Twenty One Years and Counting

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“Let no one weep for me, or celebrate my funeral with mourning; for I still live, as I pass to and fro through the mouths of men.”
Quintus Ennius

21 years, mom.

21 years ago you died.

At first, of course, it hurt worse since the wound was fresh.

But now it hurts in a different way. It hurts worse, in a way.

21 years later it has gotten to the point where you died so long ago that it is almost a forgotten event. Not that it is forgotten by your husband or children; no, we remember your passing well and don’t forget, as we don’t forget everything you did for us while alive.

But friends and acquaintances forget, or they remember only when reminded. This would be natural, as life moves on and the new replaces the old. Twenty one years is a long time. 1996 is ancient history to the youngest of my high school students who were born only in 2004. Time marches on.

And it seems like it marches faster and faster as one ages, and the past seems even more “past” than it used to be. Five or ten more years will pass soon enough, mom, and you will only be that much more gone and far away from me. The march of time will eventually claim my father (your husband) and his generation, and my friends will get older, too, and some of us will start to die. That horrible phone call, out of the blue, will occasionally arrive with tragic news. (How well I remember the phone call of your initial cancer diagnosis!) Every now and again but with increasing frequency there will arrive more sad news of accidents and injuries, sickness and suffering, and death and burial. We will be in the 2020s. Then the 2030s. And so on.

My daughters will come of age. They will move out into the world. Maybe get married and have kids of their own. I will retire. Health problems will increase.

And my mother will only be that much further behind me. Dead thirty or forty years already by that time.

My mind tells me the response to such melancholic reflections is “carpe diem” and to wait for nothing tomorrow — to do it TODAY! Drink deeply today, for tomorrow is a myth. I know. I know.

But tonight I will indulge melancholy, as I usually do on Halloween. I will stay home quietly, write college letters of recommendation, and pass out candy while my family goes out “trick or treating.” I will smile for them when they return, enjoying their Halloween happiness but not feeling it myself.

Tomorrow will be better.

Miss you, mom.

Thank you for everything.