On the anniversary of my mother’s death this past April, there was no Facebook remembrance, no photo of my beautiful, smiling mother on Instagram, and not one #RIP tweet bearing her name. A few of my dearest friends remembered the date and texted that they were thinking of me.
It’s been more than seven years since my mom died, and even as I miss her daily and dearly, life has gone on—as it tends to do, even after the worst has happened.
My mother died 12 weeks after a surprising stage-four lung cancer diagnosis. By the time she got the diagnosis, cancer had already done its dreadful work. When she died, even after such a short period, the suffering had been immeasurable.
There was no time to prepare for the very end. And after it came, the shiva provided little comfort. My mother’s friends, colleagues, students, and even her dentist who came to my parents’ house, and told me that their lives would not be the same without my mom. They would miss her jokes, her kindness, her good advice. How selfish, I thought: You’ll be OK.
The loss felt so raw and so personal as if it was mine alone.
That misplaced anger dissipated long ago, but the need to keep her loss private did not. A text or a private email is welcome, but sad faces and timeline comments, no matter how thoughtfully written or well-meaning, no thanks. I realize that I may be in the minority among those in the same sad boat. I’ve read plenty of virtual remembrances that were incredibly poignant, and seem to have comforted the person doing the remembering. But the one time I posted a memorial on social media, it just felt forced and contrived and all too public.
So on the anniversary of my mom’s death, I say Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, and I light a Yarzheit candle, as is traditional. But I don’t seek out communal prayer in a synagogue. I go to the cemetery with my Dad, my husband, my kids and, schedules permitting, with my sister and her family. We stay for a short time at my mother’s grave, (and then visit dead relatives going back several generations). I’m always glad that I go, and I’m always glad when it’s over.
Then we go for fried clams from a seafood shack that my mother loved. We share real stories, not Instagram stories, about my mom over lunch. Surrounded by my family—and emoji free—this feels like the best way for me to remember.