It happened exactly 365 days ago. A morning that began normal at work, ending 10 hours later with me holding her hand, as she slipped into heaven to my quiet whispers of Psalm 23.

One morning I had a mom, the next morning I didn’t.

It’s still hard for me to wrap my brain around the fact that she’s gone. I know in many ways we’d been saying our longest goodbye many years before she passed. But she was there. I could sit by her, I could hold her hand and take her on long walks and tell her about my life. And while I realize that it was more for my comfort than hers, I still had a mom.

Her presence was the gift.

The emptiness in my life this past year has felt like a wound I couldn’t properly tend to. I visit her graveside and try to reconcile how the person I loved with all my heart isn’t with us anymore. I stand there between the stones marking lives once lived, wanting to feel close to her but not fully being able to comprehend that this is where I come to see her now. I know her spirit is with Jesus, but this is her earthly resting place. I look to find where the ground was turned, as the grass slowly grows its sweet blanket overtop the dirt so roughly broken from that day of goodbye.

“It’s not fair that I don’t have a mom anymore,” I always say with tears as we drive away.

And I don’t know if grave-markers bring me more peace, or more pain.

It’s been said there is no precise way to grieve, and I’m sure no-one is keeping track but me – so I’ve done things that have given me peace these past 12 months. Sometimes it was her old-patchwork quilt that brought me comfort, or her cozy velour sweatpants and fuzzy socks when I needed warmth. (I wondered if that was weird, but then decided I didn’t care.)

Other times when I needed to hear her voice, I’d read through the worn pages of her burgandy Bible and look at all her notes in the margins and highlighted scriptures, hoping to find one underlined just for me. Whenever we’d sing about heaven in church, I’d hold back my tears and picture her looking over us. I’d clip roses from her garden, wear her pretty striped shoes and go through all our old photos and messages. I’ve cried with strangers on the same journey at book events, and talked through my tears on podcasts while I shared our story. All of it still so fresh and tender, but SO grateful for the chance to tell the world who she was.

Sometimes to get through the harder days I would daydream a little. I’d imagine her so thrilled holding her new great-grandson, beaming with pride while watching all our family gather and dance at Hannah’s wedding, and smiling (while slightly concerned) as Dad took his new e-bike for a spin.

These are the things I needed to do to get through the year.

And I did.

We all did.

And maybe now I can turn the page into a new chapter. This first year has passed, and I can stop holding my breath. I’ve been unconsciously waiting to mark this day, and now the year of firsts without her are over.

I need to start moving forward again.

And I will.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. (Ecc. 3:1) I needed a season to mourn, and now I can fully walk into whatever is next.

She would want that for me. For us all. 

I love you Mama. I wish I didn’t have to live my life without you, but I know all you’ve been to us will never fade away. All my years now will be without a mom, without you.

I’ll always mark this day, I’ll never forget.

Pain is deep, where love has been great.

I know there will always be joy to be found, because of you.