Today’s post is a gift of heart-break and beauty from the lovely Christine LaRocque at Coffees & Commutes. I first learned of Christine through Lindsey (the link to so many of my favorites) and quickly became a fan of her thoughtful and insightful writing. When she mentioned in an email that her mother had died when she was four, and that she’s just now coming to terms with the fullness of it, I asked if she would be willing to write about it here. She agreed. Her words have opened my heart even wider – I hope you’ll allow them to do the same for you.
Thank you Christine, for sharing a taste of the ache.
This year marks the 29th anniversary of my mother’s death—new mom of two young girls, she was only 24.
At a time when she should have been cradled by the promise of a long and beautiful life, she struggled with a deadly illness and to say her goodbyes. Instead of hope and excitement for what was to come, she suffered with intense fear and anguish over what was inevitable. Instead of planning little girl birthday parties, she was extracting a promise from her husband to take care of “her girls.”
Her girls, her husband, her whole life would move forward without her. Her spirit snuffed out before she had a proper chance to live.
It’s never easy to remember. So much of who I am and who I am not is laced with this history. As each year passes and I grow yet another year older than she did, I struggle— with my own loss and sadness and with a growing and deep awareness that I will never know who she was.
When I was younger, I carried the vaguest sensation that a day would come, that somehow I would know her. Because I’d never faced her death and what it really means, I never recognized her loss as permanent. I think that’s what happens when you experience the death of your most primal connection at 4 years old. The reality is quickly, succinctly swept away by a higher power. It’s impossible to deal with the reality of loss at such an emotionally immature age. Your spirit takes over, covers it up like a security blanket with years and layers of diversions.
But it never goes away. It’s always there—deep, profound, heavy and dark. The reality of this loss is only ever hidden.
This year has been particularly hard. My two sons, who have the distinction of having been born on my birthday and my sister’s birthday and remarkably, the same age gap, this year, are the exact age we were when my mother died: almost 5, and just 2.
Little. Vulnerable. So young. Not even completely out of diapers.
Yesterday afternoon we were just hanging out. The two of them were being the boisterous boys they always are, bouncing on my bed as I tried and failed to read. I chose instead to stop and watch them squeal and giggle. I soaked up their sheer intensity, delighted in the life that fills them up and said a silent prayer of thanks for my own.
I asked my husband. “How do you suppose it would feel to know that you would be raising them alone?”
He refused to answer the question. He preferred to change the subject. I don’t really blame him. To him, it’s inconceivable. To me it is too.
And yet, this year, as I’ve struggled to beat the demons I carry because of her death, as the finality of it all settles with a new awareness, I feel such pain for both of us—for her and what she has missed and for me for what I have missed.
Since the birth of my first child, I’ve spent hours reflecting on my experience as a mother. When I cuddle my boys, I carefully consider the role I play in their lives. I wonder how it feels to them to have a mother to cuddle and love. What kind of security and peace does it bring? I have no memory of what it felt like to be held by her.
Her death was the single most defining moment of my life. At four I learned what it was to be an adult, to carry the weight of the world, the weight of mortality. It defined how I perceive the world and react to the relationships I have.
This year, as the milestone of my boys reaching the age that we were quietly passed, I’ve found myself identifying with her in a new way. I cannot imagine what it would be like knowing, as she did, that I wouldn’t see my babies grow up. If I let my mind go there, the emotion is more than I can bear. It overpowers me and gets wound tight into my feelings as a motherless mother and I am overcome with sadness. I’m sad by how much this has defined me and how much I feel I’ve lost because of it.
I look at my boys and sometimes I am jealous that they have the secure love of a mother who is there, ready to give out hugs and love freely and readily. I look at my boys and hope that I will find that feeling through my relationship with them. I look at them and hope that, as our relationship as mother and child grows and flourishes, that I can finally put this restlessness to bed.
Christine is a full-time communications professional, wife, and mother to two. She writes about managing life as a full-time working mother at Coffees & Commutes.