It has been over 10 years since my mother passed away. She died of lung cancer at 49 years old. It came as a shock to us that she only had six months to live, but left us in three. No one in my family had dealt with death or had any experience on what how we should behave when someone you love leaves you and then how to cope after that person is gone.
My mother was the epicenter of our universe. She was a complicated woman. One one side very warm, sweet, intelligent, a cheerleader. On the other a driver, stern and strict. My two brothers and I marched to her drum. Many in her family cherished her sweetness and naivete. While she wasn’t close to everyone in her family, she was greatly loved. There was no one who didn’t like her.
The past 10 years have been a difficult mess for her children. She left a hole in our hearts the size of an asteroid. How could we have the family and continue the memories that we had when she was alive? Who could possibly be the epicenter we as motherless children so badly needed? My brothers, father and myself all tried, but to no avail. We are now a scattered family. I live in the Netherlands, one is in LA, the other two Ohio. We had such a big family and could have had much support from my mother’s six other siblings, but our family shrunk in one hit. We were no longer a family unit, but three lost children figuring it out for ourselves.
I often think about those final days when my mom was alive. We were all emotionally in shock. Our family hides our emotions in jokes and not letting ourselves cry. I couldn’t even accept that my mother was dying, much less say the things I should have said at someone’s final moments. All I could say is, “I will see you next weekend. I promise.” My mom barely uttered,” Drive safe.”
That’s it. I can’t take those final moments back.
The funeral followed. Her family arrived, some I hadn’t seen since I was twelve. It was a full reunion. At the time I was 23 and my brothers, 21 and 13, were all told how sorry they were for our loss. No one knew exactly how to relate to us. No hugs were given. A star was named after my mother, but the paperwork never given to us.
All I can remember now is that we did not receive a single hug during her memorial or after. Hugs heal. Since then I have grieved and accepted her death as is. I have seen the silver lining in her leaving us. I have seen other families lose close family members, who then have scattered across the country or stop talking. Shock and grief make people respond in unpredictable ways.
My advice to those who have just lost someone, give a hug and tell each other how much you love them. They heal. They start the grieving process and support those closest to the deceased. In the years that pass by, it will be a gift that one will remember for the rest of their lives, kindness, compassion, and love.