Everything Changes in an Instant.

Everything Changes in an Instant.

Think about human life for a minute. Think about the idea that two people get together and do what people do and then, from that, another person is created. Just like that. It happens in an instant. Wild, right?

As the four year anniversary of my mother’s death approaches, I’m not feeling what I would have expected to feel. I’m not deeply and profoundly sad as I have been in past years. I’m not doing the fandango over here, but it’s more a general melancholy this time around. Perhaps my emotions will change day to day, minute to minute, as it gets closer. That is probably normal and to be expected.

I think I’m finally coming to terms with the idea that what’s done is done and it is all it will ever be. I mean, what choice do I have? She is already dead. Failure to accept this reality will not alter the ultimate ending. She is and will remain dead.

In one instant, she ceased to exist and I, in turn, ceased to be the person I was.

Things have changed so much since she died. These are changes I believe could not have happened until she was gone. There isn’t one single transition and for every one there is, there’s an offshoot of that creating a new shift, like branches on a tree.

I’m not who I used to be. I’m a person without a mother. The woman who got together with someone else and did the thing that people do, then carried me inside her for months is dead. And this human being, or what’s left of her at least, is sitting in a marble urn, a fine powder I presume, on my mantle. Think about that. That’s the reality of things. She’s dead. She’s powder. She’s on my mantle.

Some days it’s a sad thing, an emotional thing. And other days, it’s just a practical thing. These matter-of-fact acknowledgements happen more now as the intensity of my grief wanes. I think to myself oh, I have to go dust the mantle… Hi, Mom… It’s just how it is. Maybe I’m compartmentalizing. Maybe I’m accepting. I don’t know.

Four years and everything is different. A part of me, my past, is gone. My future, one that was virtually unimaginable while she was alive, looks bright. The enormity of the realization that her life and her death are both so instrumental in shaping everything about who I am is sometimes surprising. And yet, it shouldn’t be. She gave me life – it’s only right that everything between us will be profound, even when the depth of it isn’t felt until I’m ready to feel it.

I keep thinking back to one moment: I was walking out of her room, hospital visiting hours over for the day. I knew she wouldn’t live though the night. I knew I’d never see her again. I’m just starting to understand the gravity of that walk.

Think about human life for a minute. Think about the idea that a person goes around and does what people do and then, one day, they don’t. Just like that. It happens in an instant and everything changes.


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40 Responses to “Everything Changes in an Instant.”

  1. outlawmama says:

    That’s so intense that she’s on your mantle. Is that comforting or haunting? Or both. I feel the depth of emotion about this. It makes me feel afraid about my own parents’ passing, which, hopefully is a long way away.

    • michellelongo says:

      It’s probably both at different times. I had a collage of pictures that I had to put in the attic because that was too much to look at. It was harder to look at when I first brought it home. I think it’s completely normal to be afraid of losing people we love. It’s a hard thing and no matter how much time we have to prepare, we can never truly be sure how we’ll feel until it happens. I hope it’s a long way off for you.

  2. Natalie DeYoung says:

    I imagine the loss of a parent shifts your entire worldview. Grief is a strange beast, and manifests itself in myriad ways over time.

    • michellelongo says:

      It’s all still shifting. I guess life is like that though. Very little stays the same if you’re out there living it.

  3. Kir Piccini says:

    Parents, siblings, love affairs, the pain for me is always the same. Within loss there is life and the way you wrote it spoke to me on so many levels I am not even sure of just yet, but I know that I will be thinking of this post weeks, months, maybe even years from now (or when my own mom leaves this life) and I will remember how profound the feelings were for me today.

    • michellelongo says:

      Sometimes the life within the loss is hard to see. And then when we do, it’s life-changing. Thanks for the kind words.

  4. Leighann says:

    This is such a profound way of looking at it. You really reached out to me with this.

  5. AZ Gringa says:

    Today is the 14th anniversary of my father’s death. I’ve been writing about it off and on for the last two weeks.

    It does change you. Sometimes it seems to me that I didn’t really begin to grow up until the day he died…

    I’m sorry for the loss of your mother. I empathize with your feelings. I promise it continues to get easier. I assure you she’ll never really leave you.

    • michellelongo says:

      I’m sorry about your father. Thank you for the kind words. I do believe it will continue to be easier, at lest, that’s what I have to believe.

  6. Stacie says:

    I am lucky to still have both of my parents, but that can only be true for so long. I think it’s really common to feel like you’ve lost your identity in some ways when the one who knew you way back then, the one that remembers the scraped knees and first words, is no longer around. You captured that perfectly. I hope this year continues to be better.

