Today, as I do several times a year, I mourn the loss of my mother. Today is her birthday, a birthday she should have lived to see. This is always a really difficult time of year for me, but so is the date of her death, so is Mother’s Day, so is my birthday, and pretty much every holiday where her presence is missed. Don’t get me wrong, she is missed on a daily basis, but there are certain times when the loss is far more painful than others.
This past week was bad for me. Emotionally, physically, and mentally burned out are words I’d use to describe how I feel. Despondent is another, and mid-week I SNAPPED. I didn’t have some random, out-of-the-blue flip out, I didn’t have some public meltdown, I simply had something happen in my house that caused a few hours of clean-up, and about five minutes into the clean-up, I flipped the hell out. Words I would normally keep to myself, discuss in a better place, in a private manner, came tumbling out of my mouth faster than I could pull them back. Eventually I did just shut up and stop, but I also had to walk away from the mess and take a break. I had to turn to medication in my effort to “calm the !@#$ down”. I did apologize to the person who was on the receiving end of my vitriol, because I am a firm believer that when I’m wrong I should admit to that wrong-doing, but I’m also a firm believer in not apologizing to anyone unless I am wrong. I was wrong, so I did apologize because it’s the right thing to do.
The combination of a bad day, a bad week, a lousy few months, and all the other crap piling up in my life became clearer as I realized my Mom’s birthday was approaching and that instead of being excited beyond words over the perfect gift I had found, the person who received the gift each year was no longer here.
When I say that my Mom & I were close, that’s actually me being subtle in terms of expression. We were best friends first, mother & daughter somewhere underneath it all. My Mom had been raised a certain way, she had been raised in a way of that which is proper and improper, for lack of a better expression. She was determined to raise her own children quite differently, and as soon as she sensed she was having a girl, she started to talk to me throughout her pregnancy. When she was handed her due date she researched the two potential astrological signs and then she went into prayer mode.
My Mom understood that I’d be born into a “man’s world” (Not so much any more ladies, is it?), but that I didn’t have to allow that to rule me if I was a girl, which she believed I was to her very core. She silently prayed “If it’s a boy, he can be a Libra or a Scorpio, it won’t matter, but if it’s a girl she MUST be a Scorpio or she will not survive in this world. God, please let her be a Scorpio. Give her every possible advantage of strength to survive and succeed.” This was her mantra. “Please let her be a Scorpio.”
My Mom’s due date passes and the astrological signs shift from Libra to Scorpio, which is when my Mom announced that I was “allowed to come out now”. LOL. She’d been in labor for over a week, probably Braxton-Hicks contractions, but to no avail, I refused to come out. I still don’t do what I’m told to do 95% of the time. Her doctor told her I would arrive when I was ready to do so.
When my Mom’s water broke several days before I was born, her doctor said “You’re fine. That happens sometimes ahead of schedule, but there are no other signs that the baby is coming, it’s just your body’s way of letting you know that the baby will be here soon. Wait to see me at your appointment.” The night of the appointment my Mom went into official labor in the doctor’s office. The doctor covering for her doctor told her “Your child will be here around midnight.” Believe it or not, he was off by only a few minutes.
Less than a year after my Mom passed away suddenly, I found a note from her to me. She’d written it before I was born and while I eliminated some of the more private parts, I share this with you just as I shared it at my parents’ unveiling.
A message to my daughter: ” Be your own person, always be truthful. Be kind, generous, loving, compassionate, and understanding. Be a friend, be thoughtful. Some day you may want these qualities of others. Teach them to your children. Be honest, you’ll always be able to look at yourself with pride. Don’t expect a lot from other people, and you’ll never be disappointed. Enjoy your life, but don’t do anything you’re not going to be able to live with, or are not be prepared to accept as a responsibility. Vengeance belongs to the Lord, hate is a wasted emotion. It’s not necessary to get even. Appreciate what you have, and achieve to the best of your ability. Listen, sometimes all a person needs is your shoulder. Be gracious, don’t let life drain and break you until you feel empty. Sometimes you have to be selfish. Make your own space, don’t be swallowed by loved ones. Don’t be afraid to admit you’ve made a mistake, we all do. Always know I love you and that you can come to me with anything. Let me be your friend…” Every time I read it, it makes me cry. My Mom had a lot of foresight into what my life would be like.
She was a talented artist, writer, & musician, an amazingly devoted mother, an even better friend, and without a doubt one of my very BEST friends in the entire world. Essentially, she was my first friend, we were so much more than mere mother and daughter, and people definitely took notice of this wherever we went. We shared books, often fighting over who got to read the newest author’s books we followed first. I was quicker, would plow through it in hours, and then watch her pour over it for days waiting for her reactions to the storyline. We shared movies, both new and old, poetry, music, side-splitting jokes & laughter, a genuine love of art and various cultures, a love of nature, a divine sense of beauty in things so many people don’t understand, and a great many other things that seem small in comparison to the large, but are equally as important to me. We had the most telepathic relationship in the world. I know no other parent half as connected as my mother and I remain. She was my voice of reason. I know her recipes by heart because I grew up watching her cook and she let me start cooking probably a year or so before she explained the fundamentals of writing to me.
