Remembering

April is a difficult month. It feels like one long breath caught between what has been and what should have been. It marks the anniversary of my mother’s death, 29 years ago, new mom of two young girls, and only 24 herself. At a time when she should have been cradled by the promise of a long and beautiful life, she struggled with a deadly illness and to say her goodbyes. Instead of hope and excitement for what was to come, she suffered with intense fear and anguish over what was inevitable. Instead of choosing bright Easter dresses for her young girls, she was extracting a promise from her husband to take care of “her girls.”

Her girls, her husband, her whole life would move forward without her. Her spirit snuffed out before she had a proper chance to live.

Only 24.

It’s never easy to remember. So much of who I am and who I am not is laced with this history . As each year passes and I grow years older than she did, I struggle. I struggle with my own loss and sadness and with a growing and deep awareness that I will never know who she was.

In our youth, we believe ourselves invincible, that we will be and achieve and do all the things we dream of. I have my own twisted experience with this. As a younger woman, I believed that my day would come, that I would somehow know her. I’ve never faced her death and what it really means, the loss of her as permanent. I think that’s what happens when experience the death of your most primal connection at 4 years old. The reality is quickly, succinctly swept away by a higher power. It’s impossible to deal with the emotions surrounding such an experience as such an emotionally immature age. So your spirit takes over, covers it up, with years and layers of diversions.

But it never goes away. It’s there. Deep, profound, heavy and dark. All of it. It’s only hidden.

This year is particularly hard. My sons have the remarkable distinction of having been born on my birthday and my sister’s birthday. Even more stunning is that their age gap is exactly the same as ours, just shy of three years.

This year, this month, they are the exact age we were when my mother died: almost 5, and just 2. Little. Vulnerable. So young. Not even completely out of diapers.

Yesterday afternoon we were just hanging out. The two of them were being the boisterous boys they always are, bouncing on my bed as I tried and failed to read. I chose instead to stop and watch them, squeal and giggle. I soaked up their sheer intensity, delighted in the life that fills them up and said a silent prayer of thanks for my own.

I asked my husband. “How do you suppose it would feel to know that you would be raising them alone?”

He refused to answer the question. He preferred to change the subject. I don’t really blame him. To him, it’s inconceivable. To me it is too.

And yet I think about it more and more these days, probably because I knew we approaching this significant anniversary. I feel such pain for both of us. For her, and what she has missed, and for me, for what I have missed.

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35 thoughts on “Remembering

  1. Christine, there is so much here that goes beyond your beautiful writing. The serendipity of shared birthdays. Miracles above, watching out for you all? The pain, the sorrow, the questions, the hope. Loss is so permanent, yet so fleeting in the time we can give it. How can we dwell on what we don’t have when there is so much in front of us? I can see you on your bed, book on your lap, as the pillows bounce up and down around you in response to your boys’ joy. They are lucky to have you. You are lucky to know their luck. Big hug to you today.

  2. Lindsey says:

    What a shimmeringly beautiful meditation on what is and what will never be. Of course, as I’m sure you have been told over and over again, your mother lives on in you and your sister, but I would never pretend to imagine even a fraction of what it is you experienced.
    I cannot believe that about your sons and their birthdays. Incredible. Blessings all around, circles completed, echoes continuing on and on and on.
    xox

  3. SarahBee says:

    What a beautifully written post of such a heartwrenching tale. I’m so sorry.
    Lifting you up in prayer and thoughts as you struggle through this month.

  4. Danielle C says:

    I was ten when my mom died at 38years old. This year I will turn 38. My sis is fighting cancer again. Outside of my house she is all I have.
    I know all too well of the pain of missing moms. She is missing from my kids lives.
    I am proud of you for writing about it. Writing is how I breathe through the grief. Also it helps knowing that others know your heartache too.
    24 or 38 is too young.
    Hugs to you!

  5. I have nothing profound to add. I can only say my heart ached with you as i read this beautifully articulated grief. I’m so sorry for your loss–and for the way the loss compounds as you add another year of not knowing her…

  6. Justine says:

    I know this cannot be easy and I can’t pretend to know what it feels like, but I have to admit, I started my blog for this same reason. I wanted my girl to know me – should anything happen to me, I wanted her to at least be able to see/read for herself the kind of person her mom was so she is able to at least take that with her. I know it will never be enough, but it’s at least something.

    There are some of us who wish desperately to know who our parents were, and then there are those of us who wish we didn’t. It’s a funny world indeed. Thank you for sharing this part of you – your writing is gorgeous, but more than that, your yearning is palpable. And my heart breaks for you. Big hugs to you my friend.

  7. ayala says:

    Christine, my heart goes out to you. What a heartbreak . Just today I was crying because it’s Passover and I feel so alone without my parents. They were the glue of the family. I can’t even imagine your loss at such a young age always wondering about what should have been. I am so sorry!

  8. ShannonL says:

    This one brought me to tears, my friend. It’s unfathomable, really. What your mom had to face at such a young age, what your dad had to go through and step up to be a single parent. And little you, who understood that she was gone but not fully understanding why. It’s heartbreaking.

