“Grief does not change you. It reveals you.” – John Green
On November 27th, 2014, Thanksgiving Day, I received the phone call that I had always feared. She was in the hospital with major organ failure and didn’t have much time. Being her oldest child, I was called upon to help get her affairs in order.
“Is this really happening? I’m not ready for this,” I thought as the whirlwind of emotions and overwhelm quickly approached.
My mom’s health wasn’t in great shape for a while, but there was always some part of me that thought she had more time.
We all know that death is unavoidable and that we’ll likely lose our parents someday. Still, nothing could have prepared me for a phone call like that.
It wasn’t easy making these important decisions for my mom. The stress and feelings of dread for the inevitable left my stomach in knots. I lost 15 pounds in four weeks due to my loss of appetite. Despite all this, I knew I had to get through this out of love for her. She brought me into the world and lead me through life. I didn’t want her to go, but since I had no choice, I wanted to give her this last gift and be there to help her leave the world in a dignified and comfortable way.
On December 28th, 2014, my mom peacefully passed away.
The grief I suffered in the months after was agonizing. My heart was completely broken. I had lost the wonderful woman who gave me life, my biggest support structure, my best friend.
I thought having a broken heart due to a breakup was awful, and it can be, but losing a parent to death is on a whole other level. To be honest, I’d rather go through all my breakups a hundred times over than to have to go through something like losing my mom again.
However, I knew there was nothing I could do besides work through the pain and learn how to mourn in my own way. I did some writing, reading, and I was lucky enough to have family and friends to talk to and comfort me when I needed. Slowly, with time, I began to get back into some of my other interests.
The end of 2015 marked the one year anniversary of my mom’s passing. As the new year approached, so did my realization for how far I had already come. Although it was very emotionally challenging, I had gotten through that first year pretty well. I was proud of the fact that I didn’t turn to drugs, drinking, or any other self-destructive behavior in order to cope.
Instead, I cherished the idea of how my mom would want me to move on and live well. I remember a conversation we once had. She was talking to me about her health issues and I said, “What am I going to do without you?” She replied, “Live. Do what makes you happy.”
Our parents don’t want us to fall after they are gone. They want us to thrive and keep going. It’s like the passing of a baton. When you die, you hand the baton to your kids and say, “Here. Now you go.”
With her words in mind, I decided it was finally time to think about the future and what’s next. I moved from the Midwest to coastal South Carolina where I was born and where I have family I hadn’t seen in a while.
The new environment was the change I needed to move forward in my life. My mental space had immediately become more occupied with productive activities. I’ve met a lot of interesting personalities and made some new friends. I have also been hired as a performer by a local entertainment company, specializing in LED and fire shows, and have gotten the opportunity to work with some amazing and talented people. It has reignited the flame inside of me that wanted to work hard and be successful.
Before, I used to think that losing my mom would cause me to lose myself and lose interest in my hobbies. I wanted so badly to make her proud of the woman I was becoming and my accomplishments.
I have since realized that while there’s nothing wrong in wanting to make your family proud, you can’t live just for the sake of others. You have to do the things that you enjoy doing, regardless. Thankfully, I have just as much ambition as I did before, if not more. I am still me, and if she is watching, I know she is proud.
The death of a loved one isn’t something you really ever get over. I could never just get over the fact that she’s not here anymore, and to be honest, I don’t really want to. As weird as it sounds, I don’t ever want to wake up one day and just not care anymore. Even though it still hurts, it’s a beautiful pain that I carry in stride because it represents the love that still exists.
One thing I have come to understand is that our genuine, intuitive ability to love someone with all of our being runs so deep, that it transcends space and time. Even if I wasn’t 100% sure about life after death, I became doubtless that if anything goes on past our physical form when we die, it’s love.
It is something that you eventually learn to live with. It will become like a scar in your heart and although things will never be the same, it does get better. You’ll get used to a new normal and it will be different, but still okay.
After going through this particular life event, I felt I have grown in ways I never thought I would. I used to see it as a dreaded tragedy, but now I see it as just a part of life. It’s a thing we will all have to ultimately face at some point in time. We can let it take us down in darkness and despair or we can rise up and use it to build on our own inner strength character while we keep their memory alive with us.
This is why I am stronger now. I fear much less and feel that I can take on anything.
It has given me a new perspective and I have taken on a newfound appreciation for life itself. It has helped me understand how valuable, fragile, and beautiful life really is.
I feel fortunate of the fact that I have had 30 wonderful years with my mom. She is the reason for who I am today. I cannot be more grateful that we were brought together in life.
She was a sweet, loving, thoughtful, and strong woman with a good sense of humor. She always knew how to lighten my mood with a silly or sarcastic comment. Above all, she always made sure my sisters and I knew that we were loved.
Two of the things that my mom and I had in common was our passion for writing and our love for the beach. I remember her talking about how much she wanted to move back to the coast someday. I believe she left a part of herself there.
I admit that I found some purpose moving back to the coast in search of that piece of her that still exists. I think I found her here in the sun, the sand, and the warm summer air I breathe.
Unexpectedly, I found a new part of myself as well. I’m also a part of her that continues on, and you’ll find me there along the shore, writing the rest of our story.