My mother died of breast cancer when I was 16 years old. At this point, it's 17 years later. I am older, wiser, have a family of my own, and have learned to manage my overwhelming grief in a way that makes it not so overwhelming. And yet, even now, I miss her every single day.
Losing a parent at any age is hard, but losing them when you're younger than 20 is a whole other ballgame of pain. Most people don't get that. But kids need their parents for much longer than we think, and I needed my mom still very much when she died. I hate breast cancer for so many things, but stealing my mother's future when she was only 45 is pretty much the most glaring.
It's an awful disease and my fondest dream is that my children will never have to go through what I went through. Additionally, it's something no one who hasn't lost a parent at a young age can ever really get. Sure, it's the "natural order," but for a child, it's much deeper and much more scarring.
This isn't to say, of course, that there aren't positives that came from my loss. I am strong. I can take almost anything and have a high pain tolerance (after all, natural birth seems easy compared to that loss). Piss me off and I have no problem cutting you out of my life. After you lose someone that important to you, your tolerance for BS gets pretty low, too. If someone isn't worth keeping around, it's buh-bye time.
I am also very independent and it gave me a much stronger sense of the truly good people in a family and a deep love for the one I created. I never take my husband or kids for granted because I am well aware of how quickly a person you love can be taken from you forever.
That said, I miss my mom every day, especially as I have become a mom myself. Here are the 12 things I miss most about her:
- Her laugh: She was so good at laughing at herself (and everyone else). She had a great sense of humor and pop culture. She got every joke and never took much seriously.
- Her sense of fun: My mom knew how to kick back and have a good time. Uptight she was not and I adored her for it. I would love to just be able to hang out with her one more time and laugh and have fun like I know we would have.
- Her yoga/swimming: My mom was a yoga teacher far before it was popular. I grew up watching her practice for hours each morning and, as such, have become an avid yogi myself.
- Her sense of style: My mom was such a fashion mess. We are talking Birkenstocks with socks, a Dick Tracy yellow trench coat she wore everywhere, glasses, messy hair, and mismatched patterns. Still, she was fun and funny. She didn't care. She wore what she liked and she reminded me -- the queen of 6-inch heels, designer clothing, and knee-high boots -- to lighten up and choose comfort sometimes over style.
- Her reassurance: My mom could be a tough-as-nails hard-ass when she wanted to be, but she was also a therapist and always knew the right way to tell me how to manage friend drama and dating troubles. I know she would have been very helpful with my kids when I have trouble.
- Her way with kids: It's so painful to me that my mom will never meet my children. Even worse is the fact that my daughter (like me) looks so very much like her. She would have adored them and they would have adored her, too.
- Her hands: For some reason, she had the softest hands in the world. I remember how soothing they were to me as a child and how they felt stroking my hair or feeling my head for a fever or tickling my back. Whenever I do the same for my kids, I miss them.
- Her music: My mom was a huge fan of the folk music of the 1960s, and I grew up listening to her play the guitar and sing Judy Collins, Phil Ochs, Joan Baez, and Joni Mitchell. Every time I hear a song by any of them, it brings it all back.
- Her help: I can't even count the number of times I had no one to help me except my husband after my kids were born. All my friends had moms who stayed with them for weeks, helped with night feedings, made food, did laundry, reassured them, and generally gave much of themselves. I had none of that.
- Her driving: My mom was the only person I knew who was a worse driver than I am now. I totally miss her being here to make me look good.
- Her sense of history: When did I walk? Was I a late talker? Was I a picky eater or did I always love everything? These are the things I want to know but there is no one who can tell me.
- Her family: Some families are made stronger by losses. I have heard stories of cousins who are incredibly supportive and wonderful and take motherless children under their wings and grandmothers who call every day to check in. Suffice it to say, this wasn't the case for me except in two cases. It's sad to lose the majority of a whole side of the family. This is especially for my children who will know very little about their biological maternal grandmother except what I tell them.
When someone dies of breast cancer, so many things are lost. Every person has their own suitcase of memories, quirks, personalities traits, and things that make up who they are. All of that is lost in death. We have the memories, but not them.
Every October, we wear pink ribbons and march and run and hope for a cure. But I also think about my mom and the battle she fought and lost against this awful scourge. I want a cure so that my children will never have to look at a pink ribbon and think of one more person they lost to this evil disease.
Did you lose someone you love to breast cancer?