I am a mother who lost her mother. Blessed as I am with a caring mother in law and more than a few wise and loving older lady friends, I am still stepping daily around the hole that my mother's early demise at 64 years old left in my life. I should be leaving my kids with her while I go off to run errands. She should be helping with their baths when I have a migraine. They should be creating fabulously tacky Christmas cards for her. I feel my mother's absence at strange times -- not just the top five holidays and anniversaries and such, but at breathsnatching moments like seeing a woman with an obvious chemo-necessitated bandana that looks like the one my mom wore, or a young mom with the same kind of shining green eyes that my mom had.
On the other hand, I also have her with me in ways that I didn't a few years ago. I feel her with me at comical times, like when I trip up the stairs because I'm carrying too many things with me. This is something she would do, and did many times. She was notorious for wrecking things around the house in her attempts to mend, fix, or clean them. Bleach accidents, broken and discolored clothing, furniture, and badly stitched stuffed animals lay in her trail. I am that stay at home mom, too. I'm not very good at being a domestic, truth be told. I can't cook very well. I have a lot of trouble keeping up with the cleaning and laundry. I don't care about decorating. I don't care about drawer pulls, curtains, rugs, throw pillows, plants, and scrapbooking. I care about picture frames, because they hold pictures of religious icons, my kids, my husband, and my mother.
When I need advice about how to parent, I end up wildly trying to recollect the last person I asked for such advice, so I don't bother that person twice in a row. Usually I will ask someone I don't know very well at all. It's easier for me than getting intimate. If someone starts to act maternal to me, I get antsy. I have a mother. You can't see her, but I still have one.
But when situations arise like my daughter getting teased on the playground, or how to deal with my son's speech issues, or how much time for myself is the bare minimum allowable to make people stop telling me to go get my nails done (which is disgusting to me) or go have a wild girls' night out (which if I do not do they SWEAR will ironically make me a WORSE mother) I tend to go to the Internet. It's not at all motherly. You can't hug the Internet. You can (((hug))) a Facebook friend, and I have many times. I have looked to online friends for very personal advice, and they are people whom I have never met and likely never will. Because it's open season on everyone once you lose your mother. My mother, as I learned in Catholic grief counseling, filled three roles: mother, best friend, and primary identifier. In other words, I derived much of my identity from my mother's opinion of me, past interactions with me, advice to me, relationship with me, and daily (sometimes up to ten per day) talks with me. The way she saw me and made me feel was, I thought, me. Turns out that after she was gone, I had some trouble remembering all the details, and sorting through which ones were actually true or not.
My therapist told me I would have to learn how to individuate from my mother in tandem with recovering from her death and coping with the PTSD from watching her decimated by her illnesses. The therapist told me to expect some surprises. So far there have been a few. I learned that I am not as confident as I was when my mother was alive. I was really feeding off of her for my self-assuredness. I have also become a lot less interested in my looks. I have not really changed socially. I would still give an extemporaneous speech in front of a thousand people without getting nervous, and I would still rather not let anyone get too close to my heart. I see my mother's life now from a different perspective. What a lonely girl she was, an only child, in a strange family situation, married at nineteen, divorced fifteen years later, remarried, never really spiritually at home anywhere, but possessing of a fierce devotion to Jesus. My mom feels like a friend to me now. In an analogy that maybe no one else can relate to, I don't know . . . I feel about her the way I do about some of my special saints, like St. Benedict and St. Rita of Cascia, St. Dymphna and St. Therese or St. Timothy. There is a connection, a thin invisible cord binding us to each other. But because of a shared heart, a shared yearning to be closer to Heaven, we are more REAL to each other than two sitting beside each other on the couch at home.
But the saints are not here, and my mother is not here. I am soldiering on, trying to be half the mother she was with twice the money and twice the education. She set the bar high. My daughter adores me, and I don't deserve it. When she tells me, "You're the best Mommy in the world," I correct her, "No, that was Nanny."
And then there's Mary, and thank you God for Her. She has helped me to realize that Heaven is SO DEFINITELY not about reuniting with our long lost loved ones. It's not about life extension. It's about the Fiat. It's about saying yes to the groom. It's about the honeymoon with Jesus that's going to last forever and ever Amen. Before the Sacraments and my therapy and the gutting pain of reliving my traumas in order to find my triggers, I probably would have said the greatest desire on my heart was to see my mother again. Now that is no longer so. I have my mother with me. And she's well attended to; I am confident in that because I know God is perfect and so wherever and however she is, is also perfect. He can only deal with us perfectly, and completely, and with total love and knowledge. The union I'm looking for in Heaven is with my Savior. I have had the same vision of it since childhood. It's falling at His feet. I just know I'm going to do that. I'm not going to be able to stand. I'll collapse at those feet and frankly, even if I spent eternity THERE it would be preferable to a hundred added earth years full of wealth and entertainment and fame.
I face soon the seventh anniversary of my mother's passing into eternal life. I face it with a higher chin every year. This year I realize that I have individuated from my mother, and found ME. I am a daughter of The King. I am a Catholic. God, thank you so much. And when one of the children put in my charge BY God presents me with a situation for which I need advice, I can go straight to their Heavenly Father, the Head of ALL of our families.