Death is Just a Moment

last one standingThe Last Photo of My Mom at the Cabin ’85

I didn’t put this up on Mother’s Day, it felt wrong, like I might be taking away from the celebration. I regret it now. Mother’s Day has been co opted by commercialism, mourning, anger, and every other facet. I should have added mine, it is none of those.

At the end of February it was the thirtieth anniversary of my mother’s death. I’ve now spent over two thirds of my life without her. When the subject of identity, and mourning, come up I am often asked if I am marked by the death of my mother. People want to know if her death makes me who I am. Usually I say yes, because it is the easy answer.

The truth is more complicated. Yes, my mother died but who I am has more to do with the two years that I spent watching her die and the following decade of being a motherless young woman. The reality of her death for me held only one emotion; relief.

Death is just a moment.

The two year struggle with a brain tumor and what that was like for a girl who was barely ten when it began that was the source of my pain. It was the 80s, child psychology was still  for the severely disturbed or kids in crisis. I fell into a different category. I was sad, or a wreck, or most often daughter of a single man-‘poor guy still trying to figure it all out-raising a teenage girl on his own you know.’ I am thankful for all the caring adults and friends who held me close though they were out of their depths. There was little there for me.

Thirty years later I no longer play the what if game. There is no other life I may have lived.

There are other questions I’m asked. Do I think about her every day? No I don’t, sometimes I’ll go weeks without thinking about her. Thirty years is a long time and sometimes life is too immediate. Though, I notice lately as my son reaches the age I was when she got sick that I think of her more. I do to keep visual reminders of her around so I can tell myself stories about her- ones I remember and those I’ve been told so often they are part of who she is to me.

bedThe Last Picture of Us Together ’86

Does her loosing her still hurt? No. I still hold pain from my childhood. No child should have to watch their mother die, not over an hour or two years. At the time I had no words for what I felt. No, I had many words because I was always looking for the right ones. I was obsessed with trying to express what I was feeling. As if I could just explain it once completely then I would be able to move on. Even then I understood just the right words could hold. In the end it wasn’t words that took the immediacy of pain away, it was something more destructive to my life. (But that’s a story for another day).

Loosing her is just part of who I am, there are no tears in me for her because all that is left are the stories good and bad. Those are what I hold onto.



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