When you meet an extraordinary person, it's like they get inside you, under your ribs, and shuffle everything inside you around until they find space for greatness to grow. But extraordinary people always get away. And when they leave, they take that little part of you with them. Suddenly you find yourself with a gap in your chest that you don't know how to live with. Suddenly you're frightened of being yourself without them.
There is a time in life when you expect the world to be always full of new things. And then comes a day when you realize that is not how it will be at all. You see that life will become a thing made of holes. Absences. Losses. Things that were there and are no longer. And you realize, too, that you have to grow around and between the gaps, though you can put your hand out to where things were and feel that tense, shining dullness of the space where the memories are.
Nothing prepared me for the loss of my mother. Even knowing that she would die did not prepare me. A mother, after all, is your entry into the world. She is the shell in which you divide and become a life. Waking up in a world without her is like waking up in a world without sky: unimaginable.
When a daughter loses a mother, the intervals between grief responses lengthen over time, but her longing never disappears. It always hovers at the edge of her awareness, ready to surface at any time, in any place, in the least expected ways. This isn't pathological. It's normal. It's why you find yourself, at twenty-four, or thirty-five or forty-three, unwrapping a present or walking down an aisle or crossing a busy street, doubled over and missing your mother.