I was four years old when my mother died, and because she too was so young, I was told she went to heaven to be an Angel. My Dad made her into a perfect person right away. I never heard him speak of any flaws or indiscretions. She was forever an Angel.
It’s hard growing up with an Angel as your role model. I was always judged by what my mother would have said, done and been. Forever perfect, she was portrayed.
Through the years I’ve heard plenty of testimonies from friends who knew her well. They almost all say the same thing…she was beautiful, smart, funny and very kind. Not one hint to a mistake, bad temper or habit that needed to break. Even her friends from high school wrote beautiful things about her in her yearbook. Oh, how I have judged myself harshly in comparison of her light.
My Auntie Sue understood all of this. She would try to tell me stories about my mother and share adventures the two of them had shared. She would always tell me, “Your mother had her ways,” but, she never got around to telling me what “her ways” were. Maybe Auntie Sue was giving me a break, a glimmer of hope, that it is ok to be human.
I’ve long since accepted the fact that I am truly human, and that probably my mother was too. No one will mistake me for a ‘forever angel’ when I am gone….and that’s perfectly alright with me.
“Why are you writing about this after all these years?” “Isn’t it time to let it go and move on with your life?” These are the thoughts and questions that others ask when “it” hasn’t happened to them. Don’t worry for me, that I am mired in depression just because I speak of unspeakable things. I’m okay…truly.
I may write of memories faded or worse, never made. I may allude to sad times or lonely situations, but only because it was my reality, as bleak as it may seem. I’m not lonely now or sad or swimming in negativity. In fact, quite the opposite. I’m okay…really.
I don’t have a monopoly on losing a parent at an early age. There are many of us who faced childhood with a hole in our hearts and for many different reasons. We may still need to talk about it. Some may need to hear about it, just to know they will heal. We’re okay…seriously.
However, just because you didn’t experience it doesn’t make it any less real. Just because such honesty makes you uncomfortable doesn’t mean our honesty should not be expressed. No one makes it out of this world alive. No one escapes their time on earth without some type of pain or sadness. No one.
Into every life a little rain must fall; sometimes it’s a tsunami and sometimes it’s a steady, slow soak. We can become okay, even joyful. We can feel heart-overflowing gratitude. There’s always a rainbow somewhere. Don’t worry about me….I’m okay….really.
I’ve never known or remember experiencing a holiday with my mother. I’ve never stood next to her in the kitchen, peeling potatoes or making a pie.
I’ve never sat next to her at a Thanksgiving dinner or sat on the floor going through albums of photographs.
I’ve never held her hand as we bowed our heads in prayer.
Too many “I’ve never”, not enough memories.
I’ve read before, that motherless daughters often feel as if they will die at the same age their mothers were when they passed away. For me, that age was 33.
At a time in my life when I should have been coming into my own, I was anything but… I never could visualize myself as a mother or even as I might be when “I grew up.” I was frozen in limbo yet desperately wanting to know exactly when I would die during my 33rd year, for I knew it would happen. Would it be on my birthday? Would it happen in the middle of the year or cruelly on the day before I turned thirty-four? Anxiously I approached that year and every day until it was over. I lived in a constant state of uncertainty.
During my 33rd year I got divorced, changed careers, gave up sleeping and lost ten pounds. Sadly, and now with compassion, I look back at my perplexing choices and addled behavior and wonder how I made it through. I must forgive myself for not being totally present for my children, knowing now, that I was doing the best I could. I must forgive myself for not being present for me. My 33rd year was brutal and frightening and even now, brings me to tears.
I have lived 30 years past my mother’s age at the time of her death. I slowly and methodically pulled out of that 33rd year and must say I’m finally growing into my own. I am not without scars and memories of that time, but the intensity has lessened.
I truly am grateful for my extra years. I think God knew I would need an extension to get it all together, in fact, I’m still getting it all together. In the end, isn’t that what life’s all about?
I haven’t always known my mother’s birth date. I’m sure my daddy thought about it as every September rolled around and she was not here to celebrate, but he rarely spoke of it.
About twenty years ago, Auntie Sue began calling me on my mother’s birthday, September 28. She would call while I was getting ready for work, sometimes at 6:30 a.m. “Hi honey,” she would say. “I’m still sittin ugly, but I wanted to remember your mother on her special day.” Then she would tell me a quick little story about her or just tell me something about her personality. Most of the time we would laugh while she was telling her story, but we both knew our tears would flow as soon as we hung up.
As I’m prone to do, I imagine that I would have been a wonderful daughter. I would have called, sent gifts and baked a cake. I could imagine her eyes lighting up and us hugging as we both said, “I love you!”.
The truth is probably somewhere between my imagination and reality. I might have been busy with my own life and children and only managed a phone call or card purchased hurriedly to make it on time. I’ll never know how it might have been.
But today, I am wishing my mother a Happy Birthday. Today, I am remembering a story Auntie Sue might have called to tell me. I’m missing these two special ladies, but I’m happy they are together and celebrating within the Pearly Gates. Who knows….they may be eating some heavenly delicious cake! I hope so.
Happy Birthday Mom!
I just knew there was a rule book for life that I did not read. Guidelines for living that I never understood. That’s exactly how it felt to grow up without a mother. I felt everyone else knew the secrets to life, except me.
I was the perfect faker, the ultimate counterfeit girl, imitating others and impersonating the girls I read about in Seventeen magazine. It was exhausting to be constantly watching others for cues as to what to say or do.
There are many of us walking on this earth, that for whatever reason, feel the same way. I see the others now, and I know I was never really alone. But today, when I notice someone who looks afraid or uncertain, I reach out to take their hand, literally or figuratively, so they can feel the warmth.
This life is too much for tender souls, but as we hold another’s hand, we ourselves gain strength, and wisdom and safety. We can feel safe and secure to be who we really are and know that is enough.
We are enough.
There are so many different types of friendships. Childhood friends; co-workers; acquaintances who upgrade to friend status for a specific purpose or activity, the list is endless. But, to a motherless daughter, a true friendship is a healing balm, an anchor to this world that helps her stay grounded.
A girl who has lost her mother at an early age, lost her teacher, her road map as to how to have and be a ‘girl friend.’ Often there was no time spent on mother-daughter activities. Shopping together or just hanging out is a foreign idea to the daughter who has no clue how to begin and sustain a friendship. She has no idea what girls ‘do’ or how they act or think. As is sometimes the case, the motherless daughter got her cues on how to ‘be’ from her father, sibling or another caregiver. Her primary role model, her first friend is missing.
To the friend of a motherless daughter, you might not realize your importance…the value of your friendship is immeasurable.
You might not realize how much your consistency and trustworthiness is relied upon and what that safety means.
You might not realize how your love, laughter and advice provides strength and support to walk through this life.
You might not realize these things, but they are real. Your ability to be present is a gift from above, to be cherished more than silver or gold.
Maybe, just maybe, the mothers in heaven get a sayso in sending the perfect friendships to their daughters. You might not realize it, but these true connections are divine. And God said, “This is good.”