As another Mother’s Day approaches, I (like so many women reading this) will spend the day remembering the woman who brought me into the world, but because of an early demise, has left mine. Today, February 10, 2013, would have been my mom’s 86th birthday.
I was only 5 years old, and she 38, when lung cancer stole her life. The once stunning 6-foot-tall, Southern beauty with black hair and hazel eyes was ravished by the horrible disease that left her frail, weak, and physically aged way beyond her young years.
Her death has haunted me to the core of my being and left that little 5-year-old child to grow up without the experiences and traditions that only a mother and daughter are supposed to share. I was the only one of my friends without a mom, which always left me feeling so different and somewhat disjointed from my friends (and actually, from life..). Reading Hope Edelman’s book Motherless Daughters has been, and continues to be, a great comfort to me, and has been since I discovered it while in my 20s. For several years now it’s become a tradition for me to give a copy of that book to women I know who lose their Mom. I guess it’s my way of saying, “I’m so sorry you are now a member of the club that none of want to belong to.”
It’s horrible to experience the death as an adult, but when you lose the most important person in your life while still a child, it throws you into a whole different realm. SHE is supposed to be the one to teach you so much about life, and about becoming a woman. I can remember reading that Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell said they instantly became friends and how they both shared the experience of losing their Moms while they were children. When you meet another woman who has gone through what you have, it’s true — instant connection. You look at each other, and your gut tells you, “Yeah, she knows. She gets it”.
I wish I could remember the sound of my mom's voice, what her touch felt like, what she smelled like. I’m told I look just like her and that I carry myself like she did. Knowing this does give me joy. I wear her amethyst ring every day, and I find myself unconsciously twirling it between my fingers just thinking about her. I am blessed to have photos of her, and a few of just the two of us together. My favorite is where I’m about 4 years old, and the two of us are standing in front of our 1963 white Mercury convertible. She, in her black-and-white shirt, black pointy toed high heels, long white gloves, sunglasses, and a scarf tied fashionably around her head. And I stand in front of her in a light-blue, matching shorts ensemble, holding onto her glove, also wearing sunglasses and a little white tie in my hair. We look like we’re headed off for an adventure to take on the world. It has indeed been an adventure, but one I’ve had to travel alone.
My father, who worked in heavy construction, was left with thousands of dollars in debt due to her medical bills. He left seven months later to go oversees to earn the money to pay them off. So, now it’s the feeling of being abandoned by both parents. At the age of 5, you can’t process all of this. All you know is that you are not like everyone else.