For the last few months I’ve had Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” rolling around in my head. I suppose it has to do with the anniversary of my mom’s death (which was yesterday), something about those lyrics just gets me. I do sincerely wish she was here, and I often do feel like a lost soul swimming in a fishbowl. My dad said something to me about it getting easier, “it” being my mom not being here. I suppose it has gotten easier, the first year after she was gone I spent the day on the verge of tears. I told myself I wasn’t going to make an issue of the day, for the next few years I tried to forget about it. That didn’t really work. When I had my big breakdown when I was sixteen all the sadness I’d been repressing just came pouring out (pretty unhealthily too). I’ve run the gamut of emotions concerning her death (grief, anger, depression, sorrow, some more anger, lots more grief and a giant slab of guilt), it’s the guilt that has always weighed heaviest on me.
I’ve had a long time to dissect what the guilt is for, I no longer feel it is my fault she died or that I had any control over that situation. I’ve realized the guilt is that after she died she didn’t get what she wanted. She wanted a specific song played at her memorial (Spirit in the Sky by Norman Greenbaum) and she wanted part of her ashes spread in Jemez, another part in Montauk Point in Long Island. The remaining ashes she wanted to stay with myself, my brother and my step-dad. I feel a tremendous guilt that this did not happen. Half of her ashes are in St. Michaels in Albuquerque and the other half are on the mantle at my step-dad’s house. I know in all reality it doesn’t matter, especially not twelve years later. I know how completely silly it is for me to feel guilty about this, yet I can’t seem to shake it. I know death rituals are more for the benefit of the living, and I think in order for me to let go of this guilt I need to do what my mom wanted.
The truth is I desperately miss my mom. It is there everyday, yes, it has gotten easier to deal with but it’s still there. Loss is not linear, there is no timeline for grief. I feel the loss everyday and even though I would give anything to talk to her just once more I am glad she is no longer suffering. Watching the cancer ravage her was nearly as difficult as living without her has been. I used to feel guilty for feeling grief, for not “getting over it,” until I realized that learning to live without her has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done and it is an ongoing process. It’s not like one day I just don’t need my mom, I know plenty of adults who rely heavily on their parents and would be completely lost without them. I spent a long time lost and learning how to live without that safety net. I know I have my dad and not to lessen his importance to me (he’s a lot more important that I think even he realizes) it’s just not the same as having my mom here.
It’s hard to explain why it is so hard to someone who doesn’t have that hole in their lives. It wasn’t just losing the woman who gave me life, it was losing my best friend. The person who was always there for me, always there to tell me what I needed to hear (especially when I didn’t want to hear it), the person who was always my biggest cheerleader. No one loves you like your mother loves you and you don’t really understand that until she isn’t there anymore. As a child I never really fully appreciated what a good mother my mom was, but those first 10 minutes after she died were like waking up on an alien planet.
The strangest things ran through my mind, who was going to know how to do my laundry, who would make my sandwiches just the way I liked them? Who would take me clothes shopping? Then the more important things hit me, who was going to encourage me, keep all my school papers, tell me I was so much better than I thought I was? The answer is I learned to do those things for myself. It was a hard, awkward road and I stumbled a lot. I’m still learning and still stumbling, still trying to find who I am and where I belong and I still wish she was here.