Tag Archives: Death

4637 words about Tim

I’m going to time travel and remember…..

I was a true-blue Vancouver stoner from a broken family, whose generational sin helped alter all our lives. I put no substance into relationships but instead chained myself to pot, both to escape the reality as it was and to embrace the culture around me. I was indulging in teenage sex but had no self-worth in me to secure anything deeper than painfully meaningless embraces. 19 years old with no high school diploma in a lousy job with nothing on the horizon but monotonous emptiness. I was lost, but I only vaguely felt that back then; ha! Looking back at Christina, a young adult with so little insight into where her life would go – no real motivation to steer it – I am dumbfounded that I didn’t notice how unfortunate things had become…

Right now, sitting at these keys overlooking a little fishing bay, on an island stretching the southern-most tip of Texas, I am 32 years old, and I thank GOD I can remember where adulthood began and see very little materially-similar evidence that I am still like her at all. Today, it is my wish to talk through one of the most significant and impactful periods of my life that had everything to do with me leaving Vancouver and led me to where I am today. A time which shaped me and has since become one of the more difficult challenges I face: Letting myself be loved and loving someone else. I guess to start I’ll go back to where everything changed for me. From a wandering lost young woman to…

“Welcome back!” she smiled, ushering in an elderly couple with two laminated menus pointing the way to their usual table. As they took their seats, she took a khaki windbreaker to hang from his hand, “Frank, let me get your coffee. Ruth, do you want ice tea or coffee tonight?” Katherine walked three steps to the counter behind their table, set down his jacket, and fetched a hot carafe of decaf, turning back around to pour it in Frank’s mug just as Ruth decided she wanted tea. “All right, I’ll be right back.”

The restaurant was slow for a Saturday night though the constant rain had made the entire week lag during every 6-hour shift. She busied herself organizing glassware, refilling syrup containers, and chatting up the other idle waitresses. She took orders, made side salads, and stacked receipts to collect payment from sporadic satisfied patrons.

The entryway door jingled startling Katherine from mindlessly wiping the soda machine, she looked up.

This is one of life’s movie moments – as I call them (really, I just now made this up). Like when you hold your child for the first time, or walk down the aisle to your future – so in love, or when your daughter rides her bike without training wheels after you tried to teach her for days, or when you watch the baby take her first steps. Moments. Sometimes we do not know we are in them until they are too far gone to grasp, and only after looking back, if one’s heart is open, may you really appreciate the beautiful gift it was.

In that moment, a plan was realized in two perfectly imperfect strangers. In that moment, seeing him for the first time, a grand part of my personal story began to take shape.

I began writing this yesterday (Wednesday) and stopped there because I wanted to go deep about what I remember, and make certain I am honest here. For a lot of people who know me personally, there is increasing uncomfortable feelings looming in them whenever I write about this part of my life (I have been told, from a few different sources, that I should not delve into this anymore – I should be “over it” by now… so imagine the strength it takes to directly oppose that by going still deeper into it!)

The truth is, I do not believe this corridor of my history deserves anything less than this. It does not deserve to be forgotten, swept under the rug – there are countless reasons why I feel my work here is not yet done, and perhaps why it may never be done – I write things like this to explain why…

When I met him, my life had little direction. As I mentioned in the forward to the story I had been living at less-than my potential for quite some time. Though I was yet a young woman, and it seemed the world could have been broadened and my experiences more positive, I lacked the one very necessary ingredient that I could have used to change my circumstances alone: Self-belief. I did not believe I was going to do much, because I didn’t feel like much. Things had not gone right for me for many years, and the crushing blow of recent life events (or lack thereof) only furthered my self-doubt.

I sought love, but in the circle of friends I surrounded myself with – the parties, the alcohol, the pot, and the frivolous handing out of my most sacred self in the absence of love – it left me drained with little substance to hold. Love, though I sought it from others, was not found in my heart, not for me, and certainly not for anyone else.

Knowing this, back then? You could have asked my 19-year-old self and my answers then to these same notions would have been vastly different. The stirring of loneliness, the continual self-criticism, the escapism by way of drugs or drinking – – I could not have guessed that things were about to be so different, and I was about to find myself on a path towards all I had silently hoped for but could not have believed I would find.

That is who I was, and what I believed about myself. That these young men I spent so much time chasing, with their empty promises and, “I can’t date you because of your brothers…” After they used me for all it seemed I had to give, it left me thinking I must not be good for much else. If only one of them would get to know who I was before my world was broken. Before I stopped believing in myself. If only someone would dig deep, and see who I really was, I thought, then maybe, just maybe, things could be different… I had more to give, I just stopped believing that it even mattered.

