April is a hard, hard month for me. While everyone and everything around me is celebrating the newness of Spring and all the joy that brings, April marks the loss of two of my most favorite people ever: my dad and my best friend. Their deaths were one year and 24 days apart. I used to think that it was such a terrible thing to lose them so close together, but now I think it may actually be a blessing. April is month of grief for me. And I need that. And I need you to know that I need that. And you need to know that I need to know that you know I need that. (favorite FRIENDS episode, anyone?)
It’s not like I go the other 11 months of the year without thinking about or grieving them. I do. Almost everyday something happens that I would want to tell one of them about. But because life is life, I can’t go around being sad all the time. So, April is when I give myself permission to really feel. To remember them and their lives. To imagine what it would be like if they were here today.
It’s when the little triggers become big triggers. When something as small as a phone call not answered can send me into a downward spiral of fear and worry. When my son asking about the picture of my dad on the mantle ends with me ugly crying in the closet instead of sitting him on my lap and telling him a funny story about Papa Steve. When I’m listening to a song on the radio that I’ve heard a hundred times and all of a sudden the words start meaning something else and I’ll never listen without tears again.
I was beginning to think I’d reached the point in my grief that I could stop watching for and avoiding these moments. I was starting feel almost whole again – as whole as one can feel with two parts of their heart gone. And then my Dad’s angel-versary came. And it went. And nobody really even noticed. Not my husband. Not my family. Nobody. Almost not even me.
That’s a lie. I did notice. I had been dreading it for days. I kept myself busy and made it through the work day without incident. I called my Grammy to wish her a belated happy birthday and prayed she didn’t want to talk about it – she didn’t. I called my sister that evening just to say hi and make sure she was okay – she was, sort of. I started to call my brother, but couldn’t muster the courage in case he was the one of us who really wasn’t okay. Instead, I picked a fight with my husband and then cried myself into a ball in the shower.
I’m terrible about bottling up my feelings, while at the same time expecting everyone else to know exactly how I’m feeling and why. It’s something I have got to work on. But not this month. Not in April. Consider this your warning. For the entire month of April, I may be happy, sad, moody, and on the verge of crying all at the same time. You probably won’t be able to tell from outside, but it’s there. Just waiting. Waiting on a smell, a song, a picture, or a memory. Waiting on something to trigger it.
But as the old saying goes, April showers bring May flowers. And one of my favorite new traditions comes toward the end of April. The 24th, to be exact. It’s when I celebrate Anne Marie by sending her mom a bouquet of pink flowers – Gerbera daisies to be exact, symbolizing my favorite picture of Ree. I think this year I will buy myself some, too. Maybe looking at them will help me remember the happy times and move out of my April funk. Any then when the flowers wilt, I will toss them out – along with my grief.
Until next year.