I am at that age. That age where I no longer let people’s opinions of me determine how I feel about myself. That age where I have realized that experiences and relationships are far more valuable than fancy things. That a little kindness goes a long way.
I am also at that age where every other week, I hear that someone from high school has a parent who just died.
Yes, I said, “died.”
No euphemisms for this girl. No “passed away,” no “crossed over,” and definitely no “left this Earth.”
Why? Because all of those delicate well-meaning words are bullshit. Losing a parent sucks. And it hurts like hell. It always will.
It doesn’t “get better,” even if someone is in a “better place.” It might become a different kind of grief, but anyone who tells you it gets easier is probably in that awful spot of not knowing quite what to say, but knowing you could use some comfort.
Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate the offer of solace with all my heart. And I have given my share of “she’s with the angels now,” but I am realizing more and more, that maybe a simple hug or “my thoughts are with you” will suffice. I cannot make anyone any promises that the hurt will ease up over time.
My mom died from cancer when I was in my early 20s. She was a beautiful, smart, nurturing woman who held onto all her stress. It made her sick.
My mom, Cynthia Mae Turney
Oh yeah, and she also smoked like a frickin’ truck driver. Sound harsh? It is and it was harsh, for her, for me and for everyone who loved her.
She did not see me graduate from college in the top three of my class. She didn’t get to meet my made-just-for-me husband. Mom missed out on the joy of loving and being loved by my four hilarious children and two wonderful step-men. She did not get to see “Phantom of the Opera,” go on a cruise or finish her book of Shakespeare.
James Barbour as The Phantom and Ali Ewoldt at Christine in The Phantom of the Opera. Photo courtesy broadway.com
I wonder if my mom ever got to that place where she realized that she needed to take care of herself before anyone else. I think about if she got to where she could say, “Fuck it, this is my life and I’m going to do whatever the hell I want as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else.”
It saddens me that I will never know so many things and hurts even more that maybe she didn’t know either.
I have a blessed life. Beyond having clean water to drink, fresh food to eat and a roof (albeit small) over my head, I am luckier than many. I have deep, meaningful relationships. I have experiences that bring me joy every single day. And I was lucky enough to have my mother in my life until I was an adult.
Thank you to everyone who offered me kind words and hugs when my mom died. It made me feel loved and reminded me that I wasn’t alone. When your parents die, I will offer you the same friendship.
But I will never make promises that our hearts can’t keep.