That’s when I met him.

Katherine wiped the table just two rows over from theirs, glanced up towards the handsome man facing her from his booth, and saw him smile. He held his coffee cup to his mouth and drank it quickly, still smiling at her when he was done. She blushed intensely, marveled at the butterflies swirling in her chest, and tried to pretend like she didn’t care.

The truth was, she did care. Something about him was familiar from the moment their mutual friend introduced them. Justin made small talk with his dinner mate, Katherine waited tables, and Dylan planned his move – scribbling his name and telephone number on the outside of a used sugar packet. Out of character for a shy machinist, he never did things like that, but he had to know her.

The following two weeks found us together most of the time. I remember it so well, so much so that I often laugh at my memory when it comes to this. I remember wanting to do it differently and wait for things to go from friendly to intimate – something I didn’t normally even consider let alone put into practice. I wanted to get to know him, in a way I had not wanted to know anyone else.

I’ve often questioned the next two years of time spent with him, and believe now, some 13 years later since I met Tim, that I may never know what the purpose was. Because it was the first-time I was truly loved, and the first time I truly loved anyone else, but more than that – though not to minimize it – it was in that span of time I learned to trust another person, and myself, and I felt how good it was to be able to plan our future. I knew my future. I knew our life together, and what that would look like. I knew our children’s names and how he’d be the sort of old man who would wear overalls with a bandana sticking out of his back pocket as he mowed the lawn, and I’d be the sort of old woman who would bring him tea and use that bandana to wipe his sweat away before I kissed him just like I had done for 45 years.  I knew that he would drive me nuts and I would make him crazy because we believed differently about the world, the afterlife, and we would be the sort to bicker in diners over hot coffee but then go home and love each other because none of that compared to how deeply love went.

We were to live a simple life in the material sense, but greater than most have felt would have been our love. If he were here now, sitting here, remembering all of this with me as I dictate our thoughts, I know for certain he would agree that the one thing that made us so special, the reason it has been so hard, is that we loved each other in a rare fashion and that was the thing that promised to keep us together for the rest of our lives.

Only, it wasn’t meant to do that, and here is where my mood shifts from that of reverence for the great love I got to know, to blistering bitterness over the very thing that tore us apart.

It may seem easy for me to write this. Trust that it is not. For reasons that go beyond the very nature of exploring emotional history in my writing, but more than this because a key player in how we ended is no longer here to speak for herself, and perhaps I do her legacy – her memory – a great disservice by telling her side of the story, but only as I remember it? I am torn, and always have been, because it is my story, after all – it is the love I lost, not just his, but hers – but it is also a personal tragedy on her account. A deeply sad and hurtful part of who she became, and to those who knew her apart from the end years of her life, it might seem I wish to paint her the villain, focus all my love on him and all my anger on her, and thus validate this great love story – and the blame doesn’t fall on either of us, it falls on her.

To be clear, I do not wish to do this, and if I have ever made it seem like I do not blame him for his part in this, I was wrong to excuse him.

However, again it is my story, and how I do remember it is extremely personal – and I can assure anyone with any accusation against this, how I tell it, that it would be better to take my word for it and let me claim my history than it would be to try and tell me I am wrong. After all, there were three people involved. One, a tragic loss, the other is silent and has been a stranger to me for years, and the third – well, I think you know how she is doing…

Tim and I cannot know for certain that if things had not happened the way they did we would still be together. We cannot know that, just like with any part of our history – things happened the way they did and that becomes what you know and all else become dreams or mere speculation… None the less, I have always believed that he and I would have made our way in this life together. I would venture a guess that he feels that way as well.

I base this speculation on what happened after everything changed. He would not have told me about it had he not realized that keeping it a secret would damage us, and I would never know what went wrong. It would have eaten him alive, and the way that he loved me – we didn’t keep secrets from each other, and he knew more about me than anyone else in the world – there was no way he could keep that inside. Telling me was the obvious thing and unfortunately for me, the most painful thing – but having gone through a lot of life since that time, and having experienced keeping my own secrets from people I loved, I have great respect that he did, in fact, tell me. First chance he got.

