From a very early age I was aware my years with my mom were fleeting – probably because I was born when she was 42 and my brothers were already married with kids. I knew people died – great aunts and uncles and all of that – and I knew my mother was closer than my brothers.
I devoted many, many, many hours of thought to losing my mom – even as a young child. It was always in my mind – from the time I was conscious of having thought. I had a sense I should always be “preparing” somehow. When my father died when I was 11, I realized one can never be prepared, and decided one should spend time contemplating life without that person. When my only grandparent died two years later, I knew it didn’t matter how it happened, there was no preparation one could do. If it was slow like my father, or sudden like my grandmother, it was still a sucker punch in the gut that left you gasping for breath. I knew when the time for my mother came that I would be incapacitated with grief.
So, my focus changed from “typical” preparation, to my own brand of it. I made it a point to soak up every single little bit of life with her. When I would visit, I would lie in bed in the mornings and listen to the sounds of her house – her dishes clanking in the sink, taking Avon orders on the phone, the front door banging as she went to the outdoors she loved – just little things that were the sounds of life in her house. I would lie still and close my eyes and be careful to commit every detail to memory – my deep memory. I knew those days were fleeting, when I could be in my mother’s house, and be surrounded by that. And sweet as they are, the memories are all I have now. I will never again be able to lie in my mother’s house, or hear her voice in the distance or smell the food she was preparing.
Soak up every moment with your loved ones. If you have some “issue” with someone you love – fix it. The test I ask people to use is if you found out tomorrow that your mother/father/sister/uncle/whatever were going to die the next day, would you call them/go see them/make your peace. If the answer is yes, then don’t wait. Do it today. None of us ever know when death is coming with no warning. Few of us have the privilege of knowing in advance when our loved ones will depart this world.
My mother’s birthday is Sunday and for reasons I don’t understand, it’s always one of the hardest days of the year for me. We were never big birthday people but that the first year I really thought I would not survive that day. I sobbed for hours, missing Mama, and knowing that I hadn’t even reached the anniversary, which was to come soon after. Of course, I did survive, as others before me have and ones after me will too.
But if you’re fortunate to still have your parents in this life with you, take note of it – enjoy it – relish it. Forgive traumas and transgressions. Forgo reliving the bad parts of the past. Find joy.
When people rant about their parents, I wish I could show them the perspective of no longer being someone’s child. I walk through the world alone. I am no one’s daughter.