I’ll tell you she’s gone.
I’ll tell you an entire life time ended without a sound. It likely ended a week before anyone knew it was over. It ended eighteen days before I knew. It ended in silence that belied the noise of my time with her. She died alone. She was almost 58.
I don’t like to be alone. I guess my aversion to solitude is partly her fault. Alone was dark and frightening. Still, I never wanted her to feel that way. I never wanted her to die alone.
But I didn’t do anything to prevent it, so that’s exactly what happened.
Her life was not easy and though I lived with her for 25 years, I know very little about it. I came along when she was 17, which tethered her to a relationship with my father that would last 25 years.
I don’t know what those years were like for her. I was a child, a teenager, a young adult. She was a teenager, a young adult, a 42 year old. She left my dad when she was 42.
I know what motherhood is like. I know it can rip you to shreds. I know it can force you to look at yourself in a way that can be as painful as if someone is violently and repeatedly smashing your face into a mirror.
I know what marriage is like. I know it can rip you to shreds. Even in the best of circumstances. Even if you weren’t ripped to shreds to begin with.
So I felt for her, particularly after becoming a mom myself. It was hard. And all those days she checked out, all those times she lost it, all those times she seemed like she was miserable…they all make sense now. And that scares the hell out of me.
Because she wasn’t an evil person. She was dealt a bad hand and didn’t have the strength to turn that hand around. And some days I don’t either.
Because life is hard. Some lives are harder than others. I suffered abuse at her hands, but in the end, she suffered more from my silence. While she may not have loved me the way I needed, so many others did. I have felt loved every day of my life. If only she could have felt the same.
After she left my dad, I was thankful. He was free. We all were. Yet, I still feared her. She begged for contact. She sent emails and letters. She admitted she had made mistakes. She suggested I was old enough to forgive her.
I already had.
I wished her well, but I couldn’t risk a relationship with her. The memories of the instability and irrational behavior were too vivid.
So, I sent her an email. I chose not to tell her I had kids. I told her I loved my life and this beautiful world and that I was so thankful she brought me into it. I told her I hoped that brought her comfort.
It didn’t. It kind of ticked her off. So that was the last time I contacted her. Several years later, I discovered my “other” folder of mail on my social media account, containing a message from her. She had discovered an article I wrote. It included photos of my three children.
She knew. After all these years of hiding, she knew I had three kids. She knew their names and ages. She began posting grandchildren quotes on her social media page. She said it was a gift from God to see them. She begged to connect online. She said she wouldn’t intrude. The message was a year old when I discovered it.
I didn’t respond.
She died three months later.
I thought there would be a time I could risk it. A few years down the road, my kids would be old enough. I could meet her for lunch. I could tell her, “I know. I know. It’s so hard. It rips you open. I see it now. I see you were suffering. I know now you were depressed, even though you didn’t. I know you couldn’t help it. I wish I could have helped.
I wish you had wanted help.
I could have shown her pictures. I could have given her that joy. I could have saved her from dying alone.
But I didn’t.
I believe in love, in hope, in ending human suffering whenever it is within my power to do so.
But I didn’t end hers.
When most people lose their mom, it is monumental. It is tragic and heartbreaking. It is something they tell everyone. My mom died. I am suffering. I am heartbroken. This is significant. This is life changing. Condolences abound.
But I didn’t tell many people. Of the people who knew, only a few said they were sorry.
Because my mom wasn’t very nice.
I have been grieving my mother for as long as I can remember. I have been “motherless,” in a sense, for most of my life. But I know it wasn’t her fault. As a friend pointed out when I was detailing my mom’s life to her, “She never had a chance.”
No. She didn’t.
And that theme continued until the day she died. I was one of the people who didn’t give her a chance. However sensible my reasons, I was one of those people.
So she died silently. Alone. And somehow when I found out, for a moment, that silence was louder than all her years of deafening rage.
I believe that every person we meet changes us. Every person has at least a little light to share with the world. I believe light overcomes darkness. I believe my mother must have had a little light and maybe, even though she never had a chance to shine it, the world really did get a little darker when she left.
So many times, I wanted to escape her darkness. But not like this.
Because I don’t know what else to do…
I’ll tell you she’s gone. And that it matters to me. And that in some small, quiet way…her noise mattered to the world.
Rest in peace Mom. I know you never found peace here, but I hope you have found it there.
- Slow Down for World Down Syndrome Day on March 21st
- Early Morning Anchor