My mom passed away eight days ago. I was traveling already when she passed. I actually had gotten engaged the day prior, and my dad likes to reassure me that seeing my engagement pictures was the last big smile she produced.
She had waited until I left and boarded my plane for Europe, holding on at least that long, telling me, “I’ll do my best,” prior to me leaving, before she took a terrible turn. I knew those words were meant to make me feel okay about leaving. A month before she had told me she promised to hang on until I was back from my three week journey. She said that she knew people hung on at times, and that she would do this for me. When she told me she’d do her best, I told her I loved her and hugged her one last time. I wanted to tell her, “You don’t have to. I know you’re in pain. You don’t have to stay in pain for me,” but I couldn’t get the words to come out. Because there’s always that part of you that wants to keep someone you love alive, even when you know it isn’t for the best.
So I boarded my plane. I told myself over and over that she would make it. But I also told myself that if she didn’t, I’d learn to be okay with that. Being overseas when it happened was startling, and incomprehensible. It still doesn’t feel real, eight days later. I question whether it was a dream a lot, whether I have actually lost one of the most important people in my life.
I’m with a group of graduate students in Dublin, all of whom are writers. There is some comfort in this, and knowing they understand processes and have sensitive hearts. Being creative, we feel more than non-creatives would. I feel every experience so intensely.
I wrote something a couple days ago about my mom that I’m still fleshing out. I will share that sometime, but it is just too raw right now. Instead, I want to share with you a quick piece I wrote while in class today. Poor, Jake Lamar. This is the second year in a row I cried during his class. You can read about my experience last year here.
This year, he asked us to write in first person about who we are. “Who am I?” was the prompt. This is seemingly a simple thing to write about, but I found myself shaking uncontrollably as my pen pressed the blank page. I wasn’t cold. I just felt an intense set of feelings breaking through me, causing my eyes to burn as I wrote, and then re-read, and then wrote some more.
So here are my words, but know that even these don’t begin to sum up how I’m feeling. Because feeling right now is dangerous, and I can only let a few through at a time.
I’ve struggled lately trying to decide who I am going forward in the world without my mom. Growing up, your mom is your cheerleader, your advisor, your shoulder. When you get older, she is the person you call for advice when the baby won’t stop crying, or to yap excitedly about the new floral print purse you bought for only thirty euros.
And that’s the thing, I did just buy a floral print purse for only thirty euros. and when it hangs across my body, every so often, my mind flutters to that place where my mom is still alive and I can tell her how the sales lady let me test out multiple purses at the store before deciding on this one, and how its even spacious enough to fit my SLR comfortably.
And it’s pretty heartbreaking that I can deduce my sadness to a damn purse when it’s so much bigger than that. Because the purse is just a tiny sliver of a bigger whole, one that gets new slivers added to it everyday, like when Iw ant to buy a purple scarf for my mom because purple is her favorite color, but then I remember she’s gone, and I rub my hands over the cashmere one last time before putting it back.
And then there are the slivers that feel like daggers, slowly being rotated in my abdomen, causing me to double over in heartache. These are the moments like my son calling me Mom-Mom instead of Mommy, and quickly correcting himself. And even worse, finding out that my ex-husband explained to our son about my mom passing before I had the chance, even though I explicitly told his mother not to, that that was my job and I had prepared for it and wanted to do it in my own way.
I have become the girl I used to see on Facebook, posting about how hard it is having a wedding, and then a child, without her mother’s guidance. I have become someone people talk about with hushed voices over their meals or their pints of Guinness: “Did you hear? Her mom died, just last week. Poor thing.”
Maybe the words are kind, and maybe some are not. But they all have a hint of pity, because no one wants to be here where I’m standing. Because this is the only alone that can’t be taught. This is an alone that doesn’t get better. This is an alone that I have to learn to build a world around, even when my world seems to have disappeared entirely.
This is who I am now.