This Year of Firsts….I knew about all of the firsts. Everyone tells you about all of the firsts of the first year after the death of a loved one. First birthdays, holidays, anniversaries and other ‘special’ days without your loved one. They tell you they’ll be the hardest days, those days during the first year After.
My mom’s first birthday only 3 weeks after her death, no where to send a card, a gift, no one to call. Left to eat her favorite mint chocolate chip ice cream out of the carton, standing alone in my kitchen with the saltiness of my tears sliding down my cheeks and mixing with the sweet cream. The first Passover without her. Our holiday. The one we spent together year after year, cooking for two days straight. Cooking and chopping and tasting and laughing. Speaking the language of love through food and family ritual. Left to make my own brisket, never as good as hers. That first sedar without her. That first Dayenu without her was probably when it hit me hardest. We were at a sedar at a friend of my sister, and as we were approaching the portion of the sedar when we sing Dayenu I felt my breathing get fast and shallow, my body tense up and pain shoot through me like an arrow piercing my heart. I ran, I fled to the bathroom and locked myself in, sinking to the floor as great sobs racked my whole body. Shaking the grief free from every cell in my body. My own first birthday without that call from my mother, who’s love I’ve received every birthday for the last 40 years. Mother’s Day with no mother to call. Hanukkah, lighting of the candles usually done over Skype so that we can be together, even though we’re a thousand miles apart. Trying to be present for my children as they light the candles and recite the prayer. Proud of themselves for remembering it from last year, but so sad that she’s not there to witness it. No call moments after the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve.
But no one tells you to expect the Year of Firsts to be filled with so many ‘Lasts’. It’s the Lasts that I count down now, as we approach the one year mark. The death anniversary. The last time I saw her. The last time I heard her voice. I last time I saw her smile. The last time I felt her arms around me, heard her laugh, saw the twinkle in her eye as she admired her grandbabies. This time last year was her last February. Every day I count down now to March 25, is a new Last.
It doubles the weight. All the Firsts and Lasts. They stack up on each other. Piggy backing. Holding hands, walking side by side. Every First comes with a Last. I’m not sure which is more difficult to endure right now. The Firsts or the Lasts. Either way, nothing changes. She’s not here. She was, this time last year. And now this year, she’s not. There’s no brighter side, no win. Just loss upon loss. For what was and what will never be. Only 42 days of Lasts left. And then a whole new year of Firsts that are really Seconds, starts anew.