“Life and death. Energy and peace. If I stopped today, it was still worth it. Even the terrible mistakes that I have made, and would have unmade if I could. The pains that have burned me and scarred my soul. It was worth it for having been allowed to walk where I’ve walked, which was to hell on earth, heaven on earth, back again, into, under, far in between, through it, in it and above…” …Angelina Jolie in Gia

November 17th. Yay. Funny how some dates etch themselves in our memories, never to shake loose. Of course, this day holds a bit of a double whammy for me as my mom died 13 years ago today and my grandfather’s funeral was held 7 years ago today. Two people that I loved very much and who had a tremendous impact on shaping who I am.

“A motherless woman is a walking paradox… Other women have mothers, she thinks, but I have only myself. Never mind that she has a father or siblings or close friends or a spouse. In a crowd of other women, as a femaile, she feels alone.” …Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman

I belong to a local stay-at-home-mom’s group and the question was asked this week, what is a defining milestone in your life. Without hesitation, I can answer that it was the death of my mom. I think only another woman who has lost their mom can truly understand how it alters your perception of everything and everyone , how the realization that you will no longer have the woman who gave you life and watched you learn to crawl, walk, talk, run and grow can hit you so viscerally.

“When you lose a mother, the intervals between grief responses lengthen over time, but the longing never disappears. It always hovers at the edge of your awareness, prepared to surface at any time, in any place, in the least expected ways. “…Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman

This woman, who experienced such joy when I was born and who mourned, just a little, as I grew from baby to teen, didn’t get to celebrate the triumphs and tears of my own motherhood. She wasn’t able to pass on memories of my first days as a baby, wisdom for calming a crying babe. She never got to hold Brianna and see how much she looks just as I did as a baby. And I didn’t get to share those things with her either.

“In my dreams, she still returns, her death a horrible, confusing mistake, but she’s mute and distant, a shadow presence, ignorant of all that’s happened in the intervening years.”…Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman

She’s been gone 13 years, having died when I was 17. In just a few years, I’ll have lived as many years without her as I did with. I can’t fathom that, some days, the days where I feel as though it was just last week or last month that she was there, waiting to hear about my day or lecture me for some misstep. Always in the back of my mind is the question of how different would my life have been, had she lived, had the EMTs been able to save her, had my dad or I been home instead of just my 1o year old brother. What would be different?

I think the answer is everything. And in case you think I mean that it would be different in a better way, you’re wrong. I would have made much different life decisions, taken different steps, followed a different path and I wouldn’t be here, where I am today, with a husband who I love madly and passionately and a daughter who lights my days. My mom’s death- it was a milestone because it changed how I thought, how I felt, how I loved. Shaped and molded my beliefs and fears. It carried me to today and made me Brianna’s mommy.

“It is the image in the mind that links us to our lost treasures; but it is the loss that shapes the image, gathers the flowers, weaves the garland.” …Colette

I spent summers on the farm with my grandparents. Those are some of the brightest and most defined memories of my childhood. Knowing that if I woke up in the small hours of the morning, before the sun and the birds, I’d find my grandfather sitting quietly by a small light in the dining area, in front of the big bay window, smoking and planning the day’s chores. Memories of baby rabbits brought in from the fields, hot coffee in thermoses at lunchtime, green overalls, red hankerchiefs and the ‘old goat’ sitting tall on the John Deere tractor. He taught me the chicken dance, how to mow the lawn with the riding lawn mower, and that it was a good thing to laugh until you cried. We danced at weddings (I stood on his feet) and harvested crops late into summer nights. I can still hear his voice, with it’s North Dakota Czech accent, laughing at the nearest neighbor and cussing about the crops or the rain… I miss him, sometimes it’s an ache, the longing to be able to sit next to him one last time and tell him he was right. Drinking coffee did stunt my growth.

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.” ~From a headstone in Ireland

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