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Our Lives May Grow in Different Directions, Yet Our Roots Remain as One.

August 6, 2010

Turning fifty this year has been great, overall. But a few things about getting older are really bringing me down. A good example— I am running out of relatives at an alarming rate.

Last week, my third last living aunt passed away, and although in her honour I would love to write something hilariously funny (Auntie Joyce was hilariously funny) I also feel intensely compelled to write something thoughtful—perhaps even meaningful—for her daughter, my cousin Cory.

These are the times when I am sorry that most of my relatives live clear on the other side of the country. If Cory lived closer, I would invite her to come and spend the day with me. I would feed her, pour her a glass of wine, and create a space for her to start telling her story, her story of losing her mother. I would try mostly just to listen, having had the opportunity to tell my own dying mother story so many, many times already over the past ten years. At moments, I am sure that I would contribute a piece of my narrative just for support, or as confirmation of how she is feeling, what she is thinking. Not that I claim to know all of it, but…

I want to tell you, Cory – I have been where you are. I know some of what you are feeling, and most of what you are trying not to feel.

I know that in these early days you are probably swinging between paralysis and hyper-activity. You will find yourself having some difficulty getting through the motions of daily life. Don’t forget to eat, to drink lots of water. Brush your teeth. Put clothes on if you leave the house and remember that deodorant is a good idea in August. Staying up all night listening to the music that sears through your soul and makes you feel, feel, feel the feelings – is okay for a few days. But please don’t do it every night for a week. You need to rest, to recover, to heal. You need to be as gentle with yourself as you would be with your mother if she was going through what you are going through right now. You may need to tell Rod (your husband, Cory) that although he mourns too, he should probably take charge of your lives for a while. Be firm when you tell him that there is not a hope in hell of you making any decisions about much of anything this week, month, summer, year. Take all the time you need. And write this down:

“I may need a lot of time to get over this because I really, really, really liked my mother a lot.”

Your two beautiful daughters will be watching you closely (as mine were), looking for a sign every once in a while that tells them there is at least some hope that you will eventually be okay. You might not believe that, but fake it once in a while, just to give them a break. Do something normal. Yell at one of them for something ridiculously unimportant. You know, like we do. If you are up to it, give them each a hug and say “honey one day soon we will talk about your grief, your pain. But for now, It’s pretty much all about mine.” They will giggle. Eventually, but not right away, you will want to consider that they too have been through hell losing their Nannie and watching you go through hell, but you likely can’t deal with that today. For now, just tell them to brush their teeth, wear deodorant, and for Christ’s sake turn their goddamned music down after midnight. The taking God’s name in vain part is optional, but in our family, as you know, the option is almost always taken.

Cory, the one thing that has sustained me through a decade of mother missing, has been that I always speak to my mom. In my head, that is. I talk to her about all of the good things that are going on, and the bad or scary stuff. And because I knew my mom so very well, as you did yours, I can always hear what she would say, if she were here. You will hear your mom too, Cory. Just listen to your heart. Like her favourite music, photos of your mother will bring you both comfort and agony right now. Speak to your pictures of your mom and tell her what you are going through. Please, do let somebody know if you really believe she is talking back to you. That would be a bit much.

Cousin, I wish that I could tell you ten years from now that all of what you are going through will be behind you. Much of it will, but the longing for one more day, one more talk over tea, one more argument even, might never fully go away. I am fifty years old and there have been so many moments over the past ten years when I have whispered to myself or even said out loud, I want my mommy. Your aunt (my mother) told me, speaking about the loss of her own mother, that daughters never get over losing their mother, but they do get through it. I did. You will. Our daughters will.

And after all is said and done, we really are the fortunate ones. We had amazing mothers. And we have amazing daughters. The mother-daughter bond still exists, for us.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Arlene permalink
    August 7, 2010 4:25 am

    Wow…that was beautiful. Having recently lost my father, reading this made me look once again at my grief around losing him. Although I miss him dearly, and also talk to him (in my head, or out loud if I’m alone), I can FEEL that losing my mother would be so much more painful for me as a daughter. In fact, it has been a fear I think has been there my whole entire life. Since dad left us, I have spent sooo much time with her. Getting to know her as woman to woman, but still mother/daughter this past year has been very important to me. I am grateful to be getting to know her as the grown woman I am.

    Your cousin is very lucky to be related to the kind, thoughtful and wise woman that you are.

  2. Teri permalink
    August 8, 2010 11:25 pm

    The words you spoke were incredible. I lost my Mom 15 years ago and I talk to her every single day.

    • August 9, 2010 12:41 am

      Thank you, Teri. Isn’t it something to know that so many other women absolutely relate to what we are talking about it. It provides some comfort, for me anyway.

  3. Sharon Thomson permalink
    August 12, 2010 3:00 pm

    Dawn, as I read your words, I heard you speaking as if you were right here sitting accross from me. The comfort and caring reaches accross the miles with a warm hug. I am sure your cousin will find comfort in your caring words to her.
    I may not be at the same mile stones as you, but I too feel what you have described here. Thoughts of my own mothers’ passing visiting me more and more these days. Thank you for sharing so much, it helps to know we are not alone.
    PS – Your way with words never ceases to amaze me. You are a remarkable woman.

  4. August 18, 2010 4:55 am

    goodness Dawn, that is quite something. thank you. as you know, I am quite very totally close to my Mum. And she is quite the amazing Mum to me! In the last few years I have thought…not often, but certainly more than once, about her dying. She’s 74 for goodness sake! Its gonna happen. God help me when it does. Thanks for sharing some of your story – one I have never heard before – to pass on your experience and wisdom with Mummy missing… I love you.

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