It all started with a Groupon. I had bought it months earlier for a mani/pedi and massage at a favorite salon. As I do with every Groupon, I didn’t use it until I realized it was about to expire and then I made an appointment for the expiration date, May 15, 2012. It was a Tuesday, but I didn’t want to miss out on using it and with my daughter’s 2nd birthday two days later and me being 33 weeks pregnant, I decided to take the entire day off to get pampered, treat myself to a nice lunch, and take care of the party preparation.
That day, the one scheduled based on an expiring Groupon, was what I came to think of as my last happy day.
On May 16, 2012, as I was driving home from a play date that had followed a swim lesson for my daughter and her friend, I received a call. The caller ID read Mom, but it wasn’t her. It was her colleague calling from her office. My mom, a psychologist, hadn’t shown up for work and her colleague couldn’t reach her since she had been on the phone with her three hours earlier and the call had suddenly dropped.
My heart stopped and I knew. Something was wrong. That was the longest 10-minute drive of my life. And as I ran into my mom’s house, carrying my daughter in my arms, my worst fears were confirmed. In those moments, my life changed forever.
The next few days and months were a blur. The day after my mom died, my daughter turned 2. Seven weeks later, my son was born (the day after what would have been my Mom’s 62nd birthday). Both should have been happy days, and despite my unimaginable grief, both did have elements of joy. But all I could focus on was May 15, 2012, my last happy day. The last day that I enjoyed life without a cloud hanging over me. The last day that I lived in blissful ignorance about what true grief felt like. The last day I had a mom I could and did call for any and every reason. I both hated that day and desperately wanted to go back to it.
Now a year has come and gone. I have learned a lot about a strength I never knew I had. I have learned about the power of a supportive, loving community. I have learned about the healing power of children. But most importantly, I slowly started to learn the lesson of “and.” I could be grieving for my mom and have a nice day at the park with my kids. I could cry because I wanted to call her and later enjoy a phone conversation with my sisters. I didn’t have to be happy or sad. I could be both.
As time crept by, I continued to mourn, grieve, and miss her in a way I didn’t know was possible. And then something amazing happened, I had a truly happy day. It started out with happy moments. Then I began looking forward to things again. And then, without me seeing it coming, I realized that I had a day where I enjoyed myself and I was happy.
Don’t get me wrong; I still have ups and downs. I still miss my mom desperately. I still cry in her favorite grocery store and watching our favorite show. The difference is, now I know about “and.” I can miss her and still enjoy my life. I can wish I could call her and genuinely laugh at the wonderful things my children say and do. I can have moments of sadness and look forward to many happy things to come. It is not all or nothing. If it was, none of us would survive.
I hold on to that “and.” I keep it with me when I feel guilty for laughing. I hold it close when my heart is breaking. Most of all, I give it a silent thank you for making sure that May 15, 2012 was not, in fact, my last happy day.