Anyone who’s lost a loved one knows that time doesn’t fill their place in our hearts. We numbly move on, forced to create new routines without them. And as the days roll by, we grow more accustomed to their absence.

While we miss them just as much, we know better than to look forward to visits with them. To sharing life’s little triumphs. To seeking their advice. We know those moments have passed.

We also stop expecting to hear their voice when the phone rings. We no longer scroll through our texts and email looking for a message from them. We have accepted reality.

But in our unguarded moments, it takes only a small sound, a smell, a memory, or an unbidden thought to make us once again long for the times with them that we used to take for granted.

I had one of those unguarded moments last night. Before my parents’ death more than three years ago, Mom and I crossed the thousand-plus miles between us by emailing daily and talking on the phone or Facetiming at least once a week. Since our conversations were always an hour or so long, I generally called her as I climbed on the exercise bike or treadmill. That way I could exercise as we talked.

Last night’s moment came when I was getting ready to exercise. As I bent down to change my shoes, I thought, “I need to call Mom tonight. It’s been ages since we’ve talked.”

Then reality hit. And her absence washed over me again.