St. Patrick’s Day would have been my mother’s 62nd birthday. She passed away in 2007.
Losing a mother is never easy, and losing one so early in life is especially hard. I have found that the loss of a parent never gets easier regardless of how much time passes, but I have also discovered that the ways in which the loss impact me changes over time.
When Mom died, I was consumed with my own personal grief. I did not have a mother anymore, and in some ways, I felt more alone in this world than I had ever felt before. The person who brought me into this world and raised me was no more, and it felt as if I had lost a piece of myself in the process.
It’s a feeling that never goes away, but as time passes, new emotions get layered atop this original sadness, complicated things and adding weight to the loss.
First came the realization that the loss of my mother also meant the loss of my past. The person with the most intimate knowledge of my childhood was gone. The untold stories, forgotten memories and the most complete knowledge of my personal history and the history of our family was gone forever. The computer that was my mother’s brain was no longer operating, and all of the precious data that it possessed could never be recovered.
When my wife gave birth to our daughter, this sense of loss became even more profound. As my daughter rolled over for the first time, started sucking her thumb and took her first steps, I wondered about my own infancy and toddlerhood.
Did I also reject the pacifier in favor of my thumb at an early age?
What kind of sleeper was I as an infant?
Was I as enamored with other babies as my daughter is?
Where did I take my first steps?
What was my favorite toy?
These are things I never thought to ask before I had a child of my own, and now I will never know the answers to these questions.
This realization led me to begin writing to my child everyday, and ever since we learned that Elysha was pregnant, I have not missed a day. I was and remain determined to preserve the memories of my daughter’s childhood forever.
The birth of my daughter also brought about a new sense of loss: One for my daughter. As I watch Clara play with my wife’s parents, I am constantly aware of the time that she never had with my mother. For Clara, my mother will always be one of those people who died before she was born. Mom will be little more than an intangible assortment of stories that Clara will learn but never truly know. My mother would have loved Clara with all of her heart, but that love is something my daughter will never have the chance to experience.
Recently, an even deep sense of loss has consumed me. It is the keen and persistent awareness of all that my mother has missed out on since her death. While my personal sense of loss remains, this newfound sadness over all that my mother will never see or hear or touch has become almost overwhelming. It towers over my personal grief, casting an ever-growing shadow in my life.
My mother never met my daughter. She did not have the opportunity to sit nervously in a hospital waiting room, anxiously awaiting the news of the delivery. My mother-in-law says that the moment I emerged in that hospital corridor and announced that it was a girl was one of the most unforgettable moments of her life. My mother never had the chance to experience that joy. She has missed out on all the joy that Clara has brought us over the last three years, and soon, she will miss out on our newest bundle of joy as well.
Nor did my mother ever have the chance to read any of my novels. She never knew that her son would one day become a published author. In just five short years, she has missed out on so much, and every day that list grows longer. There is so much more to come that my mother will never know.
They say that death is hardest on the living, but I do not agree. The living remain behind. The living possess the promise of future happiness. They have the opportunity to learn more of the story.
The living get to see how things turn out.
No, death is hardest on the dead.
Not a day goes by when I am not saddened over the loss of my mother, but this sadness now pales in comparison to the loss that my mother experienced on the day that she died. The memories of the last five years pile atop her grave, forever lost to her, and this awareness breaks my heart more than I could have ever imagined.
The death of my mother was a sad and terrible moment in my life, and that sadness will remain with me forever, but my mother’s loss is endless and tragic.
It’s immense. It’s heartbreaking.