What Leap Year did to my grief

This morning I felt that hard intake of breath again. Then felt it shift form to a hard rock, first in my stomach, then pushing and lodging itself into my bowels. This is the same breath that has been crashing into me each day for a week now. And will continue until after the 3rd.

But yesterday, I didn’t have it quite as hard. And I know now that’s because it was Leap Year. February 29th. I was given a day to… not rest…I didn’t rest, compared to last year. I felt like I was in a holding pattern, circling around, just waiting it out for today, tomorrow and the 3rd.

See, my mom died on February 27, 2016. It was a Saturday morning. I have this running calendar in my head of the end of her life. When I flew home from California that last time, telling myself it wasn’t the last time. When she went into the hospital. When we were told it was time. When she told us she had to go. When we met with the palliative care team. When we moved her to hospice. When I spent the night. When I got violently ill the next. And when I sat by her bedside, looking at my dear little brother on the other side, as each long breath labored to leave her. Then, we had the day of tortured sleep, bone deep exhaustion, and a heart break I still can’t begin to describe. And then we had the 29th.

We had that day to go  back to her hometown and prepare for her funeral two days later.

What I’m realizing is that every year since then, without the 29th, I’ve been crashing through these days. Stumbling and tripping trying to find my way through. I’m forced through them. And maybe it’s because we don’t have the one day. We haven’t had the extra day.

This is confusing because in 2016, it didn’t feel like an extra day. We had nothing yet to compare it to. We had her home and each other. We had plans to make and my God, I couldn’t breathe. So it wasn’t an extra day. I didn’t think in 2016, “oh, in the future years, this is gonna feel rushed until the Leap Year.” I couldn’t think beyond my shattered heart and my aching soul. I could only reach out and grasp my daughter, my niece. Hang on tight to my husband, my sister and my brother. I was blinded so I had no rational thought about the future years beyond frantically thinking how I was going to get through them without mom.

In the three years afterwards, it never crossed my mind that we were missing a day. I wanted to write down what happened each day in 2016 in long winding prose. Not to find a breath but because I keep thinking if I could just write it out, then I could get some of the heavy grief out of me. I could release some of this choking pain.  But I’ve yet to do that. I may never. I may have just this calendar now, with a line or two for each day, because I can’t spell out the details. It hurts to be in the details.

Yet, I am a storyteller so I live in the details. In subtext. Nuance. I relish the layers we all have, digging deep for understanding. But this is my hardest story. My mother dying is the hardest.

So, maybe, just knowing what the Leap Year has done to my grief is enough for now.

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