In late September 2019, I was emerging from the dense fog of grief, but I was still wobbly with heartbreak, and I was terrified. I was facing a new life on my own, packing and preparing to close on a new house in a new town at the end of the month. Change is a challenge in the best of circumstances. It can uncomfortably bend or break us even when we are strong and well-prepared. It is risky and daunting when you are grieving. It had taken every grain of grit I could collect from the ruins of my old life to set in motion this plan for building a new one. Even small things like a superficial papercut from a cardboard packing box could provoke an anxiety attack. I was a wreck that month, and before I moved I knew I needed to calm my nerves and find my courage.
So the weekend before I was scheduled to close on the house, I drove from St. Louis to outstate Missouri to visit some old friends from my Springfield days. Kurt and Alicia are two of my most calming influences, and I needed to soak up their good sense and soothing natures. I was relaxing on their beautiful deck, just settling in for a peaceful weekend, when my realtor called to tell me that he needed to push back my closing by one week, a minor glitch regarding the title. He said the closing was now scheduled for October 7.
I sucked in my breath.
“No…No….No,” I whispered into the phone. “I can’t do October 7.” I told him I’d have to check my calendar and call him back.
I could not possibly start the new life I was planning on the very day my old life fell apart. October 7, 2014, was the day my darling Mack was taken from me, and every October 7 since had been a horrible reenactment of that nightmare of a day. October 7 was not just a day on the calendar. It could not be scheduled or rescheduled. It was a memory, a misery, a mark in angry, black Sharpie upon a terrible page of my life.
Kurt calmed me down, and then I called Savannah. My savvy and sassy elder daughter is my joy and my salvation. She is the reason I keep breathing, and she was my inspiration for taking hold of my life and making this plan for moving forward. I told her the realtor wanted to reschedule my closing for October 7. She sucked in her breath, and then she sighed. “Oh, my God, Mom, they want me to start my new job on October 7. Maybe we both need to say yes. Maybe Mackenzie wants us to remake this day.”
And so we did.
On October 7, 2019, Savannah started her exciting and better paying new job at a tech start-up in Chicago, and I closed on my charming 1919 bungalow and moved into my new life. It has not been an easy path for me. Learning to live alone, to maintain an old house on my own, and to build a new life in a very small town has been a struggle. The pandemic also interrupted my adjustment, of course, and I am still plagued with doubt and anxiety. However, I have made some great strides here in this old house and new life. I have discovered hidden talents, developed new skills, and collected a lot more grit in this effort. Most importantly, I have accepted my new life and my new self as a collective work in progress, an unpredictable journey upon bumpy roads with glorious scenery as far as my eyes can see.
I have survived three October 7s in my cozy, quiet bungalow. This year, I will survive a fourth. I will, if I am lucky, survive many more. October 7 remains more than a date on a calendar. It will always be a memory and a misery, marking the passing of my beautiful girl. But now it also marks the moment I began curating my own peace in my own place in honor of both my daughters. Savannah inspired this remaking of October 7, and Mack’s spirit may well have engineered it.
On every October 7 for the rest of my life, I will relive a mother’s nightmare and feel the loss of Mack more keenly. I will also give myself permission, with a happy license from Mack, to acknowledge every October 7 as the first day of my bold beginning. I have come to believe that all dates on a calendar are more than dates on a calendar. In the end, every day we breathe is momentous, and no date over the course of a lifetime is all darkness or all light. Each date of the year in every year of every life is a collection of stories, snippets of who we are and all we have experienced in our lovely and fragile human existence. Dates on a calendar make up an index of our history, marking our memories in time.