“The death of a mother is the first sorrow wept without her.” Author Unknown
First, I must state that my mother is alive and well (in a manner of speaking), 80 years old living with my father in the house I grew up in. I’m lucky. Today, I can go home again. I’m saddened and concerned however, that my mother struggles with health issues, some of which are her genetic legacy (and probably mine too), others the consequences of her choices. Those include being married to my father and giving birth to and raising six children while being a working mother. Did I say I was grateful to still have her in my life? I am.
As the eldest child of parents who married young, Mom was 17 and Dad 19 when I was born. We grew up together. When my parents tell their story, common to young couples raising children, their first few years together were difficult. As newly-married parents, they lived in a two-room studio apartment. It had a kitchen, and a living room, which doubled as a bedroom. They shared a bathroom down the hall with other tenants. Because they had not yet learned how to resolve conflict, they fought in silence. My crib, stationed between the two rooms, was the bridge between them. They would stand over the crib and talked with me and eventually each other.
Though both parents are still alive, I’m beginning to experience anticipatory grief. As my mother struggles with her heart issues and my father cares for her in ways I never thought he was capable and which have brought them closer together, I am grieving her death. I’m imagining life without her. As a woman in my early sixties with parents in their eighties, they are the remaining members of the generations older than me. My grandparents are dead and most and in my mother’s case all of her siblings are gone. Soon, I will be the elder of the family. I hail from matriarchal families on both sides and hope I have the mettle to carry on with the grace and heart of the women who proceeded me.
I don’t have to look far to witness the powerful impact of the loss of a mother and a daughter’s journey of letting go and grief. Many of my friends have recently become motherless daughters. Other friends and family members are currently caregivers to their mothers who are approaching end of life. I’m learning from them, grieving with them, weeping and praying like a member of a Greek chorus in a play.
Before I proceed, let me state that I don’t diminish the grief and loss of a father, sister, brother, spouse, child, friend, or colleague. These losses all hurt, deep to our cores, to the essence of our beings, yet, though I haven’t walked this path, I imagine how my life will be different and how I will be changed as a motherless daughter. Every birthday when I talk with my mother, I cry. The tears are simply recognition and gratitude that we are of the same flesh, that her body bore mine, that we are connected in the most intimate, cellular way. Though my father helped make me and raise me, protected and guided me into adulthood, it was and is my mother’s unconditional love that nurtured and filled my spirit and heart.
Today, I acknowledge and bear witness to the journeys of my friends and family members who are motherless daughters. You are my mentors, teachers, and sisters of the heart. In your honor, I will live and value each moment I have with my mother and loved ones.
Remember, though I may not say it as often as I should, I cherish your love too and hope that I can show my gratitude and affection in my actions as I walk the walk with you.