I have lived the last 14 years always subconciously aware that I had a life with Mom and a now a life without her. Sometimes all it takes to bring back the heartache of losing her is to hear an old Conway Twitty song (he was her Elvis) or a reference to "Steel Magnolias" (her favorite movie). And then there are times when I watch my son exhibit a trait that he so obviously inherited from her, and joy and pain collide.
When she died on January 30, 1993, I didn't cry until May - Mother's Day to be exact. All of my friends and co-workers went on and on about how strong I was and how well I was handling it. Apparently none of them noticed I was on auto-pilot. The only thing I remember from January 1993 until November 1993 is repeatedly saying, "Mom didn't think it was proper to cry in public." My Mom was about maintaining her dignity at all costs. I can't count the number of people who referred to her as a "classy lady." When she died, people were surprised. But that was because she worked full time up until Christmas of 1992. She never let on how sick she was. She got up every day and put on her make-up and fixed up her expensive wig and dressed nicely just like she had done every day before the diagnosis. Only those of us in the family knew how little time she had and how badly she suffered for nine months trying to conquer the beast inside her that was determined to take her life. Ovarian cancer wanted to claim another victim.
My life with Mom was good. And it was bad. We had a love/hate relationship - probably like a lot of mothers and daughters. But through it all I still considered her my best friend. My Dad said the reason we loved each other so deeply was because we were just alike. He also said that is the reason we hated each other so much some times. All my life people have told me that in looks I am a replica of my Dad but that in personality I am my Mother made over. I always tried to be a good daughter to her but sometimes my greed or selfishness made me do things that a good daughter would never do. The fact that I became a better daughter to her after she died is not something that makes me happy. I only hope she knows that after she worked so hard to raise good children to be good people, I really did turn out okay after all.
The bad thing about my life with Mom was that I could never remove myself from her completely. Even when I moved 2 hours away from home to go to college, it took me almost a year to get to the point where I didn't go home every weekend. And that was only after she told me not to. She had things she wanted to do and they didn't include me coming home on Friday night and staying until Sunday. After college I moved home for about 3 months until I got my own apartment and started the task of becoming an adult with a full-time job and all the various and sundry bills that come with adulthood. I don't know if it was her controlling nature (yes, I got that from her) or if it was my inability to stand on my own two feet financially but I was still somewhat attached to Mom at the hip. Any decisions I made without her input were almost guaranteed to have disastrous results: what job to get, where to live, who to date, managing my budget, etc. Without her keeping her finger on the steering wheel of my life, I was fast headed down a dead end road. I wish I could explain why I couldn't make better decisions for myself.
Then she died. "And with the hub of our family wheel missing, the rest of us were just the scattered spokes." - - Anna Quindlan
Like I said before, January 1993 to November 1993 is a blur. I don't remember a whole lot. I remember the breakdown on Mother's Day. I was sitting in my singles' Sunday School class and the teacher asked everyone to go around the room and tell what they loved best about their Moms. No one even looked my way. Why would they? Maybe because I had been "handling it all so well since January, look what a trouper!" Then it came my turn. I let 'em have it. I didn't even see it coming. It's like when you know you are about to pass out so you go down on your knees to break the fall. All I remember coming out of my mouth was, "I can't do this." The next thing I remember I was in the ladies' restroom with a couple of my friends. I hadn't passed out but my mind had definitely left me for a few minutes. Since that time I have always felt that God wraps us up in a big soft thick blanket of shock until He knows we are ready to deal with the actual loss. Because bare naked grief will tear a sane person to shreds.
That next week I moved in with my older brother. He was so angry at the time (still is) that he was outwardly more constructive than I. Divine intervention came in the form of a telephone call from a college friend in June. She had just finished up her nursing education and had gotten her dream job at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. She knew what was going on with me and she had witnessed firsthand the all-consuming relationship that I had with my Mom. She was the first to tell me to get out of my hometown. "There's nothing there for you. No decent jobs, no decent men. Nothing. Come down here with me and find a job that will pay you three times what you are making now. You NEED to do this!" So I did.
I went to work for a prestigious Dallas law firm, made an incredible amount of money at the time given my limited experience, moved into a great condo, made friends with some really good people. For the first time in my life I was doing well and making good decisions on my own. Why couldn't I have done this when Mom was still here?
I've gone on to get married to a wonderful guy and have a beautiful child. A grandchild that she would have been absolutely crazy about. Lots of milestones have happened in my life since 1993 and every time there has been a moment when I wish she could have been here to share it with me. For me to show off my accomplishments to her and for her to beam with pride.
The line in my life is a bittersweet one to me. Without it I would probably still be in my hometown living close to my parents and being one of those adult kids who never quite grows up to amount to much. Because without it she would still be here. Fourteen years later I still remember what it felt like to hug her and what her perfume smelled like. I remember the sound of her voice. They say time steals those things away. But it doesn't. We can keep them if we choose to. Instead of locking them away in a memory box that is too painful to open and go through.
With the line in my life I was given an opportunity for a wonderful life that I wouldn't trade. With it I found my soul mate and have a love that not everyone is blessed enough to receive. With it I have a 2.5 year old little boy who tells me that he talks to his "Gomey" up there and he wants to go see her. My heart and faith tell me that Mom has not left us and I will see her again some day, but not yet. Only her grandson gets to see her for now.
Happy Birthday, Momma. I miss you terribly. Love - Daughter
Always remember I'm by your side, such a shame that you had to go. So much more that I'd like to know, so many things you forgot to show me how to do.
When times are hard I forget you're gone, I go to call you before it dawns on me that you won't be there now. But I still have these words that you gave me:
Always remember I'm by your side, always remember I'm by your side.
I got two kids of my own now, they grow up so fast. And how I wish you did not miss that part of who I am. But I keep doing all that I can do and I will smile when they ask about you. And I will sing to them every day with the voice and the words that you used to say will change the world one day.
And while they grow up you will show up in the things they do and say, like a reflection to a connection of who they'll be some day. They will learn to get their wings and fly through the changes life will bring. So on and it will go on and you will go on.
And they will sing with the voice that you gave them: Always remember I'm by your side. Always remember I'm by your side.
I'm by your side.
-- "Always Remember" by Train