    • michellelongo says:

      So much of my life was wrapped around her and in such a difficult way. I spent years anticipating her death, I was truly blown away by how I felt about it. As time goes by, so much becomes clearer and I’m so thankful for that.

  7. It’s been nearly 3 months since my mom died and I still feel so utterly lost most days.

    • michellelongo says:

      Robbie, I’m so sorry about your mom. I felt devastatingly lost for a very long time. And then, as people told me it would but I couldn’t really believe it, it got easier. Not all at once and not always in noticeable ways, but it did. I hope you can find peace. It will take time. It will be hard for a long time. Sending warm thoughts your way.

  8. Samantha S says:

    “Hi, Mom.” Love that.
    *Doing what people do.* Yes.
    Still totally raw–beautiful job.

  9. Dawn says:

    Grief for my mother looks different every year, every holiday, every milestone and sometimes day to day. It’s been 17 years since I lost her and it continues to shape me, especially now that I am a mom.

    This was so well written. You captured a lot of feelings and emotions that I truly empathize with. Thanks for sharing this. I have a few friends that will appreciate this as well.

    • michellelongo says:

      My son was 3 and a half when she died and I feel that as I change as a parent, it changes how I feel about my mother. Yes, every milestone and holiday are different. I was a mess at her birthday last November, but now I’m OK. Very weird how it changes. I’m sorry for the loss of your mother and really appreciate your kind words.

  10. Pam Huggins says:

    I’m sorry for your loss. I miss my mother too.
    My husband took a photo of me last week and when I downloaded it, I saw my mother.
    Lovely post. Thank you.

    • michellelongo says:

      I’m sorry you’re missing your mom. It’s so hard. There have been moments lately (especially as my hair gets grayer!) when I feel like I look just like my mother.
      Thanks for your kind words.

  11. Larks says:

    This was very raw and beautiful. I loved how you hemmed it together with the “think about human life for a minute” bit. It really is wild. And I’m sorry for your loss.

    • michellelongo says:

      Thinking about life is how this piece started – the basic biological function that changes everything. I feel like I take that for granted, or at the very least don’t think about it enough.

      Thank you for your kind words about the post.

  12. Vanessa D. says:

    Ever since my mom was in a bad car accident that changed her life and ours I’ve really appreciated how dramatically life can change in a heart beat. I’ve also grown to appreciate how over time, the new path fate put you on becomes normal, something you think about in passing.

    • michellelongo says:

      It’s crazy, at the time some big thing happens, it feels like it’s going to feel monumental forever. And in a way it does, but then in someways it just is. I’m sorry your mom had such a bad accident. That’s certainly life changing.

  13. as i got older and people who shouldnt have died, died and even the people who should have died died, i just can’t ever seem to wrap my head around the emptiness of here and gone. loss like that is almost too much for me. compartmentalizing is the way to go.

    • michellelongo says:

      Sometimes you have to just put things away that are too big for the moment. If we felt everything all the time, I think it would tear most of us apart.

  14. Martha B says:

    What a beautiful post. I am so glad that you are willing to share your grieving process with the world because you are an extremely talented writer.

    • michellelongo says:

      Thank you so much! Writing through this has saved me. I’m so thankful for people who are willing to read my work.

  15. Cindy Reed says:

    It’s hard to get one’s mind around, no? This line: “Think about that. That’s the reality of things. She’s dead. She’s powder. She’s on my mantle.”

  16. wcdameron says:

    Oh my God, Michelle. This post was absolutely breathtaking. “People do what they do” so succinctly you crafted a statement that says so much more.

  17. Sam Merel says:

    This is haunting and beautiful. Grief is such a complicated animal, always coming at us in ways we would never have expected.

  18. My best friend has MS, so reading about the loss of your mom always twists my heart. I worry about what will happen to her.
    “Everything changes” : for better? Worse? Somewhere in between? Hard to say.

    • I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. There have been so many advancements in treatments since my mom was diagnosed. I hope your friend is able to take advantage of them.

  19. Christine says:

    Beautifully written, Michelle. I have to say, despite the sadness in your piece, the bit about the urn on the mantle made me smile. :)

  20. My father passed away almost 6 years ago, and still your post moved me, especially this comment: “The enormity of the realization that her life and her death are both so instrumental in shaping everything about who I am is sometimes surprising. And yet, it shouldn’t be.”

    While the time that’s passed minimizes the pain me and my sisters feel, the loss of our father still sneaks up on us ever Father’s Day, his birthday and on the anniversary of his death. I pray that your loss is diminished, like ours, over time.

    • I’m sorry about your father. The anniversaries and special days are hard. It’s definitely gotten easier over time, though “easy” is certainly relative. I hope you and your sisters can find more peace with the passage of time.

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