I had spent two years building a life with this man. During that time the house we lived in was bought – we planted flowers and watched the roots of our labor and love turn it into our quant little fixer-upper home. During that time, his mother and he encouraged me to finish high school, so I did that and then went on to take credits at Clark, I got my first real job working at a mortgage company, and I learned what it meant to be loved. Truly… loved. We bickered about religion and politics and sometimes in my longing for us to be as connected in these issues as we were in everything else, I would cry and beg him to change (a classic young-love mistake) but then all I had to do was look at him and none of that mattered as much compared to how I loved him anyway. He taught me how to trust myself, and that I could trust him with my heart, and I fell into it entirely sure. So was he the night he asked me to marry him.

I became a version of myself that I could love. Loving him, trusting him, it made me stronger. It gave me a purpose I could appreciate. It challenged me and pushed me to want more for my life, because I would do whatever it took to stay beside him. He loved me for who I was, even when I was broken, and nobody in my life at that time was giving me anything even close to that. He let me see the parts of him that were difficult, and flawed, and we both held onto each other so tightly in our mutual openness and adoration for one another.

It was to be, then, obvious to anyone paying any attention at all, that what transpired to break us apart would devastate me. Indeed, it was worse than that.

Our life together, his and mine, was not by any means perfect. We were known for the beer in our fridge and the late-night music in the garage which often was played by a man, his guitar, and six or seven cold ones. I admit I loved his cigarette smoke lips and the lingering scent of beer on his breathe. It was a part of the man I fell in love with. He could pull out Dylan lyrics from memory in one breathe and ponder the meaning of life in another, while smoking as he strummed an acoustic on the porch. We were not pure, nor faultless, nor perfect by any means – and it was precisely this avenue of our life together that aided him to make this most dire mistake.

… I paused for quite a while, sort of just lingering there – remembering. I don’t intentionally remember him, or that time, too often. When I do it always hurts. I realize as I write this that I bump dangerously against seeming to long for him presently while maintaining that it is only history of which I speak; one might confuse the two. Just something I thought worth mentioning as I continue.

My world, in an instant, was broken. Soon to follow the obvious trauma of thinking I lost the man I loved came the actual loss of my mother, and so it came to pass that every single thing I loved, needed, and wanted was… gone.

When she died, he was the one I wanted to run to. I needed my best friend. I needed to cry, and scream, and completely shatter on the ground in his arms, but I couldn’t. I was told not to go to him. I was told I could not heal there, because there was where the pain began.

After our life completely fell apart, and I was no longer living with him in our little house on our little street, but instead a few miles away, I remember every single day was a fight not to run back there. This was made especially difficult by his repeated attempts to get to me by whatever means necessary. He showed up but I didn’t know how to go back – not when everyone I knew told me, in no uncertain terms, that you don’t go back after this happens. That it means – it proves – we were not meant to be. So instead of listen to my heart, which craved him entirely even though that would mean it would hurt and we would need to heal, I listened to the world. I listened to everyone whom had supposedly suddenly had my best interest at heart. The same people whom were not there before I met him when I was lost, and completely drowning in the empty shell of the person I’d become. The same people who never saw how much we loved each other, but only latched on to the various times I’d vent about him during a spat and use that version of our story to make me believe we weren’t supposed to be together anyway.

The only person who knew me deeply. The only one who made a huge mistake and then immediately saw it for what it was and risked everything to tell me. The only one who, at the very grand expense of losing me forever, broke himself apart just to be honest the very moment after he made that mistake… The only one who then spent nearly two years trying to make me see that I made the biggest mistake of all by walking away – by listening to everyone else – was Tim. I abandoned him because everyone told me that’s what you do. That I couldn’t have moved past it. I couldn’t have forgiven him no matter how badly I may have wanted to. People were well-meaning, I like to believe that, but sometimes I realize the mistake was that I shared with anyone what had happened… Alas, that’s one of those senseless things I needn’t even explore further.

I moved away because I couldn’t take it anymore. The devastating moment I learned that my mother had died – that very night – I wanted one person. The one person I could not have… Not when it didn’t matter for anyone else anymore what she put me through before she died – all that mattered then was that, she was gone. That trumped all my personal pain, a pain not even one of them can even understand let alone the fact that they didn’t have to endure it. I felt like I lost the ability to go back because the fact that I still loved him just wasn’t enough for them – how could it be enough after what happened? – and so I made it not enough for me. Somehow, I thought that if I went back, it would hurt them, and I valued their opinion more so than I valued my own healing.

