It's difficult for me to believe that it was two years ago this morning my mother died at 60 of a heart attack. At the time, the pain and confusion and anger were all so intense I would never have believed you had you said that, in time, it would get easier. I would never have believed you had you said that life goes on - albeit in a new, indescribably changed way. I started the day by calling my Grandmother in Glasgow. At 87, she's had a hard enough time dealing with the deaths of all her contemporaries, let alone adjusting to the death of her own daughter. And Scottish people are not traditionally "feelings" people - unless they're stinking drunk, of course, and then they're annoyingly emotional. There's a real sense of dusting yourself off, pulling up your boot straps and moving on with your life.
But my Grandma likes to talk about my mother. She wants to hear about her. I think, like all of us, she carries that fear that if we don't talk about her daughter Anne, she will disappear from our memories. While I know now that will never happen, I feel it's one small thing I can do for my grandmother, to be there and be willing to talk about it. I also left a message for my father, for whom this anniversary is no doubt the hardest. I don't think that, two years ago, he believed he would survive this, let alone find any sense of happiness again. It seems like a miracle - to him, to all of us - that joy has been rediscovered. Perhaps it isn't constant (or even dominant) but it's there. There is a reason to go on, it seems. It's just strange navigating it under these new circumstances.
For me? I'm okay today. I really am. It's not that the day doesn't feel slightly heavier than others. It's just that I'm not really down with the idea of remembering someone by the day they died. I remember my mother every day, in small ways and large. I will never forget the significance of October 5, but I don't want it always to be a black mark on the calendar.
And there's the ladybug thing. I'm reluctant to write about it because I'm afraid of looking like a raging idiot rather than the sensible pragmatist I like to imagine myself being. But here goes....A couple of days after my mother died, I was sitting in my sister's van with my niece Rebecca, then four and perhaps my mother's favorite person in the world. A ladybug landed on the window of the van and Rebecca turned to me and said, "Grandma says never to kill ladybugs. It's bad luck."
Over the past two years, on an alarming number of occasions when I am thinking or talking about my mother - regardless of the season or the weather - ladybugs appear. It's the strangest thing. Is it the same thing as when you hear a word for the first time and suddenly it's everywhere? Was it always there and you just didn't notice it before? I have no idea.
I do know that I've been thinking about my mother a lot in the past few weeks and the bugs keep coming. In Target, of all places, I was thinking about her while browsing a rack of sale shirts when I felt something land on my hand. I looked down and there was a bright red ladybug transferring itself from my hand to the handle of my shopping cart, where it stayed for a good ten minutes. I didn't notice it fly away.
And last night, during the revelry of another fine Fellowship feast (about which I will write later), I felt this sudden rush of sadness and stepped in the bathroom to remove myself from the rowdy bunch. I was gathering myself together and glanced down at the floor and there, on the bathroom of the Wallace House, was a single ladybug making her way across the tiles.
I'm sure entymologists probably have a perfectly sane answer for it. Perhaps there's been a spike in the ladybug population. Perhaps they're always there and I'm only staring at the floor when I'm sad. But despite my status as a card-carrying cynic, I'm not sure I want the real-world answer just let. I think I'll have these moments for now. In some small way, they help.