We were in the car. He was driving too fast. We started to swerve. My mom yelled. He gasped. As he lost control I braced for the crash.
The phone rang and snapped me awake.
My stepmom answered it. “Oh hi Pauline. Yes. Oh no. Oh that’s terrible. Ok… Ok…. Ok…Bye.”
She sunk onto my bed. With a big sigh she started to talk. Her words were clear yet they blended together into something unintelligible. I knew what she was trying to say but I needed to hear the words.
She gently put her hand on mine as she said, “Honey I am so sorry. Your mom is in heaven.”
I was 16.
What now? I wondered.
Again I braced myself. My foundation was uprooted. If my grief wasn’t so heavy I might have floated away, having lost my root, my mom.
In the weeks and months that followed it felt like everyone else moved on. “How could they?” I wondered. To me moving on meant walking away. Letting memories slip out of my head. Forever erased and forgotten.
I vowed that *I* would never move on. Never walk away. Never forget. Move on? I didn’t even think I would recover. That same feeling has consumed me every time someone I love takes their last breath.
A few months ago I read a man’s account of losing his wife. His wife died violently. Suddenly. Tragically. He described what he and his children experienced. He said, “We aren’t moving on. We are moving through.”
Gasp. I lingered on those words. “YES,” I thought. In all this time, with all my losses I hadn’t moved on. I had moved through.
Even though the words grabbed my attention I couldn’t pinpoint what they meant. How did I “move through?”
To me moving through means…
accepting things will be different.
adjusting to a new circumstance.
talking to my mom (and others) silently in my heart.
remembering what I can. Always.
letting some memories slip away. Peacefully.
feeling grateful for each person that was part of my life.
experiencing every emotion that comes with grief. Not just sadness.
The words that man spoke stirred up so many emotions. Ultimately they gave me the peace I’ve been seeking for more than 20 years.
Now I know that walking forward is not walking away. And that while life moves on, I move through. With memories. With gratitude. With love.