I’ve always been someone who was strangely good with days and dates. Without looking at a calendar, I can tell you what day of the week a date will fall on. It’s this useless, mildly amusing party trick that lead me to realize a few years ago that 2009 and 2015 are “repeating years,” or years when the day-date combinations are the same. That means that this year, the anniversary of Madeline’s death would fall of the same day of the week it originally occurred. I knew this was potentially going to be a big problem for me.
In the immediate aftermath of Madeline’s death, I became obsessed with time. Every single morning I would count how many days, hours, and minutes it had been since I’d last seen her. Every Tuesday that passed meant another week had gone by, every seventh of the month meant we’d completed another moon cycle without her. I also fixated on 6:57 pm, the time of her death. It became a daily challenge for me to distract myself past that time on the clock, lest I fall into a dizzying flashback of the moment the doctor declared her dead. Every single day, as the sun got lower in the sky my anxiety would get higher, until 6:58 pm, when I could finally relax a little…at least until the next day.
It was an exhausting way to live. The grief was debilitating enough, but my strange attempt to somehow manage it through math was only making it worse. I recognized what I was doing but felt powerless to stop. I spoke with my support groups and therapists and they all told me it would pass. It seemed impossible to believe – I didn’t know how I could possibly start a day without my ritual of calculating how many days it had been, how many hours until 6:57, how many more seconds of my life I’d have to live without her. It was a twisted rosary I forced myself to recite every morning, my penance for living when she did not.
And then one day, not long after the first anniversary of her death, I realized I’d made it past 6:57 without a panic attack. A few weeks later, a Tuesday came and went without me noticing. Eventually, I was able to get out of bed without counting the time that had passed. My attempts to control my triggers stopped being my biggest trigger of all.
But this year…has been hard. The repeating year has caused a lot of déjà vu, and I’ve been on-edge for the last month. I’ve found myself wanting to count again. I’ve caught myself looking at the clock in the evenings, something I haven’t done in years. I’m so tired, and angry, and devastated.
The cruelest trick of time is that Madeline has been gone for six years, which is just a sixth of my life but more than four times as long as she lived. I don’t want another year to be starting. I’ve survived six years without her but the thought of six more minutes sounds unbearable. These days do not get easier. The hole she left in our life is still gaping.
I miss her more than I can articulate, and the pain of it still takes my breath away. She had to put up with so much in her short life, and it’s so unfair that it ended when it was only beginning.
I hate this. I said last year that I was going to try to let go of some of the anger, but I still haven’t been able to. I can’t force it. Maybe I’ll be less angry by the next repeating year, in 2026. Or maybe not.
I love her, so much.