It’s been 18 years (and 2 days) since I held your hand, told you I loved you, and watched you take your last breath. I was 16 years old. A child. Entirely way too young to be motherless.
We went to the cemetery this year. I used to go every year, but I skipped the last two. I couldn’t handle it. But I knew I needed to go this year. We packed lunch and took the long trek on the bus and the short ride in the cab. It was nice and peaceful. Abby asked if there was a special song you sang to me and suggested we play it. She’s a very sweet and smart little girl. I played “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” by Bryan Adams on my phone (I’m pretty certain you’d be enamored by today’s technology) and then played a song that makes me think of you – “Because You Loved Me” by Celine Dion.
The universe could not have blessed me with a more amazing mother. You were everything to me. I know I didn’t always act like it. I was mouthy and I said some mean things. I never meant them.
There was no one in the world I trusted as much as I trusted you. There was no one in the world who made me feel as safe as you made me feel. And 18 years ago, that was all ripped away.
I was scared and lonely and I think emotionally I stopped growing that day. I’m still scared and lonely. I feel stuck at 16 . . . still silently pleading for someone to trust the way I trusted you . . . still yearning for someone to make me feel as safe as you made me feel.
There are days when I feel like I don’t know how to be an adult because you weren’t there to teach me. I’m older now than you were when you died. I’m not sure I can really describe how awkward that is.
I’ve put on this façade of strength. I’ve learned how to “act as if” and “fake it till I make it.” I’ve been doing it for 18 years. The truth is that I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. I want to be the person I’d be if you were here to finish raising me, but I don’t know who she is.
I don’t know what to say to my daughter when she tells me she’s scared that I’ll die when she’s a teenager because you died when I was a teenager. I fumble a bit. I tell her I love her and that I don’t plan on going anywhere and that it’s important to focus on today and enjoy today. I wish I could remember what you told me when I was her age and scared that your cancer would come back.
There is so much I never had a chance to ask you, so much I thought there would be plenty of time for. The day the doctor told me your cancer was back, you held my hand and told me not to worry. You told me you planned to see your grandkids (and promptly added, with a smile on your face, not any time soon). I believed you.
I believed you up until the day before you died. I believed you even when you stopped your chemo . . . when I asked you if that meant there was no chance (I couldn’t even finish the sentence) and you said, “there’s always a chance.” I believed you until the hospice nurse sat in our living room and told me that you only had a week to live. And I think a part of me even continued to believe you after that . . . . until 3am when I woke to see the pain on your face and the vacant look in your eyes and I prayed for God to take you . . . I prayed for your suffering to end . . . . and 5 hours later, it did.
Phrases like “I miss you” and “I love you” never feel like enough. What word do I use to explain this pit inside of me? What word do I use to describe the rage and grief that course through my veins? What word do I use to express how badly I want to scream at the universe that it’s just not fair, not right, not okay that you’re not here to spoil your granddaughter or to sit down and chat with me over a cup of coffee?
I’d like to end this with something positive, but I’m just not there right now. I’ve been struggling lately . . . and this is the unfiltered ugliness of it. I’m hurting and (as weak as the word may be) I miss you.
With love always,