On the eighth anniversary of her death, a letter to my mother.
Lately when I think of you it is on the occasions where I feel lost. I miss you. I like to believe that in moments when I need your guidance that I’m able to summon up past experiences and take a best guess at the advice you’d offer. But still I miss you.
I am struggling to be the best mother that I can be to the two tiny, bright and inquisitive beings who make my heart burst with love, push me to the edge of my patience and move me ever forward. Last month I kicked Liam out of the house (only onto the porch for a few minutes, no one needs to call Child Protective Services). It was before 6am and he was pushing all of my buttons. I heard myself saying things that I recall you saying and remember my childhood self thinking “I am never going to say that to my kids.” Yet, here I am. In that moment, when Liam, Sylvie and I were all crying, I thought of you. You gave me the tools to deal with this better. Liam and I talked calmly and agreed to begin the day again. We got back in our beds and started over. Then I called Dad. And later I called Nick. Thank you for teaching me to ask for help when I need it and the necessity of people who readily offer advice and make me laugh during tough child-rearing moments. I can only hope that Liam and Sylvie grow up and hold each other, Brendon and me in the same high regard that I hold you, Dad and Nick.
Thank you for taking the time to explain things to me. You had so many rules and expectations. Some of them I didn’t agree with, but I always understood why you thought they were important. And, just so you know I still cringe when anyone uses the word “busted,” never let my bra straps show, always hang up my towel after a shower and make my bed (almost) everyday.
You set the precedent for how I want people to treat me. You were the person, in my mind, who always pushed me the hardest and challenged me to work smarter and be better. And to do all of that while dressed appropriately with my hair brushed and a smile on my face. You left little room for failure but infinite room for growth. And in the environment you created for me, I flourished. No one can accuse me of not working hard, though I might not always brush my hair these days. As an adult I crave the company of people who push me to grow, who challenge what I believe and are not afraid to disagree with me. I’ve realized that I am even happier in an environment where there is a little more room to fail. In my failures I have learned the most important lessons. I was afraid to admit this for a long time. I thought it was something that might not make you proud. In the letter you wrote me when you survived cancer the first time, you said you had no regrets. I internalized this, in 2003, as you never making any mistakes. In my eyes you did almost everything perfectly. Now I realize that you did make mistakes, but you learned from them. So they were not mistakes at all. I am trying to find hope and opportunity in my floundering.
I know you would have supported my health choices over the last year. I am grateful that you set an excellent example of medical self-advocacy, and taught me the need for doing research and staying informed. I have never felt so loved or so blessed as I have during the last seven months. Thank you for making such wonderful friends and teaching me the importance of the company I keep. The collective “our” friends, a small army of them, took the most wonderful care of me and my family. They were here for me when you couldn’t be. I have a debt of gratitude that will surely take me a lifetime to repay. A long lifetime. I am going to keep my body healthy in honor of your memory. I will see the things that you missed and experience the joy my life brings in your absence, while always saddened that you are not here to see and experience these things too.
I’ve dreamed about you often over the past year. In my dreams you are young and beautiful and laughing. I can vividly hear your laugh now and it warms my heart. As the winter months approach I miss you more than ever. Celebrating holidays without you simply doesn’t feel like celebrating. I miss our house full of company, preparing food together, shopping for gifts and wrapping on the dining room table, teasing you while you methodically decorated the “grown-up” Christmas tree, the four of us eating sticky buns and grapefruit on Christmas morning while we opened our stockings… the list is truly endless. For the past eight years I have been hiding from holidays, rejecting traditions and being a scrooge. But you taught me to be better than that. This year I will be more celebratory. I want my children to have the delightful holiday memories of their own. And honestly, I have so much to celebrate.
The kids are just starting to understand family- who their relatives are and how the are related to one another. They ask me often about my mommy and I always tell them how much you would have loved them, but often my heavy heart stops my storytelling short. No more. Today I will start telling them about you because they would have loved you too. You were very easy to love.
Again, thank you. For everything.
your loving daughter