I’ve discussed my mom a few times on the blog, on her birthday exactly one year ago and on the 15th anniversary of her death. As I said in the first post, my mom made me who I am today, and as I mentioned in the second post, there may benefits to public commemoration, to sharing one’s grief with others.
Another thought occurs to me today, what would have been her 67th birthday. The process of grieving itself has also made me who I am today. All those years ago the funeral director told me, “You’re never going to stop loving your mom.” He was right. The sting of grief has abated somewhat over the years, but I still love my mom and think about her frequently.
Grieving over the years has probably made me more appreciative of my loved ones and more conscious their mortality and my own. It has made me more empathic toward others going through their own grieving processes, especially if they’re young people who lost a parent (I was 23 when my mom died). I went to a talk the other day about using narratives to help breast cancer patients, and I was overcome by memories of my mom’s struggles with the disease and empathy for people there who had had their own struggles.
My mom’s absence has shaped me as an adult, although not as much as her presence shaped me as a child and young adult. Losing her maybe forced me to grow up a bit faster than I would have otherwise. It made me face death in a way that most 23-year-olds do not. I still have to overcome a stab of melancholy jealousy when people talk about their moms who are still alive, but I also have a greater appreciation of the beauty of their relationships. My bereavement and grief probably made me simultaneously a stronger and more caring person.
Does any of this mean I don’t wish my mom were still here, that I don’t imagine sending her a birthday card, giving her a call, or even making a trip back home to celebrate by taking her out to eat? Of course not. I would give up every ounce of my grief-forged experiences to have her back.
But, in the common parlance of our times, it is what it is. So today I will continue my tradition of having a recommended daily dose of Dairy Queen. I may also partake in something else she enjoyed by raising a glass of scotch in her honor. I suspect that Dairy Queen frowns on liquor consumption at the restaurant, so I guess I’ll do that part later!