Before and After

The rhetoric familiar. A story told many sleepless nights upon deaf ears, poured onto blank pages and from my eyes; my very identity entangled in a mere twist of fate that has since absolutely altered my life completely. It is the reason I do not easily trust, but more than this, it is the potter’s hand shaping every relationship and emotional connection since.

Since…

I cannot remember her before. No, I mean bits and pieces are there, yes, – as if the overarching theme of my life was filled with the woman, “Mother”. But her – as an autonomous person, no. I have forgotten? No. I have pushed it so far down that recalling her face takes great effort, and most every attempt to do so forms a burning lump in my throat thus I would almost rather not try. It is an uncomfortable task. Because I feel shamed into believing I must be able to see past it, beyond it, before it… Alas, I rarely do. I criticize the immaterial while grasping the longing with clenched fists; I want to remember her, but more than devastating, I cannot.

Intellectually I recall that she was once a mother. A doting, boisterous, and enigmatic woman whom raised her five children with devotion akin to any holding such a title. She must have loved us for she cared for us from infancy to adolescence. She provided meals, tended housework, and tucked children in for slumber. She wore makeup and dressed with a carefree creativity, adorning her body and her home with sensible yet stylish furnishings unique to only Roberta.

Roberta. I cannot recall the last time I wrote that name with it expressly belonging to my mother… I sat here and stared at it for a few minutes. Trying. To remember. Deeper than intellectually, but emotionally.

What did it feel like to have her as my mother? When a child. When I needed her love, approval, and care more than any other person on this planet. I. Cannot. Remember. Bits and pieces is all I get anymore, and I cannot tell how frustrating and disheartening this is as typically I am one whom remembers details TOO well!

It takes everything I have within me to conjure her face. Beyond that day, before it.

The agonizing truth of the matter is I remember THAT day all too well. I remember her face, that day. I remember the looming darkness in that hospital room. The unspoken remorse, the idle apology, and the shared agony between those present to be anywhere but there. I remember hating what she had become.

It is truly not a day I’d like to define me. Most honestly, it is in fact a day I wish and have prayed to God to be able to forget. The burden, however, is clearly mine. The thorn in my side – the times I’ve cried out to the Lord to remove it from me were apparently in vain. . . I remember.

I would love the ability to see before it and truly know my mother again. To look upon my history, of these 21 years I had with her before and see the woman whom gave me my life, loving and protecting me.

That is the thing, though, really. I know, intellectually, why this one day stuck the way that it did. It was the loss of protection and love, for me, and perhaps for her (though I’ll never know so long as I live). It removed me from child and her from mother and put us against one another as women, both broken and lost in an instant – but one blindly at fault, and one blindsided.

Experiencing the loss of my mother in this way is an evil peril I would wish not on another soul. Give me at my feet my greatest enemy and I would spare them this pain. Truly. Because a mother should never have to fall the way she did. And a daughter should never have to endure such a confusing and bitter blow.

Before she died, I lost my mother. And to that end, I lost the ability to peek beyond that day, and this is very sad for me. It isn’t dramatic for the sake of writing or pitiful appreciation from those whom may read this, but merely and painfully my reality. One I have sought help coping with for ten years, but sadly, one that has defeated my heart more times than I can count.

Because I would give anything to go back. To safe arms and familiar skin in the arms of my mother. To a time when I was just her daughter and she was just my mom. She was flawed and impatient and selfish, but these things I am as well and who could fault a woman raising children doing the best she can. She was that, before, and I would give anything to have only known that person. That woman. That mother.

I struggle writing this as I do not want to appear a forsaken and weeping woman. . .

Truth is, I do well most days. I raise my children the best I can, and though I am flawed, impatient, and selfish like my mother, I do fine – most of the time.

It is the quiet longing that still defines my life, no matter how much I have tried to outrun it. It is in the quiet when I see a movie that she would have loved, or hear her voice in a song, or have to answer a question from my children about her…

Those moments I would give anything to know a before and only a before. The after kills me when I realize I cannot see past it. I know her face well, in that hospital bed. I know her face well, on a cold steel table, lifeless and cold.

I yearn for the BEFORE. The woman. The mother.

I lost her before she died, and I would give anything to have her back before it changed my life completely. I would give anything to have her back so I could change her life, completely.

You see, the worst comes in when I ponder whether forgiving her would have saved her life. Had I said those words, but more than that, felt them – had I not condemned her before God took her. Had I not turned my back in rightful agony and scorned the person she became. Maybe, just maybe, I could have changed it for her…

Then we would never have to know the vanishing of before. We would not, for many years perhaps, have had to know an after. I would be able to call her when I still get that urge, like a sudden desire to call her – I would pick up and dial and she would be there. She would know my children by name and be there for their births. She would have been redeemed in this life and not just the next. There maybe would not have been an after.

I live with these. These… Afters. And I would give anything to go back to before.

Please, I welcome your thoughts, perspective, and new ideas on anything I have written here!

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