I often wonder how different my life would have been if my mother hadn’t passed away when I was a young girl. She had battled with a terminal illness for as far back as I can remember, finally succumbing to it when I was eight years old.
I remember the day so clearly. You would think I would’ve blocked something so horrible from my mind–children are resilient like that usually–but that day my emotions were far from typical. I felt a sense of relief, for not only her, but for myself.
My mother was in and out of the hospital, mostly in from what I can remember. When she was home, she was bed ridden and on oxygen full-time. I would lay in bed with her watching seventies game shows as she dozed in and out of sleep. That was really the extent of our relationship. I know she loved me, don’t get me wrong, but I wanted more, I deserved more.
On her really bad days she used to lay in that hospital bed in the corner of her and my daddy’s bedroom begging for God to please just take her. I remember asking my Sunday school teacher if God would come get her, because she didn’t want to be sick anymore. She just hugged me and said that she would pray for my mom.
I guess it’s those memories that explain my reaction on the day she passed. I never cried a tear, and as an adult who is now a mother and grandmother herself, I feel guilty for that. I remember within the hour of my daddy telling me my mother had died, I was asking him if I could go to my friend Mitzi’s to play. That seems so strange to me now. I’m ashamed of it, actually.
I was so close to my daddy, he was my rock. For everything that I lacked in having that mother/daughter relationship when I was little, my daddy tried making up for it tenfold. That was at least until he got remarried–things change somewhat after that.
He didn’t love me any less by any means, but there was definitely a shift in attention. I know it wasn’t intentional on his end, my daddy was still mourning the loss of my mother, and struggling with the fact he didn’t want to be alone. Unfortunately, the less alone he felt, the more alone I felt.
I don’t want to go into detail about the relationship between my stepmother and myself. Quite honestly, the emotions that come with that part of my life are more bad than good. I have chosen to no longer let those memories define me. From the age of nine until my mid thirties I focused on coping, not living because of this, so I hope you will forgive me for the lack of detail.
It takes more than perseverance to overcome obstacles from our childhood and be truly happy with who we are. We have to come to the realization that others do not define us. They do not control us. They are not us.
I had a second grade teacher who’s name was Mrs. Orr. She knew about my mother’s illness, and although I didn’t think at the time it was really affecting me, she obviously could see it. She told me if I was sad to write why on a piece of paper and give it to her. She then would take those pieces of paper with all of their jumbled grammatical errors and wad them up and throw them in her trash can and say, “Okay, all better!” As silly as that sounds, it worked.
Mrs. Orr… I wonder if she had any idea how much of an impact she had made on me? Not only did she teach me how to cope, but she is the very first person who ever encouraged me to write. I will forever be indebted to her for that.
She had changed grades in our district and I was blessed again to have her as my seventh grade English teacher. She was so sweet on the first day of class, pulling me aside after the end bell rang to tell me she was happy I was her student yet again. By that time, my writing had evolved into poetry. I used to share it with her. She was always so encouraging and supportive. I truly believe that fate brought her into my life.
Writing has been a huge part of me, and until recently, I only shared it with a few people. Not that I doubted my gift, but it was something I always found solace in and I didn’t want that to be tainted. I happened along another writer on social media that I had followed from time to time, we had endured some of the same experiences, she too wrote about hers. I was so taken back by how raw and honest her writing was, and I was envious of the fact she was so brave to share it with the world. I now wanted to do the same.
On a whim, I decided to message her and ask for advice. I certainly did not think I would get a response. For goodness’ sake, she was a successful writer, poet, columnist, actress who lived in another country, her plate was indeed full. But much to my surprise, and to my sense of hope, she did respond! Vanessa de Largie is a rare gem who’s sparkle is almost blinding.
We have become long distance friends, and I consider her a wonderful creative advisor. She helped me get my writing and poems published within weeks, something I had always dreamt about, but never thought would be a reality.
About a month ago she had written an article about her parents. I loved it, and was convinced more than ever she and I were kindred spirits of sorts. I told her how much I loved it, and that I could totally relate. At the end of our conversation she told me how proud she thought my mother would have been of me in regards to my writing. For the first time in many, many years I finally felt something real that connected me to my mom. I do think she would be proud, and I think she would be happy for me.
My life hasn’t been easy, but my writing has been an incredible outlet. And although I may have began this creative journey to help me cope as a child, I’ve been fortunate enough to have women like these to encourage me to make it so much more.
If I hadn’t have lost my mom, would I be writer today? I don’t know the answer to that question, nor do I think I want to know. Everything happens for a reason, I’m a true believer in that concept. People do not just come along, they are intentionally placed along your path.
We all have gifts that we have been blessed with. We should embrace those gifts. Share those gifts. We need to use those gifts to cope and heal, not only ourselves, but others. I want to dedicate this to my mother, and I want her to know that I’m sorry I couldn’t cry then, but I’ve cried a million tears since. She is the reason I became a writer.