I don’t really talk about my mother. I know I have shared that she died when I was 18 and that this journey of loss I am on is rooted in ridiculously complicated family history. This year’s crap-a-versay of her death has hit me hard, 22 years later. Maybe it’s because last year things were just too raw to process all of the connections. Maybe it’s because I have a close friend who just lost her mother in a very similar way. Whatever the reason, I find myself coming out of the Thanksgiving holiday with a wounded heart and a need to share a little more truth. Maybe it will help one of you on your journey.
I was angry at my mother for a very long time. Years. I was angry at her choices. I was angry that she left me. I was angry that she wasn’t there to help me learn to be a mother. I was angry that she deprived my children of their grandmother. I was angry she never knew what a wonderful man I married. I was angry about how broken she left our family.
Every doctor’s appointment when they would ask if I had a family history of something and I didn’t have an answer, I was furious.
Every time my kids would ask why papa didn’t have a grandma, I was mad as I stumbled through an explanation.
Every time I went home to the house where I grew up, every time I went to her grave, every game she missed, or milestone she wasn’t there for, I blamed her choices.
A few years after her death, I reached out to one of her family members. I asked him about my mother, what she was like as a child, as a teenager, and as a young adult. The circumstances in which she grew up explained a lot about her demons.
The older I got and the more I learned about life and motherhood, the easier it became to see my mother not as the woman who made bad choices and left me in this world alone, but as a woman. She was flawed and struggled just like the rest of us. The road to forgiveness was a long, very personal struggle. It has taken years of therapy to process the mountain of complex emotional baggage I carry around every day.
A few months ago, I was with my counselor and we were talking about my guilt. She said, “parents do the best they can with what they are given.” I can think of no better way to articulate what it means to truly accept my mother for who she was, to love her in spite of her flaws, and to forgive her for leaving me. She did the best she could with what she was given. And so do I.
I am learning to accept myself. I am flawed. I struggle. I have done the best I can with what I was given. This includes letting Noah drive to town that day.
I cannot help but think that losing my mother at such a young age and walking that journey did not help prepare for what happened to Noah — and for how it would happen. Leaving from the same house she did the morning we said goodbye, frantically racing down the same stretch of road, saying the same prayer, leading to the same hospital, to the same result for both my mother and first-born son — goodbye.
I didn’t have my mother here with me as I raised Noah. They never knew each other in life. But I know she was there to meet him the minute he got to Heaven. Though Thanksgiving has passed, know this is what I was thankful this year.
Mom: It’s okay. I know that you didn’t mean to leave me. I know the weight you carried in your heart was heavy enough to swallow anyone. I appreciate you for who you were when you were here and the time we had together. I forgive you for the time we lost. You did the best you could with what you were given. Take care of my baby. Please take care of him until I can see you both again. With love, me.