Loss. The word almost echoes in the emptiest chamber of the heart. The older one gets the more loss they have suffered. There is the strange reality that a large number of their loved ones are in the next world. Their contemporaries are passing, a few each year. It is an odd feeling.
I once told my niece (at my Aunt’s memorial) that losses build on one another, that each consecutive loss is harder and harder to bear.
My mother passed last August. When I lost my brother, father, and then sister, I deliberately forgot the dates. I have a logic. When the anniversary comes around, part of me feels sad with no apparent reason, until I recall the anniversary is looming. Mother died on my elder sister’s birthday. It won’t be a day I will forget. It was the day my life changed forever.
When my father died, I felt as if someone had removed the ground under my feet. A friend described her feeling at the loss of her mother as an ‘untethered balloon’. I thought that was the closest description of the sense you have. It is as if there a storm on your inner sea. You feel emotions intensely. The least thing can and does throw you off. You see something and think ‘Mum would love that’, and then you remember. I seem to be constantly reminded of her.
I saw a posting on facebook ‘the only thing my mother didn’t teach me was how to live without her’. That statement nailed it. You think you are a mature adult who has made their way in life, who is living ‘independently’. All it takes is your mother’s passing to realize how flimsy of a reality that was. You are left knowing and keenly feeling that you are not mature, dependant. The intimate connection we have to our mothers crosses time and space. We must learn to interact with her in memories, or if we are lucky, in dreams.
People who have lost mothers speak like veteran parents. ‘Do you have children’? I have heard people ask of others. And when they say yes, they look at one another as if there is an understanding, like war veterans, of that experience, which they cannot share with those who are not parents.
People who had lost their mothers and approached me after my loss were the same. They had deep empathy. They shared their stories, and I felt them as they told them. People offered almost the same advice. ‘Take it day by day. It will hit you in waves, just ride it out. Take very good care of yourself’. These were the words I told my friend when I heard the news of her mother. And I wished with all my being that I had more for her. I ache for her loss, because I know how that feels, without being able to articulate it.
After my mother crossed, a wise ex told me ‘just think that when it comes your time, someone will mourn you the way you are mourning your mother’. That helped in some strange way, because the passing of one’s mother has you questioning everything about life, death. The ‘why are we here’s’. It caused me to reflect on my life, what I have done, what I want to do. There was something else my ex said. His pain was about ‘when an elder passes, we lost all that knowledge goes with them’. When I agreed, he said ‘no, you don’t understand’. I probably didn’t.
My mother was a mother was an extraordinary free spirit who touched many, many lives. She loved even strangers unconditionally. She saw beauty everywhere. She taught me how to see it. Pointed out how light shone through leaves of a tree. She made me into an artist. She raised her children to be who they naturally were, and loved each of us for the plant we grew to be. She was an inspiration to be around. She could always lift my spirits, no matter how bad my state or mood. I would shift in her presence.
Loss. An unavoidable aspect of being human, being alive. And undoubtedly, one of the very hardest. Mum, wherever you are, I have no doubt you are pointing beauty out to someone. And creating next world artists.