I was a few months into being 20 years old when I spoke to my mom for the last time. After nine years of doctor’s appointments, radiation/chemo therapy treatments, phone calls of bad news, and fighting every day to beat breast cancer, the end was near, as we all knew it one day would be. My best friend, role model, and the greatest mother I ever could have dreamt of having was beginning to slip away; her body finally succumbing to the disease she had fought so hard to overcome.
Nine years of questions, tears, unexplainable emotions and challenges eventually boiled down to four weeks of driving back and forth from our home in New Jersey to the hospital in New York City where she spent the majority of her final month alive. In the end, I watched my mom take her final breath in the same house that she and my father raised my brother and I in. In the same room, in the same bed that she and my dad let me sleep in when I was so afraid of the dark and monsters under my bed and didn’t want to sleep alone yet.
I thought that the worst of it was over. For the first year after she passed, I thought that the endless questions, confusion, and uncertainty about the future was over. Little did I know, an entirely new phase of my life full of unanswered questions was about to begin.
When your mother passes away, everyone tells you that although it will never get entirely “easy”, it will get “easier” and that time will lessen the hurt. It’s been two and a half years now, and while it has gotten easier, it’s gotten harder in many other ways, because there is so much that people don’t tell you.
No one is able to tell you how it will feel when your longtime boyfriend breaks up with you and you can’ t call your mom and cry on the phone for hours. Sure, you can call your dad or your brother, but they are boys who don’t understand what it’s like to be a girl and have your heartbroken.
They don’t tell you what it’s like when you aren’t sure if you want to continue on the path of your college major anymore and you can’t call your mom and have a long heart to heart about why you are questioning it, what your new goals are, and how to proceed. You just go with your gut and hope that your heart knows best.
The day you meet your new boyfriend is a particular kind of bittersweet emotion because when you realize how amazing he is, your heart breaks a little because you know she will never meet him, and he will never meet her. But every time you think of it, part of you wonders if it was her who sent him to you in the first place.
My twenties have been a roller coaster of emotions since my mom passed. Becoming my dad’s friend along with being a daughter, trying to be a mother, sister, and friend to my brother, and trying to figure out who I am as a woman has proved to be more emotionally challenging than I ever imagined. Some days, I get so scared thinking about how many more landmarks I have ahead of me that I won’t have my mother by my side to guide me through. Engagement, marriage, home owning, pregnancy are some of the obvious ones, but the smaller day to day challenges have proved to be even harder to deal with. How to iron shirts the right way? How did you fold those fitted sheets so perfectly? How many cups of sugar went into that sweet potato casserole?
I’m thankful for the knowledge she was able to share with me, but I’ll never, ever feel that it was anywhere near enough. Mom was my best friend, and I miss the way we could just talk for hours about the past, present, future, and there was nothing that we couldn’t discuss. I am thankful for the family and friends I have here to support me, but am growing to accept that nothing and no one can replace her.