Over this past challenging year, we’ve all been searching for some sense of normalcy. Having to find a new way to do everything from schooling to shopping to celebrating has been exhausting. As vaccine numbers rise, so does our desperate yearning to return to activities we once took for granted. We can’t wait to gather indoors with friends, walk through a crowd, or shout at our favorite team with a hoard of strangers. We just want life back to normal. I yearn for normalcy like everyone else, but I’ve also been extremely grateful for the abnormal this past year.
This week is not just the anniversary of the world shutting down but also the first anniversary of my mother’s passing after a long battle with cancer. As everyone was fearfully preparing for the unknown last March, I was in the fog of grief and loss. I knew what was going on in the world, but it was like background noise. My mom passed away on Wednesday in the early hours of the morning. Friday afternoon, schools shut down, and businesses closed. As we knew all knew it, life was changed. For my family, it would never be the same.
In those quiet early days of the pandemic, I felt the same uncertainty as everyone else, but I also felt relief. Relief that I did not have to go to into work on Monday morning carrying my grief but pretending it wasn’t there. Relief that I could cry when I needed to and hug my family at any moment. Relief that I didn’t have to pretend that anything happening was normal.
This quiet blessing continued as the days passed. What was still a challenging year was made less so by the absence of expectations that we carry on with life as usual. When Easter came, I was spared the pain of being in the usual place with the regular people as the gaping hole left unfilled by my mother’s presence surrounded me. Instead of her absence being the only change, everything was different, and it softened the blow.
Each milestone and celebration was difficult but less so than if life had followed its regular patterns. Being spared the moments of thinking, “Mom always sat here” or “Mom usually did this” lessened the pain of her absence.
As the light at the end of the tunnel draws us slowly to each other again, I will feel the joy of gathering and celebrating that I have greatly missed. My mother’s absence at these events will still hurt, but not in the fresh, gut-wrenching way they would have. For that, I am grateful.