Saturday, August 25, 2012

She lived her life with strength...

This post has been a long time coming.  And yet, some days (like today) it feels like yesterday.   In about 2.5 weeks I will experience the third anniversary of my mother's death.  The first year I mourned each change in seasons, each holiday, and each 17th of the month.  I sat everyday with the knowledge of no longer having a mother, and some days that thought brought me to my knees.  The rest of the time I lived in a fog.  I went through the motions but with muted feelings.  Going into the second year the fog lifted.  The knowledge of no longer having a mother was painful, but that was muted.  I remember a cousin once saying the second year was harder, and I remember living that year in fear of an intense grief moment.  It never came.  For this I am so grateful. The year leading to the third anniversary has been difficult  in ways I did not anticipate.  I have sat with the little moments of what it means to no longer have a mother. And it's the little moments which have a piercing pain.

I will never have a mother to be there when I have a wedding shower.  Or a wedding day.
She will not be with me when I experience motherhood.  There will be no moments of joy, sadness, and humor in trading horror stories of parenthood.
She is not here.

A year after my grandmother died I was able to write about her life.  It has taken me until now to be able to tell my mother's story.

She was born to a teen mother forced to drop out of high school and marry her sort of boyfriend.  She was born 6 weeks early, and from birth needed to be fighter.  In many ways she spent her life fighting to survive.

She was the oldest of 4 children, but lived and died never meeting a sister that was placed for adoption.  With my aunt and uncle she was protective, loving, jealous, and all the things children are to their siblings.  From childhood she felt not as loved by her parents as her siblings.  This feeling she carried into every relationship her whole life.  I used to wonder how much love would be enough to make her feel content.

My mother was not  a great student, and after graduating high school she went right into the workforce.   At her funeral one friend from high school described her as having a big heart, but at times hard in spirit.  This friend was actually worried about my mother having children; she worried about her being cold.  She then went on to say that my mother's personality changed when she had me. My mother was full of love for her babies in a way this friend had never seen.

She was 23 when she met and married my father.  She thought he would be enough to make her happy.   She always felt betrayed that he wasn't.  Their marriage was not something I remember with fondness, and even as a child I wonder why in the world they married.

She had two children by 25 and was separated by 34.  It is a weird feeling for me to be almost 34 with no husband or children.

She was strong, selfless to her friends, funny, and smart.  She loved to read, bake, and watch sitcoms.  She could be fiercely protective.

She was also mentally ill and went most of her life being undiagnosed.  Her moments of frantic activity warred with the moments where I felt a cold detachment in her.  She lived her world in great extremes and I grew up with the idea that people were treated in all or nothing philosophies.  She also lived with strong convictions that others treated her as less than. In many ways this would end up being a self fulfilling prophesy.

My mother's mental illness was not something I understood as a child or even as a young adult. I know it confused me, angered me, and scared me.  I watched her throw friends and family away in moments of confusing irrational emotions.

As an older young adult, her mental illness exhausted me.  I was not the daughter I could have been, or the daughter I wished I had been.  I feared being her caretaker.  I feared her in the moments I would one day experience. I feared her reactions at my wedding.  I feared having to tell her she was not safe to be left alone with my child.  I was not as loving or as affectionate as I could have been.

For the first year I was quietly devastated at the thought that my mother committed suicide. On the day they found her body I knew in my heart and soul that she committed suicide.  I thought it was an overdose in a moment of confusion.  In her last year of life she had been mixing pills to an alarming degree.  It made sense in an awful way that this could happen in a moment of big emotion.  And then in December of the year she died I received a phone call from her medical doctor that no medication at all was found in her system.  And I realized right then my mother consciously chose to stop cold turkey all her medications with the knowledge that doing this would hurt if not kill her.  I know this because before the day she died one of her biggest fears in life was not having her medications on her at all times.  Two days before she died she went to her doctor.  The doctor and all the staff reported my mother being happier that they had ever seen her.  I am glad she was able to feel this joy.

When she died people told me she was in a better place.  That she was at peace.  My life will be spent knowing that she knew of my fears and in a moment took all the choices away from me.  My life is spent knowing that her better place is away from me.

In this time leading up to the third anniversary I sit with knowing that she is in peace, and that she is in a better place.  She is filled with love, joy, and all things good.   My heart will always with a sadness of what she lived through and all the moments she will miss.

Every day I strive to remember the good in my mother, and in the words of Mary J. Blige in speaking of her own mother, "I blame her for nothing, and forgive her of everything."

I have been listening to the song, "Forever" by Vertical Horizon.  Some of the lyrics struck me tonight.

"And I don't know if you feel me there
I can tell you one thing that's clear
I will feel you