Today would have been my Mom’s 70th birthday. It’s hard to beleive she’s been gone almost 10 years. I’m often sad to think of how much my girls are missing out on by not knowing her ridiculously loud voice, her abundant charisma and her loving spirit. And just then, magically, one of them will tell one of the many “Grandma” stories that they have heard through the years while trying to imitate her in their best New York accent.
My mom lost her 16 year battle with Thyroid Cancer two weeks before the birth of my first daughter (and her first grandchild.) Something she so badly wanted to be there for. My sister was also pregnant with her first child and was due two months after me. The emotional pain of knowing what she would be missing seemed to wear on her so much more than the physical.
It took me a reaaaaaallly long time to move on. But the fact is that I had a new family and a job and a lot of responsibility. I didn’t have a choice. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I instinctively picked up the phone to call her when my newborn was sick, or something great happened in my life- only to hear that her number had been disconnected. Over the past 10 years I would have given anything to ask my mom questions about family medical history, how I was as a child, or even get a simple recipe that I loved growing up. But that was no longer an option.
Unfortunately, the real world is not an ideal place to grieve. Our schedules don’t allow for it. You take your bereavement leave, bury your loved ones and pick yourself up and dust yourself off and move on as best you can. Picking up the pieces as you go.
But the pain of losing a parent doesn’t go away. A piece of your heart is missing. No one will ever love you like a parent. That person that you’ve strived your entire life to make proud isn’t there for any of your future accomplishments. The one who picked you up and loved you when you were at your lowest is no longer there to tell you everything is going to be ok. One half of who you are and where you came from is gone forever.
It’s now up to you to keep their memory alive. Not just for your children, but for yourself. And slowly that hole in your heart becomes a little smaller day by day. It will never completely go away, but it changes, for the better. I am so lucky to have an amazing father and two wonderful siblings. I am so proud of how close we have kept our growing family and how well we have kept her spirit alive. Now, 10 Grandchildren later, we make family time a priority. Because that’s how we were raised. I think Mom would’ve been proud.
Today is certainly not the best day. Eight years ago today I lost my mother to a very long battle with cancer. I miss her every day and think of her when I look at my girls and how much she would eat them up. I was devastated when she died just two weeks shy of E’s birth. But she lives on in them and most importantly she lives on in me. I am a better mother for having known her and (although it sounds weird) for having lost her. I have a legacy of greatness to live up to. I love this quote shared with me by a friend who also lost her mother. It’s by author Cheryl Strayed (aka: Sugar.)
The kindest and most meaningful thing anyone ever says to me is: your mother would be proud of you. Finding a way in my grief to become the woman who my mother raised me to be is the most important way I have honored my mother. It has been the greatest salve to my sorrow. The strange and painful truth is that I’m a better person because I lost my mom young. When you say you experience my writing as sacred, what you are touching is the divine place within me that is my mother. Sugar is the temple I built in my obliterated place. I’d give it all back in a snap, but the fact is, my grief taught me things. It showed me shades and hues I couldn’t have otherwise seen. It required me to suffer. It compelled me to reach.
Since I am a teenage girl at heart, I have a playlist dedicated to my mom. This song is the very first track. It makes me smile, it makes me cry, it makes me know how lucky I am to have had her as my mom.