As I’m writing this, it is midnight of May 9th. This is a day that is always in the back of my mind. I measure the time and progression of the year in relation to this day. I don’t mean for it to have this power over me, but in spite of my positive outlook regarding today, its emotion is already hitting me.
For the past two years, I’ve struggled with what to do on this day. On the first anniversary, I spent the day laying on my bed crying. I was still so angry at so many things: my family, myself, the doctors, the cancer, the world. I thought that I was supposed to spend this horrible day in mourning, that it was important for me to feel all the pain in order to recognize the fact that it’s an important day in my life. But after that misery of that day, I promised myself that I would NEVER spend May 9th like that again. Last year, on the second anniversary, I surrounded myself with people I love. I went for a hike. I ate ice cream and watched the sunset. I appreciated the air flowing through my lungs and the beauty and gift of life. I was determined not to cry, not to feel the pain. And while all those things were done with great sincerity and joy, the day still ended in tears of guilt and frustration, and feeling like nothing I’ll ever do on this day will ever properly capture all that May 9th signifies to me.
As today has approached, I have thought a lot about how I want to spend it. Neither of the past two years have felt completely right. Which has led me to ask myself why today is so important. I miss my mom every single day of the year, not just on May 9th. I do not want to dwell on the painful memories but I want to recognize that it occurred. Because today does matter. It is the day that my life changed forever, the point at which my life is divided. And maybe that’s my problem with today: today and the events associated with it will never matter quite as much to anyone but me and my family. But I want the world to stop, to become split in two, as my world did three years ago when I looked up from the hospital bed and out the window at this newly terrifying world and realized it was over. On May 9th, I want the world to realize what an incredible human being it has lost and feel the magnitude of her absence. Quite simply and selfishly, I want today to matter to everyone.
Today is a dichotomy. It will involve a little bit of crying, a lot of laughter, and whole bunch of living. I cannot pick and choose what I remember or honor today because every memory, joyful or painful, every emotion, every moment in the past three years makes up the importance of May 9th. What matters is that my mom was here, that she lived with joy, that she loved fully, and that she was loved beyond description. That she was a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a cousin, an aunt, a friend, a scientist, a teacher, an artist, a knitter, a gardener, a cat-lover, and the best hugger. That she taught me the power of kindness, love, a good belly laugh, and chocolate. That she was flawed and made mistakes. That she fought to be here with all her might and refused to let go until we were all together. That it still hurts and that’s okay. That I will never stop missing her. And that, most importantly, no matter how much time passes, I will always be her daughter.
In loving memory of Claire Barbier, 2/15/59-5/09/11