When people hear this part of my history – even paid professional counselors (and believe me, I’ve seen many) I am always left feeling as though nobody really understands it. How can I talk about loving him so much, so deeply, and then talk about what happened, and then even mention that I still loved him after that? As if they expect the very act of betrayal itself should erase all the love we shared. I almost, at times, feel as though I may just be a fool, and maybe they are right…

But then I remember that I was the one. I was there the night I met this handsome man with piercing blue eyes and a brilliant smile. I was there when I felt my walls crumbling down and my heart opening to his tender touch against my cheek. I was there when someone, for the first time in my life outside of my family, accepted and loved me for who I was. I was there when he walked into the house after working each night and saw him rush to me, renewed by my embrace. I was there when we dug our fingers in the soil and planted seeds that bloomed as we lay side-by-side under the summer sun. I was there on the cold, rainy winter nights when we moved the mattress to the living room in front of the stove to watch the fire burn as we rested in each other’s arms. I was there to listen as he serenaded me with classic rock tunes on the guitar, and as he danced like Joe Cocker in the garage just to make me laugh. I was there when I bared my soul to him, and his to me, and we dreamed and laughed and talked about our future together…

I was there, laying my head against his chest, when his breathe was shallow and I could tell something was very wrong. I was there when he revealed that something had gone terribly wrong and he wasn’t sure how it happened but told me every detail a thousand times just to try and help me understand it. I was there to wipe his tears away the day I packed my car up and was ready to leave, while he sat on our porch crying, begging me not to go. I was there when he told me he was so sorry, and he would love me forever… even as I walked away.

I am not sure anyone could understand it. Not unless you walked in our shoes. Not unless you felt what we felt… Not unless you lost… what we lost. I know it’s the same for all loss – I can’t expect to understand how my brothers and sister, or my dad, deal with or dealt with the loss of our mom, and I’d never be in their ear telling them, “it’s better this way” … But that’s what I heard when it came to me and him.

I’ve got another side to this entire part of my life that is entirely devoted to my mother, but I purposefully left that out of this because now is not the time. I’ve still got 5 days on this island completely alone, and I am certain in that time, I will write about her. I will cry about her. I must go back, stand beside her, and deal with everything that comes up. For now, it is about him.

Tim is a stranger to me now. Some time before Layla was born was when he last spoke freely to me. He had just met the person who is now his wife and she was soon to be pregnant with their son. From what I understand he’s lived in her country of Slovenia and moved back to Vancouver, though I am not aware of where he is now.

One of the greatest struggles I have faced since leaving Washington is knowing that I left him alone and did not return, and so the fault of this – our fate – rests solely upon me. I am okay with that because my choice to do so ultimately gave me three daughters and an amazing husband – a life I am grateful for.

Yet the healing that still needs to take place – it is apparent to me that even having a great life, a thousand miles apart from my home town – does not change the fact that I still hurt about Tim. It still hurts me that this happened to us, and I think I would be inauthentic if I pretended otherwise, though I am sure a great many people would rather I pretend because my honesty makes them uncomfortable.

I am not sure I’ll ever get used to the fact that I don’t know him anymore. That’s the hard part about knowing someone so well, and loving them so deeply – now, he is just supposed to be this person that I once knew, once loved. Yet, I know he is one of the most important parts of my history. He…

He gave me love, for the first time in my life. He opened his heart, mind, and soul to me, and let me see him intimately. He learned all the details of my face, and smiled at me with a sparkle in his eyes that made me feel safe and wanted – flaws and all. We taught each other that true love is worth fighting for, though I only learned that after it was too late.

I will never be 19 again. I will never know that version of myself, broken and wayward, God-less and love-less. I will never feel what it feels like to watch that person fall away as I learned myself through the eyes of another person. I cannot go back there – to any of it. I know that. I just wish, sometimes, that I could find some box to put him in that would contain all of this, so that I don’t have to see it unless I want to. I guess I haven’t mastered the art of forgetting like some would hope by now I would. Truth is, I may never fully understand this, and maybe that’s where I just let it go. Leave it at that. A classic, “it is what it is” situation?

I am so grateful that in my life now I have someone beside me whom accepts that I am still mending these broken pieces, and he lets me love him imperfectly. He doesn’t begrudge me that fact, but instead, holds me through it. He shows me I have the strength left to tackle this, and tells me that even if I never break through entirely, and I feel pain about this for the rest of my life, I am still worth loving. It is amazing that he is the first person – indeed the only one – whom has given me such a gift in all the years since Tim. In that way, I know it is real love, because long ago, I learned what that looked like.

I got to know great love. I got to lose great love. I guess, because of that, I should count myself among the lucky ones… I’ve had it twice.

