It would have been my mom’s 71st birthday today; it’s nearly three months to the day since she died.

I knew intellectually going into this year that it would be hard–we would mark these holidays and most likely she wouldn’t be here for them. But living a hard truth is exponentially more painful than just knowing it.

There is so much that hurts because she’s missing it, and so much to be angry about: she didn’t see Skyler grow up, or her 50th anniversary, or my wedding, or even her garden waking up for the spring. She took such good care of herself; how can people who eat McDonald’s every day and never exercise be alive, and she can be gone? So much anger.

But–and this is the hardest thing to live with–there is nothing we can do about it. She’s gone. We can be angry at what she’s missing or we can remember everything she was here for (sometimes we do both). She got to see me with a career, with a house, with Doc, and starting therapy. She got to see her son marry and meet her grandson and make memories with him. She had 46 years with my dad, full of partnership and respect and love.

She left us with so much: what she knew about flowers and cats and loving people, what she knew about style and art, random pronouncements over the years that come back to me. I know she wouldn’t want me to be bitter so I try to focus on those things instead of the colossal unfairness of her death.

It’s hard. It’s so hard. But she did so many hard things–she did the hardest thing–and she did them gracefully and beautifully. I owe it to her to do the same.

Happy birthday, Mom. I love you.