“You’re not angry you didn’t spend that time with your mother?” a friend asked me over dinner last night.
About six months before my mom died, it was obvious the end was near. In a practical sense, I prepared for my mother’s death. I canceled my study abroad semester in Italy. I acted more responsible in my day-to-day life. In other ways, I didn’t. My mother and I spoke rarely in those last six months. And I only planned a few trips back home. The last thing she ever said to me was, “This isn’t the last time we’ll see each other.” In my denial, I remember thinking, “Of course it isn’t.”
To my friend’s point, I could be angry that my parents didn’t insist I come home. Who knows? Maybe someday I will be angry. However, what I think about it is less important than the fact that I am thinking about it. I have committed to figuring out what my feelings are and how they continue to evolve.
Losing a Mother
When my mother lost her mother, she was 39. I was 9. I remember standing in the dining room seeing her on the phone receiving the news in a patch of full grocery bags. First she asked if I was O.K. I had just lost my Scrabble partner, pudding distributor and close friend. It was my first loss. I didn’t really understand how to respond so I looked to my mom for clues. She looked sad but didn’t cry. I followed suit by sulking over my geography homework.
Everyone’s Story is Special
My mother openly acknowledged her mother wasn’t a great parent, yet she never seemed angry about it. Her mother had reasons: rights at the time for women, social expectations of women, financial limitations. I remember that my mother never held a grudge; at the same time, she didn’t pretend their relationship was something it was not when her mother died.
While my mother losing her mother didn’t elicit the same type of reaction mine did for her, both are authentic. Both should be accepted and embraced. Confronting any profound life experience requires commitment and patience.
It’s been five years since I lost my mother and to some the prospect of thinking that coping part is not over might be too overwhelming. Instead of seeing the enormity of a lifelong commitment as a burden, I like to think of it as an exploration with limitless potential. I look forward to those days when I uncover a new story about my mother or the days when I relive a conversation we had from a new perspective.
How I Cope
I feel incredibly grateful for the time I did have with my mother. I believe that gratitude unto itself brings the same type of love I experienced with her into my life today. For my mother, she didn’t speak about her mother much but every year we went to the cemetery on her mother’s birthday and paid our respects. People are free to agree or disagree with others in life and in grief as long as it’s done with love, acceptance and respect.
Lauren Muscarella 2011