This week marks 10 years since my Mom passed away. She died after a seven-year battle with breast and ovarian cancer, and died two days before my 30th birthday as my brother and I held her hands, telling her that it was OK to go. I’ve embarked on many journeys in the last 10 years. I’ve gotten married, had children of my own, and as I look my 40th birthday in the eye, I realize that I still miss her terribly.
A relationship between a mother and a daughter is a beautiful, yet often complicated, thing. Ours was no different. While I always knew she loved me, I also always knew that she wanted more from me. She pushed me to do better—always just a little better. The life she wanted for me was always better than the one that she had achieved herself. When she died I was struck by my grief—it was sudden, sharp and seemingly never-ending. I thought I could prepare for the loss. Her battle was long and brutal, and every time she went back into the hospital I thought “this is it”. But when it finally did come, it was fierce and painful. I’ve since realized that despite your mind’s best laid plans, some losses loom so large your heart simply can’t prepare.
Losing a parent at a young age is so hard. There is never a good age, of course, but losing one before you truly become an adult yourself brings an extra challenge. I felt untethered, unsettled, and even though I was turning 30, I felt I was still a child. Too young to be without a mom.
People say you never understand the love you feel for a child until you have one of your own. I always dismissed this when my mom would say it, insisting that I knew what true love felt like. I realize today that she was right. I literally can’t articulate what I feel for my own sons and wonder if that is what she meant. There is a love that just takes over your heart and squeezes it so hard it hurts, but in the most beautiful way possible.
I grieve the loss of my mom often. I grieve because I wish she could see my sons. I imagine her, bent over her sewing machine for hours on end creating them endless outfits, then practically wrestling them to the floor to try them on. I wonder how she would react to my older son’s constant barrage of questions, or how much she would love my husband.
As I move through my own life, my grief moves with me. The sharp pain has mostly subsided and it’s left with a residual pang that ebbs and flows. I remember her without the agony of aching loss, but with a fondness that only time can give. As time passes, I also remember as she was long before her cancer took over. I remember the cooking, her fondness for white wine and crafting; I remember her smile. That is the beautiful side of grief—after the initial shockwaves subside, you’re left with the peace of memories.
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