No matter where I am, what I’m doing or who I’m with, whenever I overhear Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” I struggle to fight back tears. The song, while certainly beautiful on its own, is strongly tied to a memory from when I was nine years old: my dad in my mom’s ICU hospital room, trying desperately to wake her from a coma by playing her favorite song.
She never woke up. Nearly a decade and a half later, time still doesn’t heal all wounds. Little things back home change to remind me that the world has moved on. Once abundant pictures of her disappear, room by room. Mother’s Day comes and goes, each year slightly easier than the last. I’m the only one who does Havdalah anymore. If she walked in today, she wouldn’t recognize our home, much less her own daughter.
And with a wedding came guilt – guilt that I miss her too much; guilt that I don’t miss her enough. I can’t tell which is worse. I became emotional when shopping for a wedding dress without her, but I felt fine on my wedding day. The fabric from her own wedding dress topped my chuppah. These days, I wear her ring.
Of the five stages of grief, I’ve been firmly in the “acceptance” camp for the last few years. It doesn’t mean I’m happy being short a parent or that I don’t still grieve; it just means that this is what passes for normal. There’s something bittersweet about the way things have changed without her; about how I’ve adapted. I can never truly get over losing her, but I can begin to untangle my love for her from the trauma of grief. Life goes on, and so do I.