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Grieving and Healing: The Loss of my Mother
Missing my Mother
My mother died suddenly when I was seventeen years old.
She was 37. I will be 37 in FIVE YEARS
While it is inevitable to assume your parents will expire before you it isn't expected for it to happen when you are young, and I can only assume it certainly isn't something that gets easier with age.
To this day I still wake up in a panic or find myself doubling over while walking down the street. If you want to know if it goes away, it doesn't. It just gets compartmentalized for observation from time to time instead of the in your face approach. The long debate will always be whether it is more painful when it is sudden or when you have to suffer. No one can ever truly answer this question for you can only lose your mother once.
This isn't a happy lens or a happy story, but it's as real as I can be.
This is my tribute to my beautiful mother and everything that made me love and hate her.
All images property of Gina - All Rights Reserved
My Mother married my Father
I never really thought about it until recently - that my mother and father were married. It was a brief run, you see. They were two very different people. When I started learning how to cook (as seen in my other lenses), I began sifting through buckets of old family photos to see what I could find of my mom. I have very few pictures of her, you see.
I ran across a bunch of these. This one in particular struck a chord in me I don't even know how to explain.
That's me in that picture.
Right there in her belly.
In her wedding dress.
And it's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in my life.
Isn't she beautiful?
The Revelation of Mothers Passing
Thump, thump, thump.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
It must have gone on for awhile, the sound, because by the time it woke me up the pounding on my door sounded like a violent attempt to take the entire structure down. I, in my seventeen year old mind could not, for the life of me, imagine why anyone would be making such a ruckus at this time.
BANG BANG BANG!
Each stroke of the fist slammed against the hollow door.
"Just a second!" I groaned dramatically as only a teenager knows how to do, put on a robe, and opened the door. There she stood, about half a head over five feet, tears streaming down her face. She held her fist half-poised for another strike that I almost had to dodge. She shook violently, her dark eyes pleadingly staring at mine as she thrust the phone into my hands.
"There's been an accident," My brothers trembling, barely-there voice came to life through the speaker, and before I knew it, before I could speak it, before I could rationally think it, and well before he could say it, I knew it,
The phone fell out of my hand.
For all that you learn in life, there is nothing that can prepare you for the death of someone you love. There is no textbook, no movie, no explanation from anyone that tells you how you're going to feel when it does happen. Sure, there are probably hundreds of self-help books that will narrate the stories of the authors themselves to tell you what will happen, and some of them may even have asked around, but still, there is nothing that will help and no one will understand that until they themselves have been through it.
She and some friends had been driving a truck late one night and it struck a deer in the road. Ever the concerned citizen that my darling mama was, she climbed her skinny little butt out of the cab and skittered over to the dying animal to see how she could assist. It didn't take long on a stretch of highway for a car to appear and when it did, she stood up to wave her arms at the oncoming car.
She died on the way to the hospital.
About my mom
If I could introduce her to the world I would. If each of you could have known her for all of her awkward, bewitching self you might have seen the magic I was blessed to see. As I said before, my mother was lovely though I may admittedly be bias.
Oh! Her hair, her hair was red- No, I mean she was a real redhead without the orange. Poor thing was made fun of in school as a child, but she'd have made one hell of a donation/sell off of her now desired locks if she'd have stuck around. The way the sun hit her hair made it look like it was on fire.
Always, she had the faint scent of sweet vanilla musk; Love's Baby Soft, Pert Plus and Camel Lights. If you asked her, she'd tell you she hated her smile and her teeth, but she had this adorable side smile that came with the shy and when you made her laugh, the room lit up.
How sad a creature she was, for her own mother died days before her fourteenth birthday and I think part of her had wanted to die from then until forever. A story to tell she had for every drink and if you stuck around past closing time at the bar you might get to hear some of the more intensely strong sharing of her life stories. To this day, I'm pretty sure if you go to any bar in downtown Tuolumne City, California, and ask whomever is there about her someone will have a story.
Constant Jene Deaver, Rosa, Blanchard, Willerford, Coni, Constant Pain
Often the name changed but she the subject was always the same in a way: She liked to play. She liked to drink. To Camp, fish, sing, and dance up on the stage of the bar. To gamble and drive too fast and do all the crazy things a girl would do if she needed to be validated in her life. I don't say it to spite my mother - she honestly just needed someone to love her all the time, but she was awfully hard to hang onto.
When she went out she colored under her eyes in inky jet-black eyeliner. She put Wet n'Wild lipstick on her lips and cheeks and smeared pods of glitter all over her face like it was always in style.
You know that girl you bring to the bar and she gets up on the bar and starts dancing around and knocking everything over? My mom was that girl and for some reason people loved it! They cheered her on and asked for encores of her performances.
Speaking of performances she also loved to do Karaoke; Often, she chose House of the Rising Sun and always they made her sing it twice.
It is not an easy read and it is not meant to be. It is meant to be truth and understanding of the loss of a mother from a daughters point of view - without any touting of understanding what it feels like. It's meant to tell you what it felt like to a handful of other girls, women; Mom's, cousins, sisters, babies. What it feels like for them now, be it decades later or weeks in.
No one can know what it feels like to an individual to lose your mother. Even those who have experienced this painful, life-changing event can't begin to understand what it feels like to You.
