A Letter to My Mother
I don’t know what to call you. I don’t remember you. You died when I was one. It was quick and painless, for me at least. I moved in with your mom and dad; my single father couldn’t take care of a one-year-old when he had a distraught teenager to manage. So I was spared from the sadness and misery of my home and lived a fulfilling life at yours.
Grandma would drop me off to school and attend my parent teacher meetings, and Grandpa would play games with me and take me to the park. Dad, the stranger in my eyes, would visit occasionally. At most, I was amused by his presence. My heart didn’t have room for more people to love; Grandma and Grandpa had filled it to the brim. People used to say disparaging things about broken homes, but mine never felt that way. Your death had given me a complete home.
I turned nine, and Grandma me got a brand-new pink bike; I turned 16 and Grandpa took me for my first driving lesson. I fought with my grandma as any teenager would; I’d whine about the miseries of school, the magnitude of assignments, the humidity of the city…all very real issues in my life.
But one day, when I was 11, I lost you again. The same you who had died when I was one…it just took a hell of a long time coming. It wasn’t a gradual realization, and it wasn’t because of a big change in my life. There was no trigger, if that’s what you’re thinking. What made me suddenly feel this loss? Nothing did. Out of nowhere, it just appeared, and I still can’t see it, still can’t find it. But it was my most painful experience. All the years of not grieving decided to come at me, all at once.
If you’re reading this, you probably won’t understand. Your mother is still alive, and you’ve always had her. If someone else is reading this and their mother is dead like you but they remember her, they won’t understand, either. And Mom/Mother/Mama, I really can’t find anyone who’s lost a mother before they knew her. I think our kind just goes into hiding.
Losing you the first time gave me a whole new life—losing you again took it all away. It was grief, dark and hollow with no memories of you to hold on to. It was grief over never being given the chance to grieve. I cried not because I missed you, but because I wanted to be able to miss you. And I wasn’t even the one crying. It was someone inside of me that I didn’t recognize, didn’t know, didn’t like.
When you died the first time, I was swept away and showered with love in a perfect world. When you died again, I was already living in that perfect world. Everyone around me had been to your funeral years ago, but your body showed up at my doorstep, and it refuses to leave.
The irony, of course, is that this pain caused by losing you is one that can be healed only by your presence. How perfect.