Two years. That's how long it's been.
It was fairly early on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018. I was sitting on the couch, sipping my morning coffee. I wasn't thinking about Mom -- I knew I'd see her in a couple of hours. I took her to the bingo game at Village Shalom, most every Sunday.
Then the phone rang and life changed. Her life was over.
In the two years since Mom died, I've missed her every day. I've also made approximately 104 Sunday dinners, written a book, made international presentations, gained new clients, joined a book club, reclaimed my yoga practice, laughed a lot, and discovered the joy of watercolors.
Simply put, I've kept going. I've gotten up and put one foot in front of the other, even on days when grief felt stronger than gratitude. Even on days when staying in bed felt like the better option. Even on days when the pandemic and politics and life in general made me want to not only stay in bed, but pull the covers over my head and hide.
That's what we do, peeps. We keep going. You know why?
Because, we can. Because along with those dreadful days, and sometimes in the midst of them, there's unexpected joy and welcome laughter.
We keep going because we're here. Because every single day gives us a chance to do something that makes our lives -- or someone else's life -- a bit better.
When Mom died, the hardest moment for me came after the Jewish whirlwind of death and almost immediate funeral. The hardest moment was after we cleared out Mom's room at Village Shalom, and I went back up there the next day -- by myself, by my own request -- to wait for the facility management team to move her furniture out to our waiting truck.
The almost empty room was heartbreaking enough; Mom had filled that room the way she filled my life -- with laughter and love and songs and silliness. With joy. But the emptiness didn't break me. It was the sympathy card the Village Shalom staff had left on Mom's bureau.
More than a dozen people, including staff members I didn't even know, signed that card, sharing their love for Mom in special remembrances like these:
"I am going to miss Lillian and the way she sang thru life. I feel lucky to have known her."
"I looked forward to seeing Lillian every day coming to work, because she always sang songs, made up poems constantly & told many cute stories. She spoke in the sweetest manner & was always so encouraging. She was the kindest senior person I've ever met &. knew how to cheer everyone up."
"I will definitely miss Lil's smile, laugh, poems and saying, 'Delicious and nutritious!'"
"She was one amazing woman. I loved visiting her and listening to her stories. She encouraged me to visit the Golden Gate."
"I will greatly miss her. She was a bright light to my days."
Mom was 97 years old when she died. Nearly blind. Hard of hearing. Her memory was scattered and her mobility was limited. She still managed to get up every day and make the world better.
If Lillian can do it, we can do it.
In keeping with Jewish tradition, I have a yahrzeit candle burning for Mom today. But her bright light shines year-round. I see it in my brother and sister. In my daughters. My best friend. My husband. I see it in readers, who discover Lillian in my book, and take her life lessons to heart -- the emails and reviews and notes I've received in the year since the book was published mean more than I can say.
On that day, two years ago, Kansas City had a rare blizzard -- it took the funeral home hours to arrive at Village Shalom. Tom and the girls and I walked alongside the attendant, accompanying Mom's body to the waiting hearse. The route took us by the Social Hall, where the Sunday bingo game was in full swing.
We had to laugh, because we could all hear it -- the rhyme Mom said at that bingo game every Sunday, often repeatedly. "B7 -- go to heaven!"
Bingo! I love you, Mom.