Her pedicure still looked pretty. Of all the details that are burned into my memory of this day five years ago, that image persists. By the time her body succumbed to the cancer, my mom did not look much like herself to me — she had fought a long, hard battle, and it showed. But even as she took her last shallow breath, her toes were exactly as I always remember them — pretty, painted, pink. Somehow that was comforting. I inherited her feet, among other features, and when I have a nice pedi I think of her every time I look down.
It seems impossible that she’s been gone five whole years, but also like an eternity since I’ve seen her. How’s that for typical? Who knew that this life-altering tragedy would be subject to the same paradox as every other memory that time pushes steadily into the past. So much has changed and there is so much joy in my life, but I still get as emotional about missing her as I did in year one. The gut-punch moments don’t come as often, but they sting just the same. And I still have nights like this one, in which I find myself awake at 3am beyond all reason. Everyone else in the house has been sleeping for hours and will not stir for many more, and I’m sitting in the dark going over all the details, trying to remember some, trying to forget others.
I’m happy that I had a more-than-amazing relationship with my mom in which we held nothing back. I have no regrets, no unspoken sentiments. Other than new experiences and thoughts and questions I want to share with her daily, I don’t worry that I should have said something important. But somehow, each year I go over all the things I would say and do differently if I were living this week in 2010 again. The ways I would shift my focus, choose a different response, or redirect my inner thoughts. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over it.
But I refuse to be sidetracked by my hangups. Today, I’m celebrating her life, honoring her legacy, and giving two of her grandchildren the extra hugs and kisses she would have showered on them. Which is not a bad way to spend the day.