She lives on in me …
I remember the first Mother’s Day without Mom, it arrived just a few short months after she died. When Mom was alive, my brother Chris and I would pick some flowers from her garden, make her a special breakfast and give her a homemade card and small gift. We would do our best to take care of her for the day and give her time for herself (although I am not sure she ever really wanted that). Obliviously, this Mother's Day was unlike no other.
My Dad wanted to take us to the cemetery and put some flowers by the grave. I obediently gathered a bouquet from her garden as I always had and begrudgingly got in the car. When we arrived, I was standoffish and made it clear to Dad and Chris that I would much rather be anywhere else but there … with a true teenage attitude. Dad immediately got angry and I blurted out that I didn't want to be there and that I felt she wasn't there either and I never wanted to come back. Needeless to say the father/daughter power struggle ensued and some other harsh words were said. I placed the flowers by the gravestone and we headed home.
I understand that many people find solace and comfort at a cemetery and go there to feel close to the person they lost. I have never felt that way. For me, Mom is not there, she doesn't belong there and I have spent the last 32 years avoiding that place.
For me, she lives in the sky at night, when the stars are bright and the sky is clear. As children, Mom and Dad would take us out in the backyard at night and we would stand and look up at the stars. Back then, Dad was taking an astronomy class in college and always seemed excited to share what he was learning with us. He would secretly sneak in an astronomy lesson and teach us about the stars, the planets and all about constellations (which I like the best), and how the night sky changes throughout the seasons.
We learned that Orion (the Hunter) is a winter constellation and that Sirius is the brightest star in the sky. My favorite though was Pleiads (also known as the Seven Sisters) which is a tight nit group of stars that shines from dawn to dusk in November … and the significance of that always resonated with me. In looking back now, these quiet moments spent together as a family learning about and appreciating something that was so much bigger than all of us, were some of my favorite memories.
In my teenage years after Mom was gone, I found comfort in the stars. When I wanted to talk with her, I would find a dark place, like my backyard at night, to go sit and talk. I shared my teenage struggles and worries with her, stories about friendships and dating and fitting in (or lack thereof). Once I had my own car, I would drive to the beach where we used to go as a family and sit and look up at the night sky for hours … I would talk and cry and talk some more … and sometimes I could feel her right there with me. The powerful sound of the waves we swam in together as a family were so soothing. On nights when I was feeling particularly alone and empty, I would take my arms and wrap them around myself as much as I could as if she were holding me, and once in a while, it actually felt like she was.
As an adult, I still found comfort in the stars and places like the beach but it seemed as though I was connecting to her less and less. I no longer went out into my own backyard or to the beach. The struggles of the everyday life of jobs, marriage, family, time with friends and finding a balance of it all seemed to take over. I felt like my memories of her were fading and yet I still wanted to feel connected with her … but perhaps I had forgotten how.
In a very recent conversation with my Dad, I learned that my Mom fought with all she had to live … and this changed the way I saw her death. She wanted to be there for my brother and me, she wanted to experience all the possibilities life presented … with us. Just knowing this piece of the puzzle made me feel so connected to her again and gave me a glimpse of connecting with her differently and seeing myself differently.
She does live on … but now I can see that she lives on not just in the night sky, or a photo by my bed, or the beach or my special family memories …
Now I see that Mom lives on in me.
Each time I bravely share my story, each time I hear someone else share their story, each time I roll up my sleeves to tackle a project just like she taught me to do without even knowing it, each time I reach out to someone to ask for help (yes, still very hard), each time I feel a little less alone, each time I am able to say what I need to say, each time I practice gratitude and self-compassion, each time I keep moving forward …
She is right there.
These are all qualities Mom had within her, this is how she showed up in the world. She (and my Dad) gave me so much … and each time I embrace her gifts and share them through me … Mom lives on.
So much love,
P.S. Thank you so much for reading and being a part of my journey. Do you struggle remembering Mom and see how she lives on in you too? I would love to hear your thoughts and your story about connecting with your Mom … and I invite you to share in the comments below.