This month marks two years without my mom.
I know, because I was friends with all of the theatre nerds in the late ’90s, when “Rent” came out, how many minutes are in a year: 525,600. It’s from the song “Seasons of Love,” which every single one of my friends had memorized and would start singing without notice or provocation from the years 1996 to 2003.
I can’t carry a tune, not even a little bit, so I never sang along, but because I can do simple math, I know that means there are 1,051,200 minutes in two years.
But none of this – not song lyrics, not multiplication – helps me wrap my head around the fact that my mom has been gone for more than 1 million minutes.
“In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee. In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife,” the song goes.
I’ve had a lot of laughter and a lot of strife since she died – and always, always lots of coffee.
For the laughter and strife: I’ve been to the ER (ruptured ovarian cyst). I’ve had COVID. I’ve cared for my dad and my kids. I celebrated my 10th – and then my 11th – anniversary with my husband. One daughter started high school. One started middle school. I got another dog. We were hit by a hurricane. We booked a trip to Paris.
There have been two birthdays without her. Two Christmases. Two Thanksgivings. Two Mardi Gras. Two Mother’s Days. Two (bad) Saints seasons.
None of this really captures it. Because I don’t miss her the most on holidays or birthdays – although Mother’s Day does sting the worst, both because it’s a day solely devoted to mothers and because it’s so close to the anniversary of her death.
I miss her the most, though, on a casual Tuesday, when I’m bored driving home and want to give her a call and make her entertain me. I miss her when I have news – either good or bad – to share. I miss her when certain songs come on the radio. I miss her when I have a fight with my teenage daughter and want nothing more than to be able to drive to her house and have her tell me that I was once a teenage girl myself and she and I both came out on the other side of it, still friends. I miss not being able to teach her how to play Wordle – she would’ve loved it and been insanely competitive about it – or tell her about the terrible mystery novel I just read. I even miss fighting with her.
The grief has eased, obviously, over the past 1,051,200 minutes. The shock slowly gave way to sadness, which gave way to a sort of wistful fondness. I think I’ll probably always be a little sad, if I’m being honest. But I feel stronger and wiser, like I’ve lived through loss and made it through to the other side. And I feel like she would be proud of me for the life I’ve continued to live, without her.
“Remember the love!” “Seasons of Love” concludes. “Remember the love! Remember the love! Measure in love.”
In all the seasons I’ve lived without her now – all eight of them – I have been able to navigate them by doing just that: remembering the love.
I might not be able to belt out “Seasons of Love” while standing in the spotlight … but I can still find some comfort there.
And I’m moving forward. One minute, one cup of coffee, at a time.