I lost my mom last week. I write these words knowing this is true, but finding it to be unbearably impossible to believe them. My mom was full of life, active, followed a healthy lifestyle, and up until about two months ago, losing her wasn’t even on our radar. Unfortunately, by the time we all realized she was sick, it turned out that it was already too late. But up until a day or two before we lost her, I still believed she could rally, fight it, and stay with us for at least a few more months.
This new normal means that I am a motherless child. There is no one to be my unwavering cheerleader. Or my no-nonsense critic. Mom had high standards, and the way to earn praise was to live up to them. As I said in my eulogy:
She was proud of all of our achievements, but you had to earn that pride. And that was fine, because it made us want to excel and be the best, for her. Because we knew when she told us she was proud of us, it wasn’t empty words. She meant it. And we had earned it.
My mom taught my sister and me about charity and compassion and honesty and living a righteous life. Although in years, she might be considered old, no one who knew her would describe her that way. She not only danced, exercised every day, and was the first to help others, but she audited college classes and continued going to see shows, always enjoying her trips into Manhattan.
My mom gave me a love of literature, culture, and reading. Conversations revolved around world events, the theater, and interesting things in the news that we could share with each other.
Her illness came upon her so suddenly and with such ferocity, that none of us was prepared for this. Not that you can prepare for losing your mom. There will never be anyone else who knows you the way she does, who would lay down her life for you, or who will stand by your side even when you push her away.
Nothing can prepare you for having to choose your mom’s coffin. Or to speak at her funeral. Or to hear the thud of the shovels dropping dirt on her casket at the cemetery as you say your last goodbye.
I am aware that we were lucky to have our mom with us for as long as we did. So many of my friends lost their moms years ago. And I’ve been asking them how you find your way in this surreal new existence. But everyone has their own path to travel, and there is no road map for this journey.
But as one of my friends said, losing your mom is primal. The hole in my heart is always going to be there. The desire to pick up the phone and call her to tell her of something funny, or something that would make her proud isn’t going to go away. The hope of getting some kind of sign from her that she’s doing OK now is overwhelming.
As you might have noticed, I still can’t bring myself to say the “D” word. In some ways, I’m still stuck in the hospital a few weeks ago, with the nurses trying to tell me the reality that I wasn’t ready to hear. I’m still not ready to hear it. But I’m grateful I got to see my mom and tell her how much I love her. And have her tell me the same. I just wish she could tell me how I’m supposed to go on in this strange, new normal.
Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved