly because I cannot imagine ever getting to a point in my life, regardless of how old I am blessed to become, where I don’t miss her.

I’m hoping my blogs become more cheery with time.  Perhaps this is the next place where I need to make an effort to “fake it to make it.”  I’ll keep that in mind next time I sit down.  🙂

In the meantime, I hope you are enjoying reading about all the strides being made by Colleen’s Dream and Kicking for the Dream! We are thrilled about the energy and momentum which continues to build.  Nicole and Billy had an amazing trip to Washington, D.C. which I’m sure they will share with you soon so please look for the details!

I hope this finds you well.  I wish all of you health and happiness.