I have looked cancer in the eyes, I have heard it use the voice of my mother to string together incoherent sentences, and I have felt the painful empty hole it leaves behind.
And I could have fallen. I could have given up, but that is not what I was taught. Because in the deepest, darkest days, I remember the strength and the courage my mom had in all of her days.
10 years ago today, my mom died from breast cancer. The first two, three years, it was a very real pain, not having her around. I could still hear her voice, her vocal quirks, the way she intoned words. I could still remember her hugs, and imagine her advice in a situation.
Around six or seven years, I started to forget what she looked like without pulling out pictures. Not what she looked like at the end, haggard and exhausted and delusion. What she looked like before the slippery slope downhill. What she looked like when she took me to the mall for my free Burger King birthday coupon, or on Mother-Son Dinner Day, which I later learned was Halloween. I forget what she looked like when she was angry one day while we were walking and I ran to the library to get away.
I cannot say that I perfectly remember my mom, but I like to think that all the best things about her, all the things she taught me – how to be loyal and honest and kind and sharing, how to make good decisions and see the world for all it is and be brave and fight the battles that need to be bought and have the strength to make it through another day – I think those things are me now. I cannot remember her voice or the way she walked or some days even what she looked like. But I can remember who she was, and that is more important.
She was strong, and brave, she had traveled the world, and she had regrets. She was not ruled by her regrets, but they were there. We all have this a little bit.
Ten years is a long time, and yet it seems like it has been no time at all. Then I was stuck between ten and twenty, now I have finished college and graduate school. I have traveled far and driven across the country multiple times. I have read new books and old books and lived in places I never dreamed of even seeing. I have loved and I have struggled with frustrations in being part of a group or community.
My normal is not having living parents. It has been that for 10 years, for years I consider incredibly formative. I have tried sharing and felt the awkwardness and sorrow of others, for which I have felt awkward. I have tried not sharing, and felt the sudden distance when a good friend feels I have hidden something from them.
From the past ten years, I have learned to adopt the best parts of my mom. I have grown out of the pain into myself. I can only hope that in the next ten years I will grow more into myself, that I can be half as principled as she was.
Past Writings On My Mom
The Day Before: A Tribute (3/28/2010)
I Know (3/29/2010)
The Pilgrimage (3/29/2010)
The Gift of Pizza (3/1/2012)
Life Carries On (4/3/2012)
The Six Year Trip (3/29/2013)