Tim will probably never know these words exist, and I sometimes wonder how or if he still deals with those two years, and the end of us, like I do. I’ve tried to reach out to him but have never gotten anywhere with it, a fact of which is both understandable and disheartening. Sometimes, I question whether I am imagining things as they were not, but instead have built this beautiful world of sunshine and flowers and us walking together through a perfectly green pasture under a clear blue sky. Then, I laugh that off and remember…

“Hey, Christina, this is Tim”, Justin said, looking over at his dinner buddy. That moment. His face. That’s when my life began.

This Day

I have been contemplating whether or not I was going to write today; anxiety answered for me, much to my intense dismay…

I’ve been considering what is underneath this looming feeling of panic, and breathlessness, and given what day it is today, the acknowledgement and fault should go to my mother. The reason I don’t automatically admit my understanding of such a seemingly obvious cause is that today is the day my first child was born. A celebratory day. One of the most beautiful moments of my entire life.

Everyone tells me, easily, that her birth should vastly overshadow my mother’s death. That God gave me a gift today that, “takes a hard day and makes it beautiful”. I don’t think negatively about others when they say this to me, after all I have said those exact words myself to describe this day. . . The problem is, however, I am not sure it is true – for me. Not yet, perhaps … not ever – but I can still hope.

Honestly, I hate that I feel the way that I do. I hate that it has been eleven years already. I hate that she is gone, and I hate that I can remember it all too well.

Layla was born eleven days past her due date. My first child, that is normal… I remember my doctor telling me that if I didn’t have her by Monday, we would induce that day. I went home that Friday and it hit me, in the coming hours, that if I did not have this baby before Monday, she would be born on the day my mom passed away. I remember crying at this realization, thinking it was such a grand gesture from God to orchestrate such a thing – surely, it would not come to that, because for me it rarely does that pain triumphs beauty. That day was to always be my mother’s day – it was to always be the one day of the year I can openly grieve her death and nobody can pity me for it.

The weekend slowly passed and Sunday night I paced. I prayed. I cried. Then, at literally 12am, midnight, on January 19th, my water broke.

God makes His plans…

I remember laboring with her in that hospital room. I remember praying for the strength she had when she bore me and my siblings – drug free, believing in her body, even at the age of 16 when she had her first child. I remember the photograph I held in my hand of my mom in a hospital bed, in labor with my little brother. I remember the cross that sat on the bedside table, because I needed God with me because she was not.

My daughter’s birth was exceptional. The moment she layed in my arms, I felt a fire burn inside me that has yet to dim. Motherhood. A daughter. My baby girl…

This on the day my own mother breathed her last breathe, 3 years before.

Now it is eleven years since that night. 8 years since that afternoon when she was named Layla Samaya Roberta. . .

Roberta, my mother, must have nudged Him. I like to think she did…

Even so, I am a bit uneased by it, and I can’t help but to smile through my tears, gazing heavenward to chuckle with them both as I watch my 8-year-old baby girl grow.

The hardest part about this day for me is that I do feel guilty and shameful that I still grieve my mother. People say that it is such a blessing. Such a beautiful gift from God, my sweet Layla coming today. I feel like in light of that, I have to hold my breathe and smile along, and any hint of sadness has to be shoved deep inside me.

Really, it is quite difficult.

I prayed this morning, as I made pancakes for the girls, that I would find peace here. That I would honor what was, and be present with what is, and give this to God. After all, wasn’t He the one who arranged this? From her last breathe to my daughter’s first.

Just – why? I sigh now…

Perhaps it is just another thing I won’t understand until He tells me Himself when I look around me and once again see her face.

I miss her. I miss who she was to me as a child. I miss her laughter. Her boisterous presence when she was feeling happy and brought that into every room she entered. Her soft skin. Her fingernails with chipped nail polish and her hands covered in paint from the home improvement store. Her dinners of perfectly cooked rice and BBQ chicken with secret sauce. Her being my Mama – every deep, satisfying, and natural thing that represented. . . When she loved me… When she loved herself.

Eleven years, and I still remember this day like recalling every detail of a dream having just roused from sleep. It is all there, just some parts fade over time. I’d go back and change so much – but eleven years proves that desire is fruitless and futile; a waste of my emotional and mental space.

8 years, and I still remember that day like it was yesterday. Every detail is clear. I remember her button nose and wrinkly skin. I remember counting her toes and kissing her fingers. I remember breathing her in and feeling purpose flood my life. I remember feeling grateful that she was here, in my embrace, and in those following moments, a difficult day did become brighter than the sun. . .

But the brightness of her coming has dimmed and shadows of the past are all around me now.