    My husband is like Jay. He doesn’t even want to think about the unthinkable. It’s scary and uncomfortable, but no one ever knows what could happen.

    Hugs to you. Big hugs. XO

  9. Harriet says:

    Wow. Do you think that this is the root cause of your depression? Or is it just a realization? You reminded me that I have never written about or acknowledged in any ritual kind of way the fact that my sister died when I was 19 (she was 12).

  10. I’m sorry you lost your mom. I’m sorry for your mom, your father, your sister, and you. It’s just sad all round.

  11. Oh, I felt every word of this. Achingly honest, and true, and full of loss.

  12. Amber says:

    Oh, sweetie. So much hard, here. So much. I’m crying, and I have no good words, but I have to say something, so.

  13. caroline kealey says:

    Christine – My heart goes out to you. I was just writing today about the loss of my mother, which I still feel acutely, every day even nine years later.

    Your writing is a wonderful tribute to the special woman she must have been to have a daughter like you. Thank you for having the courage to share your story and your grief. You inspire me.

    Caroline

  14. Christine, I am in tears. I don’t even know what to say. Just that I can feel that you miss your mom and I believe that she misses you too. ((you))

  15. Oh lady, I’m sorry.

    Peace to you…

    I wish I could find more words.

  16. I am struck so deeply by the shared birthdays … that can’t just be coincidence … could it be a special message from your mom that her spirit is with you? thinking of you as you face this anniversary. **hugs**

  17. Julia says:

    As a Motherless Daughter I have struggled with all of this too, but from a slightly different perspective. I was 22 when my mom died leaving my 8 year old brother alone but for me. I now look at my kids one of who is 8 years old and am struck anew by the tragedy of the whole thing. As I get closer to the age where my Mom died I struggle with possibility of not growing older then she did and leaving my little ones too.

    Have you read the books Motherless Daughter?

  18. Chantal says:

    Hugs Christine. When I think about my Dad and all that he has missed I try to comfort myself by thinking that where he is he knows everything. He knows how everything turns out. He knows all my kids, all my life. And he is happy. Because where he is there is only happiness. That’s how I get through it. I feel sad for myself for missing him, for my boys who never met him. But I hope he is happy. And when I go where he is, I’ll be happy too. 😦 hugs.

  19. Wow, Christine. Sending you hugs. I can’t imagine it, but I was raised with the idea that I was incredibly lucky to have a mom. My mom had a brain aneurysm at 31 (when I was 18 months). She wasn’t supposed to live. She barely did. She recovered, learned to walk again. I grew up knowing I was lucky to have a mom.

    When my own kids were around 1, I had a horrible time. I think I felt like I too might die. These anniversaries of sorts, we feel them in our souls. I’m convinced.

    Thanks for sharing this. You are propelling yourself forward. I feel that in my soul.

    • Christine says:

      And thank you for sharing! Motherhood is so rife with intense emotion. I’m so glad your mom survived, and persevered through her own struggles. I’m sure you kept her going!

  20. Christa says:

    Only 24… And still so missed all these years later. What a tribute to the woman she was, and you are, Christine.

    Incredible synchronicity. And beautifully expressed.

    Love to you.

  21. You touch us deeply with your words, Christine. “Who I am and who I am not” – yes, we feel it with you.

    I hope there is some measure of catharsis in saying the words, and perhaps satisfaction in knowing that others will find recognition in your beautiful and honest writing.

  22. Wow, Christine. This must be so hard. Sometimes, I let my mind go to these dark places–how would I continue on if I lost someone in my family, or how would my kids continue if they lost me? I know that they would manage and be resilient as kids are. But whenever I think about it, I know how much pain they’d go through without me. Their love–a mother and child’s love–is so perfectly pure. I’ll be thinking of you and your mother this month.

  23. Alicia says:

    This brought tears to my eyes. You are such an amazing writer.
    My Mom lost her Mom shortly after her wedding day and I’ve always wondered how she started her family without the advice and support that I benefitted from, from her. But for you, at such a young age…

  24. Cathy says:

    I lost my mother when I was 31. There are so many things she missed out on, and I’ve missed from her. My children will have no grandmother and, in fact, my youngest was not born and will never know her. This is very haunting and sad.

  25. Belinda says:

    A poignant post, Christine. I’m in awe of the strength you display in your vulnerability as a woman, mother and daughter.

  26. Melissa says:

    I’m struck by how much strength introspection requires, and how much you display. Hoping these words–yours and ours both–help buoy you as you continue on your journey.

  27. Love to you, Christine.

  28. Charlotte says:

    I am so sorry. I have the same spacing of children as my mother and often think about what her life must have been like when she was in my place. How hard to think instead about what she must have missed. I hope you survive this especially difficult month!

  29. Finola says:

    I cannot even imagine being a mother and knowing I would not be there to raise my young children. Simply heartbreaking. Hugs to you and your boys.

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