Sometimes it doesn’t seem possible that it’s been 17 years already.
And sometimes it feels like it’s been forever.
It was a Friday, April 23rd, 17 years ago. And my family was waking up to the reality of its diminution.
We had lost my father five years earlier. And now we were waking up to yet another loss.
The loss we all had known was drawing near.
The loss of one Hazel Irene (Cottrell) Geissler.
The loss of the woman known as Totsy.
A woman so superficially simple: a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother.
A woman so astonishingly complex: a researcher, a community leader, a First Aid instructor, a business owner.
A woman who wore everything out on her sleeve: her love for her family, her delight in a good story.
A woman who hid so much inside: a lifetime of marital abuse, just for starters.
A woman many people thought they knew so well.
A woman few — and her children not among them — ever knew well at all.
A woman whose life came to a close on that April 23rd, 17 years ago.
A woman whose loss would render us orphans.
The genes should have dictated a different result. Longevity on both sides, people living well into their 80s and 90s, and she was only 73 years old. But the genes were no match for a lifetime addiction to tobacco and alcohol. She, her father, a sister and others in the family all succumbed to that combination in their early 70s.
And whatever chance there was for her children to breach the wall of complexity, to really get to know the woman, to resolve all those unresolved issues that are inevitable between parent and child… those chances came to a close too on that April 23rd, 17 years ago.
The story of one life was ended.
The stories of a lifetime were silenced.
On that April 23rd, 17 years ago.