My Mom was not afraid to show my brother and I the world, to take us places both new and old, teach us things, explain and discuss difficult subjects, open us up to a wide variety of experiences, and answer our questions. She was always extremely honest with us, she didn’t sugar-coat anything or play games. She raised us not to accept the easy, to fight for what we believed in and truly wanted. Of the two of us, I’m the one most outside the box. She taught me especially to dream big, for the dream precedes the goal. In turn, I accomplished more by the time I turned 21 than most people do in a lifetime, and yet there’s this wiser part of me that knows it’s not nearly enough, for we’re all here on borrowed time and tomorrow is not guaranteed. I’m not afraid to live beyond the word “potential”, and I’m not afraid of other people’s opinions because everyone is entitled to have one, it doesn’t mean their opinion is the correct one.
Before my Grandmother passed away, she asked me to take care of my Mom. She made me promise, and I took that promise very seriously. A lot of people felt that was too big a thing for her to ask of me, that I should have been off living my life the way my peers were, but the difference between me and them is, I can live with myself every single day knowing that I was there for her, that I wasn’t self-centered or self-absorbed, that I knew what and where my priorities were. And thankfully, I WAS there. Not just as her daughter, but as her friend. I was there through both the good and the bad, the light and the dark, I never wavered because I was never afraid to be the strong one. That kind of loyalty cannot be bought.
Death and grief changes you. Do you know what it’s like wondering if each breath a loved one takes will be their last? I watched over my Mom like that when she returned home after suffering from several heart attacks and strokes because her doctor was convinced she would not live another week. I immediately went into nurse/doctor mode, I went without sleep for days on end. Whenever she slept, I watched over her. I have been accused of being a walking Physician’s Desk Reference, but it’s SO true of me.
I tried never to go without telling my parents ‘I love you.’ I didn’t want either of them to die without knowing. I especially wanted my Mom to understand how very important she was to me and how lucky I felt that she was gifted to me as my mother. Your mind is constantly going over every stupid thing you’ve ever said to them, every ‘I hate you,’ and ‘You don’t understand’, every door slammed, every ridiculous, petty argument, or phone call ended in the heat of the moment, and you hate yourself at times for letting the little things steal your time. You don’t get how precious and fragile life is until you’re surrounded by death, and the regret is staggering when you realize that you can’t get back all the wasted opportunities, that there are things you will never get to do with them or say. It’s impossible to grasp the full impact someone has on your life until you fully realize that the person isn’t going to be there any longer. You don’t realize all of the dreams you wished that included that person. Life flashes before you, filled with the holes created by their absence. You know that once they are gone, nothing is ever going to be the same again. There’s never any peace. You can’t hold on to anything. You lose your hope, and your dreams, and parts of your future, and there isn’t a thing you can do to stop it. It’s totally out of your hands.
My Mom’s passing was completely unexpected and an immense shock to my system. Yes, she was battling health problems, but I still fully believed she would prove many doctors wrong with her desire to live, to see her Grandchildren, etc.
My Mom was one of the most laid-back people in the world. I often said she was too good and too passive, and definitely way too good to the people who least deserved it. A great deal of the passion and fire she did have, she completely invested in and passed on to her children. There is no fight my brother & I won’t start and finish. My Mom chose her battles carefully, was not afraid to walk away if something wasn’t worth the battle, an attitude I have adopted as well, and it took a lot to push her buttons. She & I were as alike as we were different. When we fought, we really went for the jugular with each other, but in the end we would apologize for whatever we said in the heat of the moment, apologizing was very important to us, and our relationship would go back to normal once we each said our peace to one another.
At the end of each day, I still thank God for my Mom. I didn’t get a real goodbye with her and it’s not something I’ve ever “gotten over” because I feel things quite intensely. Her loss is felt so deeply within me every single day. In the past few years she has sent me so many things to help me heal. I can’t explain what it’s like to fully sense the physical presence of a person, be the presence solid or spiritual ether. Explaining clair-sentience to people is a lot like trying to explain air.
People tell me that despite what I am going through, and that which I’ve already endured, I walk in a room and have a glow about me they can’t quite put their finger on. I attribute that to being happy with the person I am inside, despite all of the pain and sadness. To being proud of who I am, for knowing who I am, and being confident in my skin. My Mom helped foster those initial feelings in me, so I am fearless, supremely confident, and despite all of the pain I have endured, I always rise up out of the ashes better than I was before the pyre. I am the astrological sign of transformation and rebirth, and the older I get, the greater respect I have for those moments in my life that help make me better.
I was blessed with an amazing mother. I know not everyone gets to have that kind of relationship with a parent, but I am also a firm believer that everything we experience in life helps prepare us for the moments when we really have to step up. My Mom often said “I never have to worry about you. You will always find your way, you will never lose focus.” I have a lot of bad days, but she’s right, she doesn’t have to worry about me because she instilled so much in me that I know my strengths. Occasionally I have to remind myself what they are, but I don’t ever truly lose focus.
So on this day Mom, I want you to know that I know you’re always close by. I know you have probably saved my life more times than I care to count. I know you see that life is shit’s creek a lot of the time. But I also firmly believe that because you know me so well, you’ll always make sure a life raft gets sent my way.
Thank you for being my mother, but I thank you more for being the reason I am exactly who I’m supposed to me.
“We thought of you today, but that’s nothing new. We thought about you yesterday, and days before that too.
We think of you in silence. We often speak your name. Now all we have are memories, and your picture in a frame.
Your memory is our keepsake with which we’ll never part. God has you in his keeping, we have you in our hearts.” -Unknown
Excerpts of this are copyright © 2009 by Lisa Marino. Everything else, unless otherwise indicated, is copyright © 2013 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity. No portion of this may be reproduced without written consent under the U.S. Copyright Act.