A Never-ending March

I am stuck in March, on that long, dark morning. I can still hear the whir of medical equipment, the oxygen machine keeping you alive and with us. We believed you were still coherent, registering both our voices and presence right in front of you, despite being unable to speak. We believed that you would overcome this, as you always had, surprising us with your resilience and never ending fountain of strength. We believed we had more time with you, much more time alongside the extra years we were already blessed with.

It is difficult to remember the time before your sickness. Before you were chained down by a singular lung and a nasal cannula. That time seems like it lasted forever, but you kept going. You trudged forward, tackling life one day at a time. It seemed like you would not stop running forward — even when you were out of breath, all you needed were a few minutes to rest and recharge. We saw you fighting and that made us want to fight, too.

But now that you are gone, it feels as if that March morning has never ended. Sometimes I am convinced that this is just one long, tiring nightmare and that when I wake up in the morning, I will hear your voice calling out my name, weak but audible. Sometimes I still think there is medicine to be sorted and crushed, exercises to be done to keep you strong, and food to be cooked or heated up. I realize that it would be selfish of me to ask for more time from God, with the amount He’s already given to us, to the family, it would be selfish to ask for more — but sometimes I wish I could.

As I looked through old photos and prepared the slideshow for the family to see, I recalled the time before your sickness. The McDonald’s breakfast we would share, the afternoons I would spend in the lobby of your working place, and one of the very first memories I had with you. I remember it was morning, some distant morning, far away in the early years of my childhood. I looked up at your face, radiating with joy, as you juggled being a housewife, a mother, and a grandmother to me. The photos also reminded me of your humanness, how you were a little girl growing up, an older sister helping her younger siblings survive, a beautiful young woman standing at the altar, ready to say ‘I do’ to the man you’d spend the rest of your life with. I looked at the old photos and thought of the time before you became sick — and surely enough, I began to think of the after.

I do not think we are prepared for the after, or know how long it will last. There are some of us in the family, I know, that have handled your absence better. There are some that are still hopeful, slowly moving forward, taking one day at a time — like how you once did. However, it seems that I am still stuck on that March day, watching you take your last breath. I am seeing your husband shed tears in front of me, the first I’ve ever seen since birth. I am seeing your siblings wail, your daughter holding your hand in hers, gently but firm, as if to say ‘Do not leave’. Your son is on the phone, away on a work trip, unable to break away and be by your side. You understand, and although you do not say it, we know that you do. I think many of us are still trying to navigate our days without you, that we are still swimming through this sea of grief, our head bobbing just above the onslaught of waves.

I am sure this grief does end. I am sure there is light at the end of the tunnel, that one day March will end and the flowers will bloom in front of my eyes, signaling the change of seasons and that spring is finally here. Someday that will be true. But as I look at the calendar, I am still fixated on the day that you left. I am convinced that, for now, grief is here to stay.

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