If memory serves, Albert Camus begins The Stranger with "My mother died today, or maybe yesterday, I can't be sure." Most people would know, would want to know, the exact day, hour, minute of a loved one's death. We want to know the cause as much as the time. But all of that is unimportant beside the overwhelming fact of the death itself. Time and cause are distractions, things to focus on to avoid thinking about the one thing that really matters.
One year ago today, my mother died. I would not have remembered the exact date, but my father did. For him, my mother's death, her absence, is a constant, real weight. One would almost like to say that her absence is present to him at all times, whereas it is present to me less frequently. Even more than thoughts of my own death, my own mortality, the deaths of my loved ones make me wish for an afterlife. I long for some way to make sense of the universe, its apparent cruelty and meaninglessness, and to feel that it is ultimately just. People live, love and die, and the stories of their lives make no more sense than, as Shakespeare wrote, "A tale told by an idiot."
One year ago today, my mother died. Yet I cannot turn away, believe something false, engage in wishful thinking, wilful self-deception, for then their lives, our lives, mean nothing. The only way to find meaning in death is to find a meaning in life, to live meaningfully despite the senselessness of existence, the inevitability of death, the suffering from loss, the frustrations of living in a world that does not care for us or our struggles, and the ultimate nothingness that awaits us all.
One year ago today, my mother died. And the only hope I have, the only response to tragedy that makes any sense is to remember, to celebrate the values she instilled in me and to live and love as well as I can. She is beyond all hope or fears, triumphs and failures, but her life had meaning while she lived, and we can only carry on and live meaningfully as she would have wanted.
One year ago today, my mother died. Goodbye, Mom.