Wow it’s been a long time….and as I have often said…life has continued to happen…I’m happy to be back and writing…thank you for staying with me…
Tomorrow, April 24th, 2022 is my 49th Birthday.
There have been some in my life that have already asked me what I plan to do when I turn 50 next year. 50 is a surreal number to me. Some of you might think, well it’s a huge milestone, one to be celebrated. Honestly, I have always struggled being celebrated. I don’t know about anyone else, but I find it really hard. I would much rather celebrate others than myself. Kind of like my joy in giving gifts rather than receiving them. But 50 is a number that has yet to be on my radar.
For me, for the past 34 years, I have been eerily aware of the year I turn 49 years old. For many, this is an irrelevant number, a year that passes like many others. But tomorrow, I will turn the age my mother was when she died. 49 years old. Tomorrow will be the 34th time I have celebrated my birthday without my mother and the 15th year I have celebrated my birthday without my father.
To say that I have been struggling with this would be an understatement. When you lose a parent at a young age, it changes the core of who you are. You don’t realize it when it happens, but as your life progresses, there are things that just feel…different. I have been “aware” of this birthday for quite some time.
49 is the age that I always held on to. It is the age that my mother never got to live past. While this age is a milestone in so many ways, it also holds a strange place within me. An age that will be forever frozen in time. Once I pass this point, I have no comparison to my mother.
The memories I have of my mother at 49. She was bedridden. She was terminally ill (while I kind of didn’t realize it at the time). She never learned how to drive. She was terrified of Bees. She loved the holidays, and as much as she struggled, she always found a way to make them magical. She was sad. She was kind. She was an incredible human being. She struggled. She loved Chocolate Haagen Dazs Ice Cream and had very deep friendships. I don’t know if it was because I was 15 at the time, I don’t recall having many conversations with her. I avoided spending time with her when she was sick and at times, I remember feeling burdened by my responsibilities to help her. The guilt I carry with that can sometimes take my breath away. I know my mother is within me. Sometimes, I feel that I know her more now than I did at 15. To some, my mother’s death might have been expected. For me at 15 years old, I had no idea, or maybe I didn’t want to accept it. I remember feeling shock that it happened. But I know deep down, I knew it could happen. I can’t remember a time she was ok.
I’d like to think that as I enter 49 years old, she is looking down on me with pride at the woman, wife and mother I have become. When she died, I wasn’t thinking about her age. Quite frankly I wasn’t really fixated on her age until I reached an age that became so evident that she missed out on seeing her daughters grow up. She missed…everything. We missed so much.
I mother differently. Losing my mom as young as I was, when I became a mom, everything felt different. I was lost, but determined to be the mom I always wanted. I over mother. I know that. But sometimes, the pain that comes through results in my never wanting my son to feel the pain that I did. I am still terrified that I am going to do it all wrong. But I have a pride within me that I have come this far with very little guidance. I envy those that have their moms. I know I shouldn’t. But I do. I am sorry to put that burden on so many of you.
As I embark on 49, I think about my mom. She never got to turn 50. She never got that huge celebration. As a matter of fact, I don’t recall us even celebrating her 49th birthday. As I am about to turn 49, yes, there is a part of me that feels empowered. I have been on this earth longer without her than with. I have navigated every adult milestone, high school graduation, college graduation, my first job, my first love, my first move, my first home, my engagement, my marriage, the birth of my child. As I turn the age she was when she died, I am more aware of the events she missed. The events we missed. I am doing the best I can under the circumstances. I am proud of who I have become. When you navigate your life without that unconditional cheerleader that your mother might be, sometimes you have insecurities that others might not understand. But you also come away with an empathy and level of compassion that some may never even imagine.
Someone once told me I should practice “gratitude”. Focus on the things I have and not be so fixated on the things I don’t have. Yes, I agree that is a healthy way to cope. But for those of us who have been through such a traumatic loss, sometimes, we just want to sit with these “feels” and be sad. Sometimes it’s ok to just be sad. I’m giving you that free pass, for those of you that have been through a loss that simply takes your breath away, changes the foundation of who you are. A wise man once shared with me, it’s truly ok to not be ok, just don’t stay that way. Amen!
I am grateful for each day I have on this earth. I am grateful for my small little family and to be the mom to an incredible young man. As I look at my 12-year-old son, I sometimes imagine my 12-year-old self. Sometimes if helps me navigate motherhood as I think about the times I didn’t appreciate my mom the way I should have. I remember being annoyed I had to be home when I wanted to be with my friends. I sometimes say things to my son that I shouldn’t as I cope with the losses he hopefully will never understand. Grief can appear when you least expect it. I hear the comments at times around me, “you’re never gonna get this time back, they are only young for a short time”. Yes, I know. But for some of us, there is a grief within our hearts that some may never possibly understand that we are still navigating and doing the best we can. I hope that for those of you who don’t understand, never have to. Some of us just need a little break to recharge. Some of us need to step back from the energy around us as we feel all that our grief is protecting us from. Sometimes when you lose such a huge piece of you so young, it is really hard to exist in a world that moved on without you. Many of us are still catching up. I ask for patience. Patience for those of us that have had to hold our breath and show compassion for those who could never begin to imagine how long we have been hurting.
I am sharing this not because I want anyone to walk on egg shells. I am sharing this not because I want anyone to feel bad. There are many who have lost their moms and do just fine on this day. I for some reason am having a hard time, and I want to be brave for a moment and share this because if this gets to someone else that might need to hear this and it helps, I have done what I set out to do. To help you feel less alone, more normal and to let you know it will be ok. I know I will be ok. I’m just sitting with this for a bit.
Tomorrow, I will fight the sadness, find the beauty, appreciate the small things, be thankful for my life and my blessings and try really hard to accept being celebrated. Tonight, I’m just gonna sit with my sadness and be ok with it. I know that I will get to a point reaching 49 that I will appreciate every moment, and make the most of the time I have. Life truly is a gift. For now…I’m just counting my blessings…xoxox