I hope as she grows and realizes what this day is for me, personally, she does not resent me for this struggle. A hardship she won’t understand, and cannot, until I too die.

So, I have nothing left to say…

Happy Birthday, my sweet baby girl. I love you more than I can say today. Ask me tomorrow and I’ll give you 1012 words.

Motherless daughter about to have a baby

Without You, Ingrid Michaelson

maternal-instincts-by-pino-11

There within my soul it lingers. Almost tangible, as an exhale of breathe or the way my heart seems to beat stronger these days – a longing for something that I cannot grasp that I need now more than ever. I’ve spent the better part of the past nearly ten years dealing with this loss. Trying to make sense of it, to fit it into the context of the rest of my life. To recognize, over and over again, that she is… Gone.

Perhaps my longing is selfish entirely, but what does that matter? I am a motherless daughter about to have a child of my own. About to welcome a son or daughter, to make my girls siblings again, and make my husband a father when he holds his child for the first time and evermore. Is it wrong to desire a single moment wherein she shares this joy with me? To say, aloud, “Meet your Grandchild, Mama…”

Instead, it will only be a whisper and a pain in my heart that nobody here will understand. In the grand picture – this breathtaking moment I finally meet this life that has made a home within me for 9 months – the lack of my mother here will be small; I will be the only one whom notices a key player is missing, and as my baby is passed from John’s smiling father and mother, I will only briefly remember that the person I needed here most is gone. Her absence merely something I occasionally talk about because I don’t like making them uncomfortable, so I don’t blame anyone for not seeing that pain in the back of my eyes.

Right now, however, I feel it deeply. It is not just a passing thought that occasionally plagues the mind when I haven’t successfully masked it with idle distraction. Nobody knows this, though. I dare not speak it because then the loss is once again breathed to life outside of my heart.

Life has been hard these past few days. I am exhausted. I am physically slower than I’d like to be, and parts of me ache that I did not know could hurt. Emotionally, my heart is ready to conclude this chapter of motherhood and have this baby outside of my body – I had cried more these past few days than I’d like to admit, the strongest sign that I am not my self.

When life gets hard, this is when I miss her most. The thing is, the complication inherent in this for me, is that I am not even sure who it is I miss. The last few years of her life she was not herself so the only real representation I have of “mother” is pre-addiction when she was more my mommy than my mother; I an adolescent or a child – who she was to me then is probably not who she would have been had she lived into my adulthood thus I can only speculate. Honestly, I think that is part of what makes this hurt. The concept of having a mother, as I became and again becoming a mother, is foreign to me. But, nevertheless, I feel it as if the loss is something, as if she is someone, I still recognize in the present time.

Would she be here now? Taking a plane ride from Washington to Texas to help with my children as I rest. To relieve my husband whom has been picking up all my slack while still doing his full-time job, and taking care of the kids… Would she fold laundry and tell me stories of when she had her five kids? Would she be inclined to serve me the way I imagine I will serve my daughters when it becomes their time to become a mother?

Instead of answers, I have emptiness. There is nobody here helping, and I am working really hard at not being resentful of this but it becomes difficult as my body tires and my brain wanders around these thoughts.

The loss of her came well before her death and as I process it, yet in another season of my own life, I am still someone angry that it came to that for the person whom God put on this earth to make five children – to what? Leave us before most of the things that mattered most in our lives took place. What has troubled me these ten years is that it just doesn’t make sense. I guess God does not need to give us sense, sometimes… Just hope that we will see her again? Maybe, sometimes, that is not enough… but we aren’t allowed to say that even if it is the most honest thing to come from this.

My baby will be loved. I know that. I love my children fiercely and with my whole heart, so if anything I know they will get by with that… This baby, and my two little girls, ARE loved… But sometimes, I wish that someone in our lives would fill the role of Grandma to them, presently, and love them all equally. Because of the family dynamic I come from, and the one my choices have made, this is not possible, and at least I am sure they get love from so many places. That in itself is a blessing, and I do not wish to deny it or downplay it – but I imagine and like to think it would have been different if my own mother was here to love my children.

Maybe the coping mechanism of dealing with this loss creates the exterior view of a world wherein things could appear exactly as my heart wishes. I could portray my mother as someone whom would have been here, loving my girls and anxiously awaiting another grandbaby, totally present and excited with her own daughter – cheering me on and reminding me I can do this. She would be at the birth, reminding me of when she had all of her children naturally and that I am capable of this. She would be one of the first people to see my baby, learn its name, and cry with me – watching the circle of life make our family bigger. She would help with dishes and take the kids to the park and not want to board that plane back home.

