My mother died one year ago today. Cancer took her life, but not her spirit. On the day she died, surrounded by people who loved her most, it rained. Today, it's sunny, and all I can think about is how much she would've loved today, and about everything she missed in the last year. I picture her in her garden, making beautiful things grow, and with her family, making everyone crack up because she always said what everyone was thinking, no matter how inappropriate.
She was only 64 when she died, a sister of two, a mother of three, and grandmother of six. I wasn't always very nice to her, as daughters sometimes are not, but I always admired her. And we had so much fun - especially when we could get her away from her husband (who is still contesting her will in a bitter money-grab, but that's another story). She was quirky, loud, and hilarious, especially after a glass or two of wine.
But I didn't really think of her as a person with a whole history before she died. She was just my mom - my taxi, a shoulder to cry on, someone who paid for stuff. Then, I found her diary from ages 12-16. I have read it at least 50 times, and laugh until I cry. How did I live 44 years without knowing the strenuous and outspoken hatred she had for Kruschev and the Russians? That she had a crush on a boy named Tony? How she worried about pimples and her hair and her clothes, just like a regular teenage girl? That she worried about falling in love and if anyone would love her back? That diary is a gift from a woman who was the best writer I knew, and just the tip of the iceberg of the stories she left behind.
I also found evidence that her life was hard in ways I never knew, that nobody ever knew, and I wept. She was so very upbeat and never complained. Her second favorite motto, after "Be Comfortable," was "Everybody's Putting Up With Something." And she was putting up with more than anyone should ever have to, with a smile and a joke and a skip in her step. Her strength amazes me, but I wonder if she ever felt really known and understood by anyone.
I have vowed to not let another person I love die without really talking to them, and not just about the superficial, happy, social-media worthy things in their lives. The hard, harsh, terrible things are just as important. And I have vowed to share if I am going through something hard, harsh, and terrible because there is nothing lonelier than holding on to secrets or keeping up appearances.
My mom's death has left a big hole. I miss her every day - everything reminds me of her. I think about her whenever I see flowers or seashells or hear an inappropriate remark. I hear her voice, whispering advice and hilarious comments wherever I go. I'm devastated that my children didn't know her as well as they could have if she had lived longer, and that I didn't take the time to find out about her life before she was MOM. I thought I had more time; people always do. But time is fleeting, as is life. I will spend the rest of mine learning about, missing, and loving my mom.
Courtney is a most fabulous writer and teacher of gifted middle school students. She is the author of two novels - see the "Cate Books" page of this site for information! Watch for updates about future books that need to be part of your personal library. In the meanwhile, enjoy her pithy life observations.