My Mom the Lighthouse, One Year Gone
by Steve C
Mom and I with Family in Alaska
It's been a year now since I lost my Mom to a random disease. She was 77, old but not old. She was so busy and active – hiking through mountain trails, marching on Washington, running her city's "get out the vote" program – I thought she would outlive us all. We spent a week trekking Alaskan glaciers with her in summer 2012, then in February she was found delirious and near unconscious from a mystery brain infection. And then she was gone.
Mom and I loved each other, and our relationship was always good. But I couldn't say we were especially close as adults. We lived on opposite sides of the country, she was busy, I was busy, and I felt guilty that we only talked by phone once or twice a month. Even so, the love was always there, and our visits were warm.
Nobody expects losing their mother to be easy. But I was completely unprepared for how much it hit me like a mountain crashing down, violently upending my life and changing my outlook on everything. Nor for how long the grief would continue to wash over me, an infinity of waves breaking on the beach, still with the power to knock me down even after a year.
The unwritten expectation is that you'll grieve for a month or two, then be at peace and move on. But it doesn't seem to work that way. Most of the time I'm fine, then suddenly I'm standing in the peanut butter section of the grocery store with tears in my eyes. My wife and friends are sympathetic, to a point, but nobody really wants to hear me moan on and on about my mother. There's a feeling like "Gee, I'm really sorry about your Mom. (pause) So what else is new?" So I mostly keep my feelings to myself. Sometimes I talk to my sister, which helps. My brother doesn't want to talk about it much.
My attitudes on life have changed. I don't care so much anymore about career or money. Mom wasn't about those things either. I'm trying to refocus on family, and friends, and simply enjoying what each day has to offer. And I try not to stress out when something is broken or lost, or I'm late, or someone cuts me off in traffic.
I've spent many gray days asking what my mother meant to me and why her loss has affected me so much. I decided that Mom was like the lighthouse in my life, and I was the boat, traveling a dark and rocky ocean. She didn't tell me which way to go or give me life's answers, but she shined her light in ways that helped me see what I needed to see, so I could find those answers myself. She was my compass and my reference, my square one and my home base.
Though I miss her fiercely, I've found that if I look hard, Mom's light still shines. Some question will come up, and I'll think "I wonder what Mom would have said about this." If I sit quietly and take a breath, I can imagine exactly what she'd say, and the rightness of it. I can hear her voice saying it, the intonation of her speech, the look in her eyes, the little smile she'd make to emphasize a point. And so in a way, she's still with me. But that doesn't keep me from crying in the grocery store. I miss you, Mom.