I can make her whomever I want her to be. I can miss that picture that I create – completely aware that it is make-believe, and who she was can never be the person I make her in my dreams – but the momentary imagination, no matter how unreal, comforts me more than this lack of… anything at all.

Any day now, this baby will come. My body will do the work hers did 31 years ago when she had me – her most dramatic birth that almost killed her when I made her a mother to a daughter for the first time. Any moment now, I will begin the labor that will bring into this world my first son or my third daughter, either way my last child. Any second now…

I pray that God gives me peace about what I am missing. That I can let this go as I write these words and simply exist in each passing moment – in today – and cease to long for something that was released from my control many years ago. The ability to make new memories. To have anything but what we lost. To know her as anything other than who she became after losing my mommy to someone that was no longer my mother.

I pray to God to let me move past the absence that is present when I look around my home and when I pick up the phone to dial a number never again answered. I pray that I can only miss her momentarily when John’s family comes to hold my new baby but my family is hundreds of miles away or gone altogether. I pray that, as this baby gives me a million reasons to find joy and peace and purpose, I can thank Him for the gift of being a mother in a world where my “mother” is a notion I can only narrowly grasp in dreams.

My Mother Was So Much More Than An Alcoholic

It has taken years to understand that who she was is not merely the sum of her last days on earth. The final analysis revealed she died of acute ethanol poisoning and asphyxiation due to aspiration from accidental ingestion of lethal proportions. Quite a tongue twister and in truth the cold clinical nature of these descriptions never stop hurting. In the moment of her death, and in the resulting coroner report from an autopsy, my mother became an unfortunate statistic; my mother became, to those whom will never get the chance to know her beyond this, an alcoholic who died from the disease. To the future, her life is symbolic of merely what not to do and who not to become. To us, those whom knew and loved her, however, there is so much more to this than what people imagine when we answer that our mother drank herself to death.

It makes people uncomfortable to talk about it, a fact I’ve had trouble with for years. People avoid the topic once it is out there – I’ve noted this often. As I’ve gotten older it honestly becomes more strange, the reactions. Because I am a mother she comes up most in conversations about my children. People unaware of my history will ask things like, “Doesn’t your mom love being a Grandma?” or, “Is your mom going to be there when the baby is born?” Countless mentions I cannot list beyond these. When I tell them my mother passed away when I was 21, most often people respond with, “Oh, I’m sorry, she was so young! Did she have cancer?”

Maybe I seem well-adjusted so it never occurs to them to think beyond what seems most probable, or maybe people just don’t like to contemplate an alternative theory for fear it might offend the listener – whatever it may be, I know for sure nobody ever expects me to utter alcohol anywhere in my learned response… For that reason, sometimes I contemplate not telling the truth. After all, cancer in comparison seems much easier because if anything at least it is common.

The reason I sometimes just smile and act like I didn’t hear them mention my mom is that it never fails to hurt my soul when their face contorts if I tell the truth. “Uh… (pause) Oh. I’m sorry to hear that”.
I feel like I am changed in their eyes – like, somehow, my mother’s disease alters the way they see ME – just like it definitely alters the way they choose to see her. Some kind of pity, maybe, or confusion perhaps? I have never felt understood after that conversation happens, but I guess that is true for us all when we have no comparison or experience to draw from. The subject is often changed after that. Normally not by me. Sometimes, I wish someone could relate. Every time, I wish I did not feel so ashamed on her behalf, dealing with feeling like I need to defend her so that we both find redemption.

Mostly I just wish for all these years I hadn’t defined her in these terms – I did not know it was me leaving no room for an alternative picture beyond how she died and what that must’ve meant regarding her as a person.

It is interesting that I’ve allowed her death to define ME so greatly, but I guess that isn’t the point.

She was more, but I could not see it. The pain made me forget probably just so I could survive it at all. More than the pain that eventually overtook most everything about her. More than the mistakes she made that we cast as stones against her. More than the humiliation and shame of losing everything she had and everyone she loved. More than the moment she finally let go and succumbed to this debilitating darkness… and more than the little she left for us to remember her in photographs whose colors are now far more vivid than our memories.

She was smart, I remember that. Quick-witted, charming, and infectiously comical if you caught her in the right mood. Our home was always appointed well with various themes of décor that changed almost spontaneously. When we were little, meals were hot and healthy on the table each and every night for dinner. Music would play as she danced and sung along, stirring heaping portions of mashed potatoes and checking on chicken baking perfectly in the stove.

