Eleven years . . . a little over a decade we have been without her.

Eleven years of not seeing her smile, hearing her wisdom, or putting up with her as a paparazzi (I laugh because I have become her). Things she would do that drove me crazy would suddenly be longed for. Her smile could light up the room with just a twinkle in her eye. Her wisdom was comforting, always with the right words at the right time. The only thing left is the thousands of pictures and videos she took of us, with her hardly ever in the frame. 

I remember 11 years ago sitting for hours in a coffee shop with a true friend, hours after her death. I was crying my eyes out, thinking the pain and emptiness would never get better. I can’t say that it got better; it comes in waves without warning. Though the pain and the emptiness don’t come around as often, it still stings and weighs me down the same way it did that 23rd of July. Sometimes, it’s simple moments when watching a mother or grandmother with her daughter or her grandchildren.

It always leaves me with the same question: “Why her?”

We still need her at the most important stages of our lives.

It never gets easier watching friends’ relationships with their mothers at this stage of life, yearning for just an hour of that. Or watching those who have broken relationships with their parents, wanting so badly to patch it up for them and warn them with a big neon sign that their time is SO short and hoping they don’t have regrets later.

I wish I would have listened to her when I was younger and not taken for granted that she would always be there to listen to. I wish I would have been able to ask her questions that my then-26-year-old self never knew to ask but my 37- year old self yearns to know. I wish I could pick up the phone when I have questions about raising my children, or my marriage, or just to even hear her voice on the other line. 

My sister and I were texting about how much her eyes would have sparkled at the sight of her three grandkids and how fiercely she would have loved them, each in their own way. Instead, I am left to try to feed them my memories of her and show pictures of her so they have a sense of how wonderful their grandmother was.

I do know one thing: I never realized the impact she had on the world until the day of her funeral.

There was barely room left in the standing room only section of that church. The church where she got to marry the love of her short life, where she raised six kids. Even in her death, she made sure to take care of us by writing her own obituary and requesting her service be held on a Saturday so no one would have to miss work. That was the person she was, always making it easier for the ones she loved. 

I only hope I become half the human, daughter, wife, mother, sister, aunt, and friend she was in her short 48 years here on earth. I hope to love my children the way she did, so they never doubt how loved they are and when I leave this earth one day, they, too, mourn that love. 

Until then, each day is one day closer until I see her again. This time, for eternity.

Today, take the time to tell your parents how much you love and appreciate them if you are still lucky enough to have them around. 

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Jessica L. Riddle

Jessica is married mother of three children from Northeast Ohio. You can find her spending time with her beloved family or being a crazy chicken lady. She holds an undergraduate degree in English, and is working on her M.B.A. in-between working full time and raising a family. When she does get that occasional free moment, she enjoys reading and writing.