The time just after my mother passed away is one that I revisit from time to time. Allowing myself to move through those moments and memories has allowed me to move through the pain, and be able to look back with a heavy, but happier heart. It’s strange to me how life has been so irrevocably altered by a choice that I didn’t make. Major milestones in my life that should be markers of passing time are less keenly felt than those moments before she died, and after.
I remember, in the days after she died, the book Motherless Daughters was my lifeboat in a sea of grief that threatened to drag me under. I was so very scared about what life would hold for me now that the one person who knew me best was gone. In those first few months after I committed that book to memory and took it to heart, knowing that her words were true. I would never be the same. I so didn’t want to wear the title of Motherless Daughter.
My pain, and journey, was mirrored in the pages of that book even though I didn’t lose my mother to some disease that she “so valiantly battled”. It wasn’t cancer that took her, or a tragic accident, it was her own hand. Mental illness ate at my mother from the inside out, changing her, aging her, dragging her six feet under. It whispered lies in her ears, and it poisoned her relationships with herself, and others, until near the end it was only a sense of duty that kept some of us coming back.
There are many days that I wish I could pick up the phone and talk to my mother, but at the same time I know that I would leave those conversations feeling less whole. Talking to her always turned into a therapy session where she blamed all of the lack in her life on everyone, but the one person whose fault it was. I learned to guard my emotions lest she use them against me, and I learned to placate her in any way I could to keep her from shredding what little sense of self I had regained in between calls.
I often feel guilty that my kids will never know what it is to have a wonderful grandmother. I was so very lucky to have my wonderful Grandmothers. I occasionally imagine an alternate reality where my mom was never ill, and where she takes the kids for the weekend, and they have movie nights, and late night gab sessions about everything under the sun. I know, that had she not died, this would not be my reality. Her illness would have likely left going to grandma’s house an uncomfortable experience at best, and one that would only have happened on very special occasions.
My grief is a guilty grief. I yearn for things that would never have been. I feel guilty for grieving most days. I feel guilty for being relieved that I don’t have to deal with my mom’s illness anymore. I feel guilty that I didn’t do more to keep her here. I feel guilty for feeling guilty.
I don’t know if there will every come a time when I will come to a place of peace surrounding her passing. It’s been more than 20 years. The closer I get to the age she was when she passed the more I seem to feel her absence and can’t help but wonder if I’m destined for the same fate. Will I die young? Will some accident continue the cycle of loss in our family? Will fate decide that I’ve had enough time?
I walk this path that my mother laid before me as best as I can, and make my way through my days as best as I can. I smile, I laugh, and when I need to, I cry. And that’s OK.