My sister and I got our hair permed too many times by hairdresser Mom, and my brothers their buzzed style from clippers on the back porch before she’d let them run out the front door to ride bikes until dusk. She cared about how we were presented in public and washed mounds of laundry to always ensure we looked our best, even if our clothes were second-hand. At night, she tucked us in, and in the morning she was the first face we would see.

As I grew up into adolescence I began to notice her as someone to look up to, far beyond my childhood affections towards her fine cooking skills, but as a young woman destined to become a lady modeled with brown eyes just like her mother. She would let me watch her apply makeup and I studied her to learn how to curl my hair. I wanted to be just like her then because I thought she was the most beautiful mom in the world, and all the neighborhood boys certainly agreed.

She held everyone’s affection in the palm of her hand. Never tiring of a kind word or am admiring glance, she would not shy away from attention but instead welcomed it bravely. A sort-of delusional confidence only born in a woman whose seen all the colors of the world and still wishes to create her own palette.

She had dreams of being an interior designer. A painter. A singer. She sang well but drove us all crazy, probably the same way I drive my children nuts now… We sang together as she’d stare into my eyes, completely unafraid of the vulnerability in such a gesture.

I believe the only thing my mother feared was herself. The world could not see that until the end when she had nothing left to hide… no need for anything but the raw truth that even her best intentions were no match for the cruel torment of reality.

If I had to say anything else of her, it would be that she loved the Lord l, and every single day I am thankful for this. This, above all else, is what she left each and every one of us. She knew a God that loved her even in her weakest most vulnerable pain… Pain she hid well from others but knew she could never hide from God. That particular knowledge – that she knew the Lord – has comforted us all, but I admit at first I did not believe it was enough to help her find heavenly redemption. Pain is funny that way. When she died, all I could think about was that there was no way God could have loved her through all she had done to those she left behind – and all that she had allowed herself to become. I am grateful that even with all she did wrong, it was her humility before the Lord took her home – I will always believe that – though it left us forevermore without her.

What people understand of my mother, perhaps, is what I let them understand. But, I see now that I had to first accept it – all the ugly and bitter and sad truths – if I am to ever remember and share about who my mother really was.

For a long time, too long, what defined her for me was her death, and so I believed others defined her this same way. It took all this time to realize that it isn’t what people think initially that matters, or even what they choose to believe or think once that truth is shared. . . What do I want to remember of her? Can I see past the pain of her disease – all it stole from us? Her death and the emptiness it left is real, but it is my responsibility now to make more of it than the simplified version. For her, but also for myself and my family.

It was very simple once. My mom died of alcoholism – she drank herself to death. I left it at that. Mostly because few people ask more once they know this, but also because I was too broken from that one aspect of her to feel the need to share anything else. Symbolic of the pain you’d expect, and every bit as deep a hole as one might guess is within us since that day… It fit to say nothing more because I hurt so badly, and it just seemed safer to give the simple answer.

But now it does not suffice. Maybe because it never did, but I was just too far in it to see that. I yearn for now the chance to show who my mother really was. To see beyond the disease that claimed the last few years of her life and remember, wholly, the woman who raised me. The woman I called Mama. Before she faded into abstract memory. Before she simply became my alcoholic dead mother.

Nine years on the 19th of this month. Nine years since her death became a part of my history. Long enough time that I’m thankful my memories are changing. That I see past the cause of death and remember a bright, happy mother who raised 5 kids. The smiling one always ready for a deep conversation. The lover of nature, music, and her family.

We have this tendency to want to define everything. Simplify it. Make it easy to understand. This… This is everything but simple and I think I can be okay with that now. I think I can stop worrying about what others think when they hear how she died and instead, in my own heart, be thankful for how she lived. Be thankful for the beautiful person she once was. Be thankful that, for 21 years, I got to know and love a spirited, charismatic, strong woman…

She is more than what she became – she always was. Why has it taken me so long to accept that? I hope I am more than how I die – and what a strange concept to even say that but I’ve learned a lot from my mother in that way. I let that define her but I blamed everyone else for how that made me feel when I actually had to face it aloud. I didn’t bother to explain beyond it so how was that their fault?

Coming to terms with the pain took all these years but I am thankful I am here. I see her now, looking back, as so much more than how she failed and what that means for us now. I see her differently, and it helps me see my own life differently, and I am grateful for that. We are all so much more than the simplified version someone answers when they ask, “who is that?” In her case, it is up to me now to define it, and I am so happy I can finally look past the end and start from her beginning. I like that version way better anyway.