When a mother dies too young, something inside her daughter always feels incomplete. There’s a missing piece she continues to look for, an emptiness she keeps trying to fill.” ― Hope Edelman, Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss, 20th Anniversary Edition
My whole relationship with my mother is through photographs. I don’t remember talking with her or being held by her. I only know the likeness of our features through these black and white photos adhered to the page with black corner holders, neatly placed in an album.
My Dad managed to continue my “baby book” photo album until I was about 10. The photos early on with my mother stop when I was 3. My mother was already sick and becoming unable to care for us.
Then, of course, there are the pictures of my brother and me after my mother died. I see the stress on our faces, particularly my Dad. He struggled to make us look nice and well
put together, and no matter how hard he tried, we looked motherless. He would pose us in our Easter clothes or Sunday best and tell us to smile. The outcome is obvious in these Kodak moments as he tried to make us look like our mother would have wanted. Alas, no pasted on smile could hide our broken hearts.
I learned a lot about my mother’s personality and countenance from her high school yearbooks, her college scrapbook, and my parents’ wedding pictures. I saw her as a young lady, vibrant and energetic. I saw her laughing with friends and smiling on her wedding day. I read the endearing remarks from her school chums as they professed everlasting friendship and love. Everything I know about my mother came from those that loved her and from these priceless black and white snapshots.
My impressions of her came through the lens of someone else’s view, but for me, that is enough. I’ll let their love and admiration, their memories be mine as well. When pictures are all you have, it has to be enough.
I had a wonderful visit with my older brother recently. It is always a tender feeling to be with the one person who knows my beginning; the one person who traveled the same path in childhood.
I am amazed to look into his eyes and see a part of our parents and even myself. One glance into his eyes and I feel his love and compassion. His eyes say ‘I know’, and that is enough for me.
We know our story together and yet we each have our own interpretation. It is not uncommon for siblings to tell completely different tales of the same upbringing. We are all individuals with our own experiences.
Yet, ‘we know’. My brother is four years older than me. When our mother died, his eight-year-old self already had so many more memories and experiences than my four-year-old self. He knew.
Although I don’t recall us as kids, ever really talking about her death, he has been gracious with his memories through the years. Some of his memories have become mine. I’ll always be grateful for that.
Whenever I am fortunate enough to spend time with my brother, I feel comforted. As our eyes lock, we see our story flash by. Sometimes briefly and vague and sometimes, we stop to tell it again. No one else in my life will ever share my story. He is my link to our past and my anchor to the future. He knows, and that is more than enough for me.