I was clueless.
One year ago today, June 21, the first day of summer, the longest day of the year, I had no idea what life had in store for me.
Perry and I arrived at a beach in the Wilmington, N.C. area for the first night of our anniversary vacation. We had an oceanfront condo so close to the waves you could throw a rock from the balcony and hit water. It was very hot, but we got settled, went to dinner, and watched fireworks on the shore. It was a great start to the trip.
I was blissfully unaware that my mom would pass away unexpectedly that night from cardiac arrest at the age of 69.
The next morning, June 22, my Apple Watch started ringing. Early. I looked to see Uncle Jim's name come across the screen. Half asleep, I hit whatever button would make the noise stop and rolled over. That’s weird, I thought, I don’t think Jim's ever called me before.
I got up to find my phone charging in the living room. A little more alert, and with a feeling of dread, I called Jim back. Not only did he never call me, but it was 5 a.m. in Indiana. Way too early for good news.
“Mitzi, I got some bad news," he said.
“Okay," I replied.
“Your mom passed away last night," he choked out.
“What?” I said in disbelief.
I don’t remember much more of the conversation, besides sobbing uncontrollably and telling Jim I would call him back when I got myself together. All of this made Perry yell, “What is it? What is it?” I told him, then we collapsed into a heaping mess of tears.
From that point on, it was a race to get home with a flurry of decisions to make. Should I fly and he drive up with the dogs later? Should I drive in with the dogs and he fly up later? We were four hours from our home in Charlotte, and our dogs were boarded there. The trip to Mom and Dad’s was another nine hours.
In the end, we decided to go home to Charlotte, get the dogs, repack, and hit the road north. It took most of the day and well into the evening before we rolled in the driveway around 10 p.m. Uncle Paul had stayed with Dad until I arrived.
The next two weeks would be full of revelations as Dad and I adjusted to this strange new world without Mom. With the help of family and friends, we figured out the arrangements and honored her life.
My three best friends were instrumental in helping me through it all. Sunni read the eulogy I wrote for the service. Rachel also read at the ceremony and watched my every move, making sure I had food or drink or whatever I needed. Joni offered her home as a place to stay as well as a home base for sorting through all of the things that go along with having a funeral.
Members of my extended family pitched in where we needed them. Aunt Dot helped me find a place to have a meal after the service. Uncle Paul and Uncle Joe offered to help with insurance and financial advice going forward. They also informed me that the plots next to my sister, Staci, had been purchased, and Mom could be buried next to her.
The community flooded the funeral home with hugs as well as stories about Mom and how much she meant to them. And, of course, how much I looked like her. Even strangers who just saw her out and about at Walmart, Goodwill, and Nobles paid their respects.
The support was tremendous, and we were grateful to have it. Even though the thank you notes still sit in a box untouched somewhere in my home. For some reason, I could never bring myself to write them.
So, for me, June 21, the first day of summer, is not the longest day anymore. That was June 22, 2018. Since then, I have cried, smiled, reminisced, laughed, and thought about calling Mom a million times. But I can't.
Instead, I hold on to my memories of her and check on Dad as much as I can. Life must go on, and I'm so glad she gave me one to live.