This isn’t a regular day, but I don’t need an anniversary to remind me of how irrevocably my life changed 20 years ago. For years, I could barely function on this anniversary, although I don’t know why it’s called an anniversary. I’d rather not remember that day, and 20 years have certainly helped it fade. The truth is I wasn’t there. I was on the way back, but I felt it even before I knew it, like some seismic shift in my foundation. But you were not alone.
You were never alone. People loved you; your laugh, your wit, your brave honesty. People still love you, and I think of you every day. You are my anchor. You are my constant. You are still the opinion that matters most. For every decision I’ve had to make or obstacle that’s been in my way, your voice is the one I heard inside my head.
I am lucky for this. It’s strange maybe to say lucky. What’s lucky about me, the girl whose family died? Then I think of all the love, grace and drive you gave me, much more than most get in a 100 years. So, yes, I was lucky.
Even though you prepared me well for life and its many disappoints, I have made many mistakes. I’ve fallen into black holes that consumed me for years. I’ve not always done the right thing the first or second time. I know you forgive me. I know you understand why I’ve veered off course. I did the best I could without you. Because that’s the reality of these 20 years, learning to live without you.
I never stopped writing. Without it, I don’t know where all the fear and anger and pain would have gone. It helped me save some of the memories and face the truth. No one likes uncomfortable truths, but because you always faced your truth, it helped me find mine.
And after the horrors of the last 20 years and burning down all the tragedy to ash, I’ve arrived at some kind of happy. Happiness, I’ve learned, is something that nips at our hearts in moments. And I’ve had beautiful moments, the only thing missing was you. I’ve made a life for myself, probably not the one you imagined for me. But it’s a good life with the kind of people that don’t treat me like I’m damaged, rather they see my imperfections as evidence of a good and humble character. This life includes an amazing husband, who I think you’d love because of his sweet, calming soul. Your only objection may be that he’s a Cowboys fan.
I do wonder though if you’d be disappointed that I’m not a mom. It just wasn’t in the cards for me. That wasn’t my path. It still hurts sometimes, but I look at the love and devotion I give to my animals. And it’s simply enough for me.
A million horrible and wonderful things have happened in the last 20 years, and for every one of them, you were the first person I wanted to tell. In a way I still do because I’m always talking to you. It’s the greatest language I know.
Your time as my mom helped me survive the life I’ve been living without you. It has given me a unique yet haunting perspective. It has pushed me to know very precisely how I want to leave this world; knowing I shared my stories, I worked hard, I loved fiercely and I took every adventure.
I do still think about what that parallel world would have been; the one where you live; the one where we get to be friends. Because you always told me, “I’m your mother, not your friend.” I would have loved to have been your friend. All those moments that never happened. I won’t get over that; it can’t be mended. Glad to have finally learned that some scabs never heal, and some holes never get filled.
But I am honored to have been your daughter. It was one of the greatest parts of my life. Even though it wasn’t for long enough, and I would’ve learned so much more from you about life. I’d still choose you over and over again even though I know you’ll leave too soon.
So although this world hasn’t had you for 20 years, I know I never lost you, I carry you in my heart. That’s a place you can never leave.