It was the perfect summer evening in Cape Cod. We were on vacation and dining al fresco. A cool breeze was blowing, and I had a delicious cocktail in my hand. My husband, daughter, and son were content.
I was content.
Life was good.
Suddenly, an unexpected question from my 6-year-old son snapped me back to reality, “Mommy, are you sad that both your parents are dead?” he asked.
Initially startled, I didn’t even know what to say.
However, Owen was smart to ask. I was 45 years old, and the recent death of my father left me with no living parents.
I guess you could say I am a parentless daughter.
Maybe life wasn’t so good all the time.
In September of 1997, my mother was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. She was just 55 years old and my very best friend. Witnessing the suffering she endured was nothing short of unbearable. She died less than two years later.
“Why?” I always wondered.
I was 25 years old at the time and filled with extreme anger and bitterness. I wasn’t even sure I would be able to survive without her.
Somehow, I did. In the midst of my mother’s illness and following her death. I began therapy. I also met a wonderful man who would later become my husband.
I had children.
Life went on, despite my personal loss.
For years, I still had a living father, albeit without his finest partner.
When my dad was diagnosed with cancer in 2017, I began to face my next reality—he was running out of time.
I would soon be a daughter with no parents.
As a woman facing her own mid-life, I knew the drill.
The circle of life is what they call it.
While it may be sad to even fathom, adults burying parents during their lifetime is a strong likelihood.
However, it doesn’t make the process any easier.
To this day, whenever I see a controversial news story, I have the sudden urge to call my dad for a debate.
Whenever a new show comes to Broadway, I think of how much my mom would have loved it if she were still here.
And then I think about the two little ones I love the most: My children.
Unfortunately, they will never know the unmatched comfort of having their grandparents watch them grow up.
They will never be the ones at graduation with the grandma prouder and filled with more love than every single one there.
Grandpa will never see them walk down the aisle to take their vows.
While I would love to think my parents are guardian angels watching over the kids every day, I would much rather them still be here with us—in the land of the living.
And then there is the guilt that comes in.
What if I hadn’t waited so long to get married?
To have children?
Sadly, all the what-ifs in the world don’t change a thing.
When I was about 10 years old, I remember my mom dusting a table with my grandma’s picture on it. My mom took especially gentle care of the picture and then said, “My mom. My beautiful mom.”
At the time, I felt a sense of both sadness and dread.
The dread came from the realization that I would eventually be dusting old pictures of two of the most important people in my life.
Although I could not predict when or where, it was a definite.
How would I live without them?
Today, at 48-years old, I know I can.
And I do.
For my children, I will continue to share the old pictures and funny stories.
For myself, I will live with the empty space in my heart and the realization that no matter how old, I will always need my parents.
A child’s yearning for their parents never goes away.
Nor would I want it to.
I miss them so much.