What no one tells you when you lose your mom at eight years old is that every milestone from that point on will be ruined by the sharp pang of loss you will inevitably feel when you realize she has missed another chapter in your life.
Everyone offered me their condolences, they whispered amongst themselves about how sorry they felt for the eight-year-old me who would grow up without a mother, but no one ever warned me that I wouldn’t ever experience a completely happy moment again, that I would always feel that emptiness. As I approach my fifteenth year without my mom, I find that the loss never hurts any less, it just gets further away.
For me, the most bittersweet moment I’ve had thus far without my mom was my college graduation. I think when we envision our graduation from college, we all picture the culmination of four years of hard work exploding with smiles and laughter and celebration. In light of the fact that graduating from college was one of my mother’s foremost goals for me, I expected nothing short of complete bliss and at first, that is exactly what I experienced.
But no one ever told eight-year-old me that when my Dad held my hand on my graduation day, and we stood in the garden at Dickinson College that I would feel so much loss in the face of having accomplished so much.
He looked up and just said “Look Tara, we did it!” and that’s when I felt it. That sharp stab coupled with intense anger that breast cancer stole my mother from me, that it robbed her of seeing one of the most important moments of my life.
But what I also felt in that moment was equally, if not more important. While I was sad, even angry, I was overwhelmed by the love I felt for my father, who raised me alone and worked so hard every day to make sure that I never forgot for a single moment how amazing my mother truly was. No one ever told eight-year-old me about that either. No one ever told eight-year-old me that I would be inspired by my father’s deep love and profound strength.
My mother had her chance at a life with me stolen far too early and not a day goes by that I don’t miss her. But what I wish someone would have told me was that I would live my life not only for myself, but for her as well; that I would be greedy for life so I could experience all of the things she never got the chance to. So in the days leading up to the anniversary of her passing, I am reminded of the amazing mother I wish I had gotten more time to know, and of the amazing father who made it possible for me to get to know her even after she was gone.