What surprised me most about my mom’s death is that I didn’t die with her. I always thought I would. I always felt that her life was so close, so connected to mine, that when she left this earth, I would naturally leave with her. Like the string attached to a balloon that got caught in a breeze.
It has been little more than four years since my mom’s death. The truth as I have come to understand it is that Time really can mend broken ships. If you try and rush it, you’ll drown. But if you allow Time to do its work, it will go from hole to hole and devise a bespoke poultice for each injury. Slowly but surely functionality returns and the shipmates become used to the new routine of things.
But whenever you walk by one of Time’s reparations, you are reminded that the ship was once whole and brave and strong. Then you stop for a moment and think back to that brave ship. You smile at that one time something happened. You feel a moment of ache that catches your breath.
But then you feel grateful for Time. And you remember that your work is needed somewhere and you ramble on.
That’s how it is later. I no longer fall apart when I think of my mom, her sometimes bloody fight with cancer or the hard life she had to endure. I feel gratitude that such a wonderful thing was mine.
I can even laugh at memories every now and again.
The daughter of a good friend is getting married. They’re fitting gowns and picking colors and dreaming up center pieces. And I can feel my heart beat angry with jealousy.
My best friend’s mom lives with her. Their personalities have secretly agreed that no peace will ever reign in that house. They clash and fight and eye-roll. And I’m sick with jealousy.
You see, every now and again a strong, hole-less ship passes you at sea. The deck glistens in the sunlight and it seems unconquerable. Then you remember what it feels like to be an unspoiled vessel and you close your eyes and try to imagine – just for a moment – what it feels like to be that confident. But you can’t quite get there.
Sometimes I catch myself looking for a place to fit in. My mom made her best friend promise to keep an eye on me after she’d gone. I consider it the sweetest thing my mom has ever done considering the fact that I’m relentlessly independent and cared for her for what seemed like the longest time.
Her friend acquiesced. She pulled me closer and in under her wing. And I wanted to be there. I wanted her to be the mom I lost. To fill that breath-stealing hole that is left when your foundation is ripped out from under you.
I wanted anybody to give me their mom.
But of course it doesn’t work that way. I had mine. And she was the most unforgettable creature.
I can’t fathom that I was so lucky.
Happy birthday, Mom…love of my life.