This Thanksgiving–the Sunday after Thanksgiving, actually–it will have been six years since my mother died.
The grief is like a cocklebur I have picked up on a walk somewhere, stuck to the back of my shirt. I feel a scrape when November starts, but it goes away and I forget. Some part of me knows there’s pain back there, so I spend a lot of time leaning forward without remembering why. And then plans for Thanksgiving finalize, and it’s like leaning back so the stinging bits of the burr finally push through my shirt. Oh yeah! That’s what it is. This is the anniversary of the loss of my mother, her absence from this world. No wonder it hurts.
If you’ve ever tried to remove a cocklebur from your clothing, you know it’s an imprecise process. The thing comes apart, each little hooked spine trying to stay embedded in the fabric. Even after you take the shirt off, even after you wash it, you might find bits of it scratching at your skin.
I know people feel differently about marking the anniversaries of painful events. Some believe that ritual gives us comfort, and maybe that’s true. For me, I need to mark the anniversary of my mother’s death–to remember it–because if I try to forget, the feelings cling to me anyway. I go around hunched and jumpy and not really sure why. That’s opens the door to self-judging, as I think I have no reason to feel bad and why don’t I just stop moping already? And then I remember. Or I don’t, but my sister reminds me, and then we both remember.
And, remembering, we recognize grief. Yes, that’s what is hurting. That hurt is never going to go away completely–a hooked spine will poke and scratch me at random, forever. But I know what it is. I can see it, examine it, feel it. And thereby make space in my awareness for all the other things I’m experiencing, as the days get shorter and we approach the winter solstice and holiday celebrations.
Maybe I’ll start making this year’s Christmas playlist.