How do you spend the anniversary of a death? Is ¨anniversary¨ even the right word? Isn´t that word overly celebratory being it´s in the family of birthdays, weddings and other such happy events?
Some people have asked us what we will do that day and it really touches me that they remember the date with us. But it still doesn´t make knowing how to answer it any easier.
Others in our shoes seem to know exactly what they want to do: go to the cemetery and lay flowers, host a commemorative event, visit the last place they saw their loved one alive or take a journal to a solitary place and grieve alone. I respect all of these choices and have done almost all of them at some point myself. Why do I not seem to know what to do on a date of such importance?
I was skyping with my daughter last weekend and I asked her if she had anything special she was planning for the 19th. She said with some melancholy that it was a normal day of back to back classes at university and that she thought the best way to honor her sister was by doing what she loves - dance. (She´s a dance major.) She dearly misses her sister´s presence as she grows and matures as a dancer and know that this is what she would want her to keep doing. She said she may get away another day to the beach (one of their favorite places) and journal. Then she sighed and said, ¨After all, Mom, every day is October the 19th.¨
That´s when it hit me! If every day is a day that I miss her, think of her, wonder about her, grieve about her absence in our lives, what is October the 19th? If every day my heart catches at her photo, an old favorite song, a note from a friend of hers, the tenderness in a sibling´s voice recounting a memory, October the 19th is just another day of remembering this great loss.
Don´t get me wrong, the date is a significant one - I can feel it unconsciously in my spirit approaching even if there is no calendar in front of me. We have made it through two years without her. We are learning - very reluctantly - to live without her. But grieving is no respecter of calendars... grieving is day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment, sometimes breath by breath. And that´s why I now understand: Every day is October the 19th.
I suppose that October the 19th is somehow more formal, more official. You may grieve alone a lot of days, but that is a day when others may still remember and join you. It weighs more than other days. It´s written down, it´s recorded. In history. There was a starting point recorded for the world and now there is a stopping point recorded for all time. She was born, she lived, she died. She made a difference. She mattered. She was here. But now she is gone. Her days on this earth were appointed by her Maker. And October the 19th marks that point.
But not another day goes by that that empty space does not resonate poignantly in my heart.
Photo by: Peter