I came across this entry in an old journal, written almost exactly seven years ago:
Mom. Mom. Mom.
I can’t explain what it feels like to miss her. I forget what life actually felt like before she was diagnosed. After I heard the word cancer, my “person” was changed forever. There’s a terrible indescribable feeling that’s been permanently put inside me—will it ever go away?
I can still remember what I was wearing when we found out the news: a purple American Eagle t-shirt with gray cotton cropped Bermuda shorts. How terrible that night was.
As I laid on my floor and cried and cried until there were no more tears, I tried to imagine what my life would be like without my Mom—and I mentally couldn’t. I mean, how could I? I’d never known a moment without her.
I’ve just been thinking about her a lot. I think it’s because I’ve been home from college more often than usual. Yoga certification is almost over, but I’ve driven up every weekend the past month for our training and have been spending the nights in my old room.
What am I going to do when I’m older and find someone I think I’ll marry? Who will I seek approval from? What about when I get pregnant? Mom would be the epitome of who I’d want to talk about “mommy business” with. And we’d go to lunch together and shop for baby clothes.
My kids will never know their mom’s Mom. How can that be something anyone should ever have to experience? I just don’t know how I’ll get through all of those things without her. Granted, they’ll be spread out, but all my life there will be times when I crave—literally crave—to have her with me.
She’ll take care of me, though. I know she will, and that’s not just me reassuring myself for comfort. Ever since she died I’ve been aware of something different and I know somehow it’s her.
I remember waking up in my bed at home, the morning after she died in her bedroom with all of us beside her. I had put a picture of her and I on my pillow before I fell asleep and when I opened my eyes, there was sun in my room and her face in that picture was the first thing I saw. Something came over me—some sense of peace or calm or reassurance—I can’t put it into words without sounding cheesy. But it was new, and it was real and it hasn’t left me since.
It’s sad for me to read, thinking about being eighteen years old, a freshman in college, laying alone on my home bed and writing in my journal.
If I had to go back in time and relive the first few years after you died, I would never be able to handle it again. That phase of my life felt like an entire lifetime. Time always moved so slow. My friends were still innocent and ignorant of the loss I was feeling—in some way, I felt forever separated and different from them. How could they ever understand?
I didn’t walk around miserable or depressed. But I felt so ruined.
A part of me was waiting for you to just show up again and say it was all a dream or it was only temporary.
The following years at cheer camp I’d always look for your bright blonde hair and listen for your high heels walking across the high school gym floor. You’d have a purse hooked around your forearm, holding Tatum’s hand.
I knew you wouldn’t really walk in, but I was devastated each and every time you didn’t show. I’d see everyone else’s parents and just couldn’t understand. Why me? Why my mother? Why is my family going through this?
I felt so alone. I didn’t know where to find you. I didn’t know what was happening with Dad. I didn’t know what would happen to Tatum who was only one month shy of her fifth birthday when you died. I didn’t know what would happen to any of us, including myself.
How do I survive? How do I find happiness again?
And it all weighed me down so heavy. I was the girl whose mom died for the next eight years. Or at least, that’s how I identified myself.
I wanted people to know for some reason—I brought up the fact that you were gone whenever I could. It made me feel like what I was living was actually real. It became my story.
I can remember on my first date in college–it was with my crush from Criminal Justice class, Danny, and we were walking back to campus from the movie theater. Our families came up in conversation and I said, “My mother died about a year ago. She got sick with cancer.”
I had practically just met him, but I wanted him to know what was then, the biggest part of me.
But since becoming a mother myself, I don’t feel the need for anyone to know. If you came up in conversation I would openly talk about it—of course—but that’s usually not the case.
Through my teenage years, having kids without you here was what scared me the most–not college or marriage or anything else. It was always babies. When I wrote my kids will never know their mom’s Mom—the question truly haunted me.
But I’m facing that fear.
Now, instead of bringing up the my mother died when I was seventeen story, I talk about being a mom. I’ll say, my son, my husband, my home, etc. It is what identifies me right now.
And I don’t mean that it’s all I am, but no longer am I the girl without her mother. I’m Everett’s mother.
I think that’s my favorite word in the Universe: mother. It’s so beautiful. It makes me think of my baby, of love and sacrifice and connection and safety and teaching and learning and magic and mystery and faith and perseverance and grit and the perfect balance of tough and soft.
It makes me think of you, and everything you were and still are.