Six months feels like and important milestone. That’s how long it’s been since my mother died. It feels like the point at which I should be getting over it. But somehow, the passage of time has done little except make my crying jags less frequent.
There are still constant reminders of her everywhere I turn. This week, I realized that I had never canceled her magazines. I received three January editions of her various subscriptions and discovered that magazine companies don’t check with social security to see who has died in the past year. This required action on my part.
“I’d like to cancel my mother’s subscription,” I said to each distributor over the phone.
“May I ask why you’re canceling?” they replied innocently.
“Because she’s dead,” I responded in the most matter-of-fact way I could muster.
One company asked me if I would like to change the subscription to my name. Another asked me what other magazines I might be interested in getting from them. I tried to answer politely, without judgment. They’re just doing their jobs, I chanted in my head over and over again. But each call made my heart heavier and less able to make the next one.
But there have also been good reminders—professional recognition from her local bar association for the dignity with which she practiced law, an advertisement of an upcoming auction of some of her jewelry that will go to benefit legal aid, and kind emails and cards from her friends checking in on my spirits.
I still haven’t brought myself to take down the Christmas tree adorned with hundreds of her lamb ornaments. I don’t think I’ve ever had my tree up past Jan. 1.
But this year, as it sits next to my desk glowing brightly, I am reminded of her festive spirit that always made the holidays special. Not only have I not taken it down, but I keep the lights on 24 hours a day as the tree sits in the room in my house where she spent her dying days.
Somehow, I imagine it keeping her company in the many hours that I am gone. At this point, I’m thinking there’s a good chance it will be up until next Christmas.
If grief is a journey, then reminders are like the people who get on the train at different stations. Some are interesting, some are benign, and some are not very palatable. And while in between those stops you may journey through some dark tunnels, there is always light at the end of each one.
Amanda Lamb is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including three on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.