And now we're on the other side of the Solstice. The days have already begun inching longer; last night was a bit shorter than the night before. One year ago today, Gary and I flew out to Seattle, not knowing what we'd find there. We packed funeral clothes. I had spent the previous night sleepless, praying as hard as I could that I would at least get to have one more conscious conversation with Mom. That was my only focus.
Being December 23rd and last minute, we couldn't find a non-stop flight. Our first leg was delayed 6 hours, but we didn't find out until we arrived at the airport. The ticket agent couldn't figure out how to re-book our connection, so she cancelled our entire travel plan and tried to rebook us making three connections, but somehow couldn't do that, either. Already panicking, my clearest memory of that morning is willing my knees not to buckle as I held tightly to the counter, attempting to plead with her to put us on some plane that would arrive to Seattle at some point, but unable to form coherent sentences. Gary took over, negotiating everything: getting us back on the original late flight, getting us on a later connection, making me eat something for breakfast. And a couple of hours later, sitting at JFK, I got my prayers answered. Mom was alert enough to talk on the phone; I hadn't spoken to her in a couple of days and was getting all of the information relayed, so just to hear her voice was so reassuring. She was sluggish and medicated, but totally there and clearly happy to talk to me.
We finally arrived in Seattle close to 10pm PST. Dad picked us up at the airport. We went straight to the hospital and again and again, my prayers were answered. The next day, the waiting room was filled with our family and friends and didn't empty out until well after the New Year. This blog was launched because I couldn't field all of the phone calls, texts and emails that I was receiving, so I figured I'd let all of you come to us on your own time and when you were interested. And I'd only have to do it once.
This year, as we enter the light half, my life is so profoundly different. Any doubts or misgivings I had about getting married (and there were many, one year ago) have disappeared; I saw the strength of my parent's marriage every day and can't imagine one day since last December 23rd without Gary's support and love. My general anxiety has faded significantly; I've learned that my imagination is far crueler than life and that things I thought would destroy me have not. I saw the value in a support system and learned what it means to show up for people and am committed to maintaining and strengthening my own. I am trying to thank more, to love more, to allow more, to laugh more. I am happier this Solstice than I was at the last one. Strange that that should be true; I have suffered more, I have watched those I love most suffer more, I have lost more. And yet, I am undeniably a more settled, grounded, content person. I learned so much from Mom, watching her grace, her determination, her utter refusal to go into despair. And though she was literally surrounded in darkness for the entirety of her illness, it didn't penetrate her. And so, the darkness couldn't reach me, either.