Last week marked one year since my mother died. My grief counselor was encouraging me to think about rituals to mark this day, to help me wade through my grief. I came up with two ideas.
First, my mother had always wanted a wee ladybug tattoo on her ankle. She never got around to getting it, although she did get a breast cancer ribbon tattooed on her foot when her older sister was going through treatments for that. I decided that I would get a ladybug tattooed on my ankle on the day of her death. A ladybug in flight.
I’ve never really wanted a tattoo. I still don’t want a tattoo. It hurt–it burned the entire time and now it itches like hell and looks like a moulting ladybug. But I’ve got it there, on my ankle, perpetually flying upward and away.
People ask me if I like it. That feels like the wrong word, or the wrong emotion. It’s important to me. Significant.
I also wanted to release some fire lanterns in the evening. I was very moved when a local artist released a bunch of these to honor the victims of the Orlando massacre last fall, and felt like this type of light would feel meaningful to me on the anniversary of my darkest day.
She’d always talked of a place called Balloonia, where all the helium balloons traveled when an unfortunate kiddo let go of the ribbon. I didn’t want to release balloons, because I don’t want to kill any birds, but I did like the promise of these fire lanterns floating through the sky.
Corey got nervous about them setting a fire or still strangling wildlife, so he went out back to light a test lantern tied to a length of twine. Turns out it was too damn windy to release these “wish lanterns,” and so we still have them in a drawer, waiting for a better day.
Instead, I invited some friends over and we lit candles in the house. We ate Pop-tarts and remembered my mom and on that day, I was surrounded by love and light and things weren’t so awful.
In the end, it’s all the non-significant moments that are harder for me, anyway. All the moments every day where I want to call her to tell her each mundane thing that happened, but cannot. I don’t yet have a ritual for navigating this daily mourning of my mother. It’s just a process I’ll be working on the rest of my life.
I’ve still got a mason jar of her ashes on the mantle in the dining room, though, and I look up at it each time I will myself not to scratch this itching tattoo. I can almost hear her yelling, “Don’t pick at your skin!”
Of course, I’d promise never to pick a blemish ever again if I could just hear her actually yell this one more time. I know that’s not a choice, so for now this itch and the act of not scratching it is the ritual that’s getting me through this hour of this day.