Year 6

5 years is usually the marker people look for after they are diagnosed with cancer. 5 years is a milestone. 5 years and you should be able to rest easier. 5 years and the shadow hanging over your head should lighten.
That’s all I could think last year on this day, the day that should have been her 35th birthday. Last year was 5 years since I lost my best friend right around the 5 year anniversary of her finding her tumor, Templeton. The year we lost her was supposed to be a year of relief. Instead it was a year of pain. 5 years and I couldn’t even bring myself to write about her.

But what about year 6?
My biggest fear last year was that we were also passing a milestone in our lives moving on from that pain. In year 6, maybe you feel that memories start to fade. The sunshine someone brought into our lives cools slightly. It takes more effort to remember that laugh.
But we still tell the stories. We discuss how important the bees are, how they were Aunt Mandy’s favorite. We sing loudly along with the chef in The Little Mermaid as he sings about les poisons and tell the kids how Aunt Mandy sang it – loudly – in a super fancy French restaurant.
And my new normal gives me even greater appreciation for her perseverance, her determination and her generally positive outlook. I pretty much cried my way through my first yoga class after my mastectomy and thought back a decade ago to doing yoga next to her without ever realizing what every plank or crow meant to her. I’m scared to death to wear strapless anything as I remember how she was in church with a dress around her waist due to the lack of feeling in her chest. I can’t even fathom dating like she did after cancer and surgery.
The memories hit randomly and they hit hard. But they can also smack you in the face with the sunshine. We’ve been trying for a couple years to find my middle daughter’s niche – ballet, tap, soccer, gymnastics and now lacrosse. Walking out of her first lacrosse practice, my 4-year-old blue eyed blondie with the love of all things pink asked me point-blank to be a cheerleader. Boy would Aunt Mandy be proud. And if she lives up to her namesake, that perseverance will push her to get exactly what she wants.
Maybe I’ve been quieter this year because I’m trying even harder to remember, to hold on and never let go.