My world the last three months has been anything but normal. Three months. Can you believe it? Three months since my mom smiled her last smile and breathed her last breath. It’s hard to believe. The longest I had ever gone without talking to my mom was three days when I was gone on a retreat in high school. Anything more than that seemed like torture. In fact, the weekend before my mom passed away, I was supposed to go on another retreat, but I withdrew myself at the last minute when I learned I couldn’t have my phone to contact my mom. Since my dad passed away, I could hardly handle going an entire class period without talking to her, let alone a whole weekend. And now, now it’s been three months. It’s only going to get longer from here. Each day that goes by adds to how long it’s been since we’ve talked, and my heart sinks when I realize that’s going to be the case for the rest of my life.
It’s so much different than with my dad. My dad gradually faded out of our physical world, slowly leaving this life behind. In his last couple weeks, I slowly adjusted to life without him. When he wasn’t able to be as independent or himself, I began to envision what this meant (horrible). Because of this, I feel like I grieved him before he actually passed, if that makes any sense at all. The dad I knew last September was not the same one I knew the previous 20 years of my life, and I take a lot of comfort in remembering him when he was healthy.
Obviously, losing him changed my life drastically. It changed my mom’s, too. People asked her all the time, “how do you do it?” Whatever “it” was in that context. Her strength was something of a miraculous mystery. “Because I have to,” she would respond. Known for her love of cliché quotes and cheesy metaphors, my mom began to live by “you don’t know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.” Calling life a deck of cards, she played whatever hand she was dealt. Quickly. There was no hesitation or fear to her. She did whatever she had to do, and she did it selflessly. She did it for me.
When my double dose of grief hits me out of left field, I listen for my mom’s voice. A peaceful inspiration that I’m going to do whatever is on my plate because I have to. There’s no choice to opt out of the real world, or “adulting” (as I’m learning way too quickly). Life goes on, with or without you. That’s what’s so hard for me. I’m excited to see what my future holds, but the mere fact that it doesn’t hold my parents is nauseating. I want to preserve my life exactly as it is in this moment. To them, that’s where life froze. Life with them was the absolute best, and that’s how I always want it. As I get ready to go to Dallas in a couple of weeks and finalize my graduation plans, I find myself with a tear or two trying to escape my dry eyes. Though thrilled for the amazing things to come this next year, I’m terrified to face any of it without my parents, and I’m devastated that they won’t live these dreams with me.
But life goes on. When I find myself pressed with tears, I remember life goes on. As I sat in my car mid-panic after a major mix up last week, I knew I had thirty minutes to compose myself before going into an important meeting. As much as I wanted to cancel the meeting at the last minute, I knew I couldn’t. People were counting on me, and I made a commitment. And if you knew my dad, you sure as heck know he would never let me back out of a commitment. As for my mom, well, she would tell me I’ll get a headache if I keep up my pity party and I need to wear a smile.
I drove around with my windows rolled down for some fresh air, took a deep breath, and decided to put on my smile. It was time to go. With my chin held high and my mom’s Louis on my left shoulder, I took my hand to grab my necklace. I gave the heart a kiss, and I smiled. I opened the door with a confident stride. “Danielle DesRosier, here for a 2:30.”
My day moved forward, and so did I. Keeping my promises and persevering with a positive outlook because I have to, gosh darn it. And I will, gladly.