I had no idea how hard it was going to be to lose my mom. Why does no one really ever tell you how intense the loss is?
I guess it’s because it is difficult to put it into words, like when you’re pregnant with your first child and everyone says it’s going to change your life and you say, “yeah, I’m ready,” only you can’t be. You can’t know how once the baby is born it will be like your heart is walking around outside your body all by itself and how you can never, not really ever, not think about that tiny person again — even when they grow to be taller than you. You can’t know how will change your life and then it does and, boom, yeah, you get it. And you go around telling every pregnant person the same thing everybody told you, only now you know they really can’t get it, but they will.
Losing your mom is like that, only the opposite and it’s sad and heartbreaking and kind of shitty, so that’s why no one warns you, I guess. You just go from having this person in your life, from the very beginning of your life, even before technically, and then, all of a sudden, they are gone and this weird, unfathomable space opens up between the two of you that you cannot navigate no matter how you try. The word is that she can navigate it, and sometimes I feel like she’s with me, but I have no idea how to conjure her from my side of things and so the absence of her just kind of overwhelms me.
We were close in our way, not Hallmark movie close, but we weren’t Hallmark people anyway. We were close in the sense that we got each other, she got me, and I felt like I got her, especially as I got older. She said as much in our final days together.
It was just the two of us one day, three or four days before she died. I was sitting at her bedside in the hospital, holding her hand. They’d taken her for an MRI in the middle of the night and it had traumatized her pretty badly. She was heading down hill quickly, her faculties had gotten really fragile and MRIs are bad enough when you do have your wits about you. So I was sitting with her, reassuring her. She kept asking “Are you my Jessi?”
“Your Jessi, mom, it’s me,” I told her over and over again while trying not to freak out.
And once she reconnected with me and where she was again and what we were doing, she said, “I feel like we connected again once you had kids, I feel like you got it.” And I nodded and agreed, I knew what she meant even if I didn’t totally want to admit it right then. I wanted it to be that I always understood, that I always got it, that I was so remarkably empathetic and smart that I always understood everything. But she knew I didn’t really and in this almost two years since her passing, I can admit that she was right. It did take me having kids to really understand my mom as a person. And, I feel like I get it more everyday. And by “it” I mean what it means to be a parent and how much you really can’t control of all of that, how much you have to surrender of yourself and how much your kid, the one you love with your whole self, doesn’t understand that you are a person with foibles and flaws just like anybody else because they want you to be their everything and you want to be that, too, but you can’t ever really be anyone’s everything.
As my children grow into adulthood, I feel like I understand it more and more, and all I want to do is tell her, “Yeah mom, I do get it and thank you for putting up with me.” But honestly, if she wasn’t gone, I would probably have continued taking her for granted, dumping my troubles on her, letting her soothe my worries, celebrate my victories, taking my piece of her pie like I was entitled to it — and she’d let me. I’d ask about how she was, but she wouldn’t tell me, not really, she was the mom and she was always fine.
But what I wouldn’t give to have her back even for a day or two, I’d take an hour, just to appreciate her a little more, give her a little more of my time and attention, do a few more cool things together or just say thank you, mom, I love you. What I wouldn’t give for just a few minutes to savor her, knowing that she really was going for good.