When I returned to work after my sister’s death in early January 2014, I couldn’t face the oversized year-at-a-glance calendar awaiting its annual mounting on my office wall. I’d found the dry-erase, overview style useful for the year-long planning I’m involved in, but the thought of putting it up just then, and seeing an entire year laid out before me without her in it, was just too overwhelming. It still is.
The first year of marking each first – the holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, seasons – has only just passed. Sixteen months is so very little time after fifty-one years. And all at once it was May again. I knew it was coming, of course, the glorious May that is Kissie’s birth month. The one, I think, that captures her essence most eloquently – boisterous, vibrant, radiant, and quicksilver – everything rushing to life – just like her. The whirling dervish, as I jokingly call her.
If I thought last May – and her first birthday since her death – was difficult (I did), I really could not gauge just how, and at which junctures, this one would trigger a deluge of acute sorrow. Yes, I anticipated it (a haphazard way of trying to prepare oneself emotionally), but that didn’t really equip me, so to speak, because this year is different. I am different. Last May was an incomprehensible ache. This year, my sadness feels like a kind of relentless sobriety, periodically (and often unexpectedly) punctuated with the wild unreality that has characterized so much of the last sixteen months.
As May spins shining into June, I am grateful. There have been unanticipated gifts, steadfast companions, and great beauty amid my grief and mourning. Each week, month, and season, has its own particular fierceness, its own distinct significance; and memory, its own calibration of what should be faithfully retold, honored, and held up to the light.