I have realized that grief is math: multiplication, division, addition, ratios, and parallels.
I’m writing this on October 1st, which would have been my mom’s 62nd birthday. In a little more than 30 days, I will be watching the 11th anniversary of her death pass.
Two months after that, I reach the age my mother was when she gave birth to me; 31. She could never have known at that age, my age, she would only have 18 full years left, and our clock together had started counting down.
What is lost in 11 years, those 4015 days as a motherless daughter? What was gained in the previous 18 years, 6750 days, as someone’s daughter? What will it feel like when I have been motherless longer than I had her?
Anyone who has experienced loss understands that a few things happen interpersonally. First, everyone tells you it’s going to be ok (whatever “ok” means in the after of it all). Next- everyone forgets all the complexities and things that made a person a whole & flawed human. As much as they desire to comfort you, they equally NEED us to do the same. We add up all the good, we take out all the messy stuff, and we present it as the whole person— at every memorial, birthday, and milestone.
Next- everyone forgets all the complexities and things that made a person a whole & flawed human.
When I think about the loss of my mom, which is a lot this time of year, I’m not only thinking about the lost hugs, celebrations, and empty chairs at the table—these are things people acknowledge for me and openly share in grieving with me as her daughter. What I feel alone in is mourning the not so pretty stuff.
Like many daughters, I had a tumultuous relationship with my mom. Probably more than the typical teen/mom divide. Our relationship was filled with so much love and so many hard lessons for each of us. When I lost her, I lost the opportunity to heal with her. To be mad at her, to become equal to her.
It’s hard to talk about when someone passes, but our histories with loved ones are not resolved just because one person dies. Instead, they get packed away with all the other things that are too hard to look at or share. We become the lone keepers of these pieces, which were just as much a part of our loss.
It’s hard to talk about when someone passes, but our histories with loved ones are not resolved just because one person dies.
My mom was a funny, shy, stubborn, quirky, sensitive person. She loved to laugh, garden, birdwatch, and do anything that took her outside. She also went through hardships, she struggled, and she could have a short temper. And did I mentions stubborn? She stumbled, and she made mistakes, as we all do.
I miss her during the good times, constantly. But the best people in our lives are always happy to fill those gaps after we lose a parent. As I have stretched and grown to fill the hole she left these last 11 years, what I long for is a chance to have the revelations and come to Jesus moments we all face with loved ones after hard journeys. And our journey very hard at times- but it was ours.
When I lost her to cancer in 2009, I lost the chance to ask her “why” about so many things. To tell her how I forgive her. And that I can’t imagine how scared she must have been alone with a child in the world. To apologize to her for every shitty teenage moment I put her through. To tell her how I can see it all through an adult’s eyes today, and I can’t believe how she made it through. I lost a chance to hold her accountable with love and with grace and to tell her I’m proud of her. And above all else, I lost my opportunity to say to her that she did a great job because I am happy and loved today, and I would not have traded her for any other mom in the world.
Am I a better or stronger person in spite of or because of this loss? That’s not an equation I believe will ever have one true answer. But I know I loved her and the sum of all her pieces, good and bad.
But I know I loved her and the sum of all her pieces, good and bad.
I think of her when I see sunflowers or hear Wild World by Cat Stevens play, but I also grieve the stupid (and not so stupid) arguments we missed having and chances to drive each other crazy(ier).
We can’t subtract the things we think are too ugly to mourn or miss, because they were as much a part of our relationship as the good. She was complicated and wonderful, and she is the reason I was strong enough to survive the world without her.
Happy Birthday Mom
Your equally stubborn daughter