Four years ago today, I saw my mother for the last time. I held and stroked her hand. I listened too intensely the sound of her breathing.
I was 28 and my brother was 11. She had just celebrated her 48th birthday four days earlier. In the late hours of the evening, she died as a result of cancer that had begun in her lungs and metastasized into her bones and brain.
My mother was such an important and complete part of my life that nothing could have prepared me for her absence. I often lived far from her in terms of distance, but she was always a phone call or email away; even when I went off to college and studied abroad, she bought a toll-free number so nothing would prevent our weekly chats.
Lyrics: Laura Nyro, To A Child
The first couple of years after her death, I had a lot of difficulty seeing past her absence and I definitely turned to art as a means to find my way out of the subsequent depression and to explore who I was now, not only as a motherless daughter, but also as a parent—my husband and I have been raising my brother, now a high school student.
The loss is still deep today, but, having traveled some miles through my grief, I am also able to appreciate the ways she is still with me, the gifts she so lovingly bestowed upon me. I feel a connection to her with every rainbow in the sky, every purple item in my possession (too many to count; purple was her favorite color and, if you look closely in one of the photos above, you’ll even see a purple tint to her hair!).
What confidence I have in myself is rooted in the utter faith and support she showed me; she raised me to believe I was awesome, and I know not every girl gets that message growing up.
Looking through these photos and many more photos Tuesday night, I appreciate all the smiles and goofs we shared—not just Mum and me, but also with my brother, my cousin, my friends, whoever else was willing to share in the joy. My mother approached life with enthusiasm and gratitude; her constant quest was to “Let’s go see what we can see.” I inherited that curiosity and joy and hope I’m passing it on to my brother, too.
Among her belongings, I found a mother’s day gift book that I had filled in for her with my words and drawings around the time when I was 8. It’s a little heartbreaking:
So, today, I remember that not all our wishes, however deeply felt, come true. You can pick up that penny, crack that wishbone and search for a shamrock, but there are no guarantees. We have only today, so let’s go see what we can see.
Thanks for reading!