Tuesday, June 7, 2011

10 years

“My mother died when I was nineteen. For a long time, it was all you needed to know about me, a kind of vest-pocket description of my emotional complexion: ‘Meet you in the lobby in ten minutes — I have long brown hair, am on the short side, have on a red coat, and my mother died when I was nineteen.’ ” – Anna Quindlen

When I first read that quote by Anna Quindlen and the essay from which it originates, I felt like someone was reading my mind.  My mother died when I was 22.  Ten years ago today.  And in some ways, it feels like I’ve lived a lifetime without her.  In other ways, she is very much alive and active in my memories.  The way I’ve progressed over the last ten years, I think, is that I no longer wear my loss on my sleeve. 
It took a long time for that, though.  If you knew my mother, you understand what a sense of pride I had in being her daughter.  And what a sense of injustice I felt when she was taken from me.  It was the loss of my innocence – my belief that good things happened to good people because they were good.  That you could control your fate by living a life that would make your mother proud.  Things don’t happen in a straight line like that.  And in fact, I think I’ve made her prouder since her death than before.
Sometimes I do grief really well.  I hold my head up high and honor her memory.  I lend an ear and a shoulder and some words of wisdom to others who are walking the journey.  I transform my pain into energy and service.  Other times, though, I’m very self-focused and resentful.   I mourn the fact that she never met my husband, whom she would have adored.  And why didn’t I get to have her at my bridal shower, or with me pouring over magazines as I was planning my dream wedding?  She missed the transformation of our family as my niece and then nephews were born – would she recognize us now?  And where the hell was she as I’ve been struggling with infertility for two years?  Why couldn’t I have her to hold my hand, cry with me, pray for me, struggle with me and love me through the suffering?
And now I journey into this great unknown – motherhood – without her.  There is no one I need more now than her.  She was the expert.  She was the mom I want to be.  Now I have only who I am inside to guide me in remembering what that means.  When I think about making her proud, I think this is the final test.  First, feel your grief and embrace your gifts.  Second, use your pain and suffering to inform how you treat others and how you are in the world.  Last, become a mother, share her love and pass on her legacy. 
In some ways I think it will be impossible not to become my mother.  To raise my children with the same sensibility, and to make the same mistakes.  At other times, though, I can clearly picture myself up late at night, holding my little baby, and crying out to her in a moment of confusion and desperation, “Where are you?  I need you!”

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7 thoughts on “10 years

  1. eltee

    I forgot that this was something we shared, Lisa. I have found that the mothering lessons come like breathing. It is the friendship that I imagine would have come as I got older that I miss so much right now. As a side note, on All Souls Day (after Halloween) we tell stories about the important people in our lives who have died. That has become a very special family ritual – a way to teach our kids about our mothers and keep their lives real to them.

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  2. Megan

    Being a mom is all about learning. And you had the most amazing teacher – you will make your mother incredibly proud. You already have! And on those nights when you’re crying AND the baby’s crying, that’s why God invented friends. And wine 🙂

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  3. Joni Quinn

    I’m trying not to cry at work…your mom’s death will always be one of the worst memories of my life. Just like you remember where you were on 9/11, I remember exactly whare I was when I got the phone call at work from my sister Jill telling me that my cousin Jean had died. The shock was palpable. Being somewhat of a logistic type person, you know, only able to grasp a concept if it makes sense, I immediately started looking up the cause of her death and asking every doctor in the hospital where I worked if they had ever heard of this before. No matter what they told me, it still will never make sense to me. I can only imagine how all of you who were so used to having her in your lives every day must have felt. Never doubt that your mom is not a part of your lives everyday still. I’m sure you can still feel her presence and love. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to reading about your wonderful baby-to-be progress!

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  4. Chris Engler

    The shape of my daughter’s eyes, her constant talking even when she has nothing to say, and her sentimentality for everything, are all from my dad. My dad is gone, but she is here with those things from him.
    You will see your mom in your baby, especially as he or she grows up and grandma’s nose is popping out of his face, or the sound of her sneeze, that for an instant, makes you feel that old familiar comfort of home before you realize who it was; your baby’s growing up, and now that’s your daughter’s sound. You will be there to tell them the story of your mom that lives in them.
    And as you mother, you may feel her in you as I feel my dad in me.

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  5. myjourneythruinfertility

    what a beautiful post and way to honor your mother. I know you will use what she taught you and her love to help you become a wonderful mom!

    I have never seen that quote from anna quindlen before- wow that really is the truth. My dad died when I was 17 and it took me almost ten years to move past his death being a “vest-pocket description of my emotional complexion.” I can proudly say I have moved beyond it, but I wonder some days if infertility has taken its place?

    Hope you are having a great day!

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  6. Kara

    Hi Lisa,

    Karebear here :-). I just want to thank you for sharing your blog with others. I can relate so deeply to what you have written here, although it has only been a little over two years since I lost my father. Still he was not there to walk me down the aisle and he will not be here to see my precious angels. It does not seem fair at all. I can especially relate to what you wrote about the loss of innocence. Suddenely the world seems much more evil w/o my dad, your mom. When that person that you think is invincable, that protects you from everything, cannot protect themselves. Even though death is a natural part of life, why does it seem so innatural? Anyway, although I am sorry you lost your mom so young, I find comfort in knowing you understand something most people don’t. My friends all still have their parents and this is hard for me to discuss with them. If you see my blog, the few entries I have are about my dad, but now that I am preggo, I will be starting a new one for the babies. Thanks again. Take care! You will be a wonderful mother!

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