Yesterday, December 18, was the 23rd anniversary of the worst day of my life—the day my daughter, Lydia, died.
What I wish I'd known back then was there would never come a time I'd be "over it." I would never stop missing her, longing for her, searching for her.
These anniversaries are tricky. I used to take the day off work, not knowing what might set me off. I was afraid I might start screaming. I needed to be alone on that most terrible of days.
But yesterday was different. A neighbor called. He wasn't feeling well and needed to go to the hospital. Driving him there didn't take up much of my time. I was home within an hour. While I waited, I called another friend who was alone and invited her to have dinner with us. My husband had a roast in the crockpot. How hard could it be? By the time I got home, I was regretting the invitation. How would I manage? I wouldn't have time for my annual meltdown. I wouldn't have time for my tears.
Now my yarhzeit candle has almost burned out and this has been the least terrible December 18th since Lydia died. I stepped outside the wall of isolation I build every year and made room for others to come in. Neither of these friends knew the significance of the date and I didn't mention it. I don't feel as though I failed to honor my daughter on this day, in fact, just the opposite.
Twenty-three years, and I still miss her. I will always miss her. Always wonder what she'd have been like as an adult.
Today, I had a message from a dear friend still reeling from her grandaughter's death one year ago. "How do you do it?" she asked. "How do you get through it?" When we talk, I will tell her the truth. "One year at a time," I'll say. "That's how I do it. One year at a time, each one different, each one filled with longing and sadness, with new friends and old ones. Each year will bring tears but also laughter. Maybe not this year, maybe not the next. But when you're ready, let others into your space. Make room for them. Make room for the laughter.