June is a bit of a muddly month for me. Yes, I know muddly isn’t an actual word, but it’s the one I came up with that best encompasses the muddled muddiness I face at this time of year…a time that brings with it both great celebration and profound sadness.
You see, twenty-three years and three days ago, when I gave birth to my youngest daughter, my father lay dying in another hospital across town, and today marks the anniversary of his death. Twelve years later, around this same date and in the emergency department of that same hospital, my mother was diagnosed with the same cancer that had killed him. She never returned home, and she died three weeks later in hospice care.
So yes, to say that June is a bit of an emotional roller coaster for me would be accurate.
But muddly is even more accurate.
It’s an odd thing, learning to celebrate and mourn in the same heartbeat. To have so very much to be grateful for, even as you feel a loss so deep and profound that it shatters your every breath. But I have learned. I’ve learned that even in the face of losing one’s parents far too soon, the world still turns, and life goes on. I’ve learned to see my father’s wit and charm shining in my daughter’s eyes, and to recognize my mother’s compassion in her soul. I’ve learned that death is merely a part of life, and that it doesn’t define it. I’ve learned to turn my face to the sun and my heart to my daughter’s presence rather than my parents’ absence. I’ve learned that joy and sorrow are two sides of the same coin, and that they can coexist in the same moment, the same life, the same heart, the same love.
I miss my parents every single day, even as I celebrate the lives of all my daughters. But the month of June carries powerful memories in it that make me pause and reflect, that make me face again the stark, incontrovertible proof that life and death truly do go hand in hand, and that make me deeply, profoundly grateful to have known both the joy and the sorrow. Because, in the words of Kahlil Gibran, “Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.”
The muddly, muddly month of June.