Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Lasting Love of a Long Gone Mother

My mother's senior photo with flowers I know she'd love
May 21, 1994 – The day our mother suddenly left this world and our lives changed completely.  We became four newly motherless daughters at the ages of 27, 23, 20 and only nine years old. I still feel cheated that we didn’t get more time with her, but I can feel her loss now without being consumed by pain or resentment.

For a long time I thought people had a hard time with death, but I’ve since realized that people were likely reacting to my raw pain when they changed the subject.  Fortunately it’s been some time since I became able to talk about her with joy and ease in conversation that no longer makes people want to flee.

The biggest change I made that helped me to feel less pain for her absence on holidays and birthdays was to create new traditions. I chose to write letters to my sisters commemorating the occasion and honoring our mother.  The first letters are a bit tough to read because I can see I was suffering even though I had hope. Putting my thoughts in writing and sharing them with my sisters allowed me to feel more connected to them. Suffering alone left me stuck, but reaching out to others honestly and with vulnerability led to a path beyond the grief.

I’ll hear songs or experience something and think about how I wish I could share them with her. She’s been gone 21 years this month, and there’s been so much in our lives she missed. The lessons she taught us by the life she lived and the stories she told still come to mind frequently. When she’s in my dreams, it’s lovely to interact with her in new conversations.  With changes and accomplishments my sisters and I have, I like to think about what our mom would have thought. I know she’d be extremely proud of each of us, and I’m proud of the person she was and the legacy she left.

A lesson I learned when my mother died is one I try to live by still – make sure each of my relationships is in a place I’m okay with if one of us is gone suddenly. It doesn’t mean all of them are happy, but at least there isn’t something I would regret if I never see them again.

My mother died in an airplane crash. There were no goodbyes or preparations for her absence. But my relationship with my mother was in a place where we loved each other, we had fun together, and we were honest with each other.  As a mother she created that relationship dynamic, and for that I’m immensely grateful she left me with our relationship in a good place.