Hope Edelman, the author, promises all that her name entails within those pages. Her in your face approach made me realize how many of my feelings surrounding my mom's death were stuffed deep inside myself, waiting for the most inopportune times to come about.
You may not even realize how much of an impact the severance of this physical bond can create; in fact, you might just think you're a bit crazy and that's just the way things are. While that may be true, know that there is a book that will extend a silent hand for you to take in the privacy of your own home.
When I read this book I began to watch my own changes and attitudes about things to see how they related to how my mother died. I began to realize my anxieties and depressions were often linked to that fateful night.
I immediately went out and bought a second copy for my baby sister.
They say I look like her
We were inseparable
I can't say that I have to look back and have too many regrets with the death of my mom. She knew I loved her with all that I was - we were best friends. Even when I was 17 I would lay beside her in bed and hold her hand, staring up at the ceiling and telling her about the boys and dramatic adventures in my life. I only wish I would have known how precious that time was.
What would you do if you could tell her anything?
I am asked that a lot.
It's hard to say - am I telling her because she's returned to me and I can have her again forever? Then I'd say I love you every day.
Am I getting just a day? Well, then
I love you, mommy, with all of my heart..
What if all I have is what I can send to her from here and I'm not allowed a response?
Then I would tell her things are better today, but maybe they weren't so easy a few months ago. Maybe they'll be harder tomorrow and that in the meantime, I'll be the best and sweetest person I can be because that's who she raised to me be. I'd say that dad tries real hard but he keeps getting the short end of the stick (he has three kids by two different moms and both moms are deceased). That I am sorry that I couldn't find a way to make her happy; To unbreak her heart, but that I understood that this was likely the less painful route for someone who agonized inside like she did.
I might tell her that I hate her sometimes, if I were so inclined, for the way her death makes me feel like a hopeless little girl; How she'd told me that she'd never die, and how unfair it was she promised she'd be there at my wedding. That saying such things to your children is unrealistic and will produce 30-year-old women who are afraid of walking down the aisle because mom won't be there like she said she would.
That I was sorry I told her it was embarrassing that she danced - it wasn't.
She wasn't embarrassing.
That I should have gone back home to see her one more time, like she'd asked me to.
That I love her more than I hate her, and I always did and how wonderful she was in doing everything she could to provide us a life despite her shortcomings.
She tried so very hard to make me believe that I was everything I was supposed to be, all the time. The time of mom that played board-games and cooked at home every night. She even taught me how to 'dirty dance' with hip shaking. We told stories, watched storms together, laughed, sang and washed our hair under the waterfall at the local creek on weekends when it was too hot.
Now I'm not much into cooking, swimming, games... It's not the same without her.
I'm afraid of having children myself because I'm not sure I'm going to do the right thing. Because she won't be there to answer my questions. They would never know their grandmother, and sooner or later they'd have to face my death at best case scenario.
Mostly, I'd say I love you.
We used to go fishing together
Once upon a time my mother taught me how to fish. How to tie a knot with the six little twists back through the original loop. That the tackle box was a girls kit (I didn't know what a cosmetic box was). How to cast, stick your fingers down a fishes throat to dislodge your barb without sticking yourself; How to hold a perch and how to wrestle a carp.
It may be the majority a man's sport but fishing was what mom, brother and I did together. We'd rig up our lines and dig up some night-crawlers to go down to Lake Malone or Don Pedro or up to Cherry Lake. Always we would catch something - whatever *something* was.
Getting up at the butt-crack of dawn, stopping for a cup of hot beverage and packing a day picnic was one way to go; If you were part of our crew the cooler was full of Coors, Coke and Bologna Sandwiches with just a little bit of mustard (we knew mayo didn't take well in the sun).
The other version I came to love of this sport was night fishing even if it came with the bite of a mosquito (those ****** ****ers follow me for two miles at a time to bite me- I must be sweet). Here we would bring lamps and flashlights and were usually out camping anyway. Bells tied to the tip of the pole made certain we'd hear the bite even in total darkness. Chicken livers hooked to the bottom of a lake bring the fight of a mighty brutal catfish, you know.
1.) Patience. Patience. Patience.
2.) Nothing beats your feet up and your line out, catch or no catch
3.) Pulling Hooks out of a fish eye is a wriggly little task
4.) If they're jumpin', they're not bitin.
5.) Mosquitoes like movement, smoke, and beer
6.) Mom's play in dirt, cut up worms, and Fart (much to their embarrassment and their childrens shock)
Once upon a time there was a family...
It's going to hurt forever.
No one in this world gets to tell you how to feel when you have a heavy loss.
A child, a parent, a sibling; No one should tell you when and where and what. You have to walk this path alone.
They'll try, of course; It makes people feel better to know they helped you. To tell you it's going to be okay or I know how you feel is a way of them relieving the pressure inside themselves - they feel sad. They feel like they need to reach out for you and they don't know how. That's okay too.
You don't have a set time limit. You're always going to miss your mother. It's going to hit you when you're getting engagedor when you're going to promi> or maybe when you're being hurt by someone you love. When you're pregnant or when you're graduating. Maybe when you're walking all alone or when you're in a crowded room amongst a group of friends.
You're going to hurt. You're not going to die, but you're going to hurt.
And that's okay.
If no one else gives you permission, let me.