I have to preface by saying that this post will be quite sorrowful, today is the anniversary of my mom’s death. Twenty-eight years later and I often feel like it was just yesterday. My sister and I, along with my mom and her boyfriend, had just moved from our apartment and were staying at a Motel 6. I honestly don’t recall why, or how long we were there. I just recall the disastrous events as if they’ve been etched in my memory with a scalpel.
Following is an excerpt taken out of the book I started writing in an attempt to heal from the tragic event that began a lifelong battle with anxiety and depression. I felt it was a great addition to this post and gives a little insight to what I experienced all those years ago.
I have only a handful of memories of my mom, and I’ve held on very tight to those because I lost her at such a young age. I never knew the kind of person she was, and I was too young to think about journaling to try and preserve any memories that were fresh in my mind. I do, however, remember the day she died like it was yesterday, I guess traumatic events are like that. My sister and I were sitting in front of our room at Motel 6 playing Barbies. I didn’t like my mom’s boyfriend and recall feeling annoyed that she was learning to ride the motorcycle I despised. I had looked up long enough to see her ride alone around a grassy area with a tree in the center to get the feel of the handle bars, then toward the main road. Her boyfriend jumped on the back and into traffic they rode, right in front of a semi-truck. I didn’t see that part, it was out of my view, but I can still hear the metal colliding in my mind as I retell this story. At the young age of 5, I somehow knew it was her, and that something very bad had happened. My sister and I ran to the street just in time to glance over into the street and see my mom lying in a pool of her own blood. I honestly don’t remember crying, I’m sure I did, or maybe I was too stunned to react. I was also distracted by my sister who was hitting and biting my mom’s boyfriend, sobbing and yelling at him. Everything after that is a blur, except later that evening swimming in the pool of the motel while the managers watched us. I recall not liking the pool either, every time I would swim to the bottom it would scrape my toes.
She died on the way to the hospital that day, in an ambulance, at the young age of 26. Though I firmly believe things happen for a reason, and I know she didn’t always make the right choices (does anyone?), I can’t help but feel robbed of so many great things she could have taught me. Things I’ve learned along life’s journey and only hope to share with my own daughters. Her death truly has been the driving factor behind my desire to be the best mom I can be. It never crossed my mind how significant that drive was until I became a mother for the first time. And though I was very young, I was wise beyond my years thanks to a strict upbringing and experiencing things most children never have to. I’ve become passionate about teaching my kids all I can and raise them to never take life for granted, but to appreciate every day for what it is. In the wake of my mom’s untimely death, it’s created something in me I may not have otherwise experienced or felt convicted to pass on.
One of my last memories of my mom is probably the day before, potentially the actual day, she died. My sister and brother were at school, and she & I were laying on the bed. Bon Jovi’s Livin On A Prayer came on and we both loved the song and began singing together. I started jumping on the bed and she said, “Boo Boo, this isn’t our bed, don’t jump on it because it could break”. I didn’t take her very seriously, mostly because she was laughing as she said it, so I kept jumping. She continued to laughed and pulled me down next to her so I couldn’t jump anymore, and we lay there giggling together. (Bon Jovi has since become one of my favorite singers and I was lucky enough to see him in concert in 2005.) One time, my sister and I were waiting in the car for my mom to be done with a doctor appointment. As she came out of the office and toward us, I jumped up and started running to her. She told me to be careful as I turned around to run back, and I tripped and hit my head on the open car door. It was busted pretty badly, I needed 7 stitches, but she bought me a Bon Jovi poster to make me feel better-and because I was such a good girl during my stitching. I stared at that thing every single day, I was ecstatic and almost thankful I’d hurt myself because of the reward I received.
I think about her often, and tell my kids about how they missed out on one amazing grandma-where do they think I got my “awesomeness” from? Every time I look at my kids and feel my heart swell with love, I think of her and how she must have felt about me. I can’t imagine leaving this earth and having my kids miss out on the significance of having a mom. Even though I got by without her, I sometimes feel like there’s a void in my heart of all the memories we never got to make. It’s like an emptiness that will never go away, no matter how much I’ve tried to suppress it. There have been times in my life where I’ve been so low, going through a difficult time and all I can think is, I want my mommy. Sometimes I feel like she’s there, comforting me and telling me it’ll be alright.
I have a photo on my dresser of us, from when I was about 3 or 4, that my 7-year-old daughter used to think was she and I. She was very confused the first time she asked and I had to tell her it wasn’t us, it was a sweet moment for me. She’s since reminded me that it could have been us, every time with a smile.
I don’t believe time heals all wounds, I believe God does. All time does is create distance in the memories and make it more bearable with each passing day. And I think when you experience trauma at an age where your brain can’t process it, you almost become numb-or potentially the polar opposite. For me, unfortunately, I began to suppress emotion that, in all honesty, I’ve only recently begun to process and heal from. As I typed out the experience of watching my mom die, a floodgate of emotion poured out of me. I didn’t anticipate that because I’ve told the story countless times over the course of the past 28 years. It amazes me how our brains respond and react.
When I first started my book, my heart was wanting some form of closure. I wanted to learn about her; who she was, what she liked to do for fun, what made her happy/sad, how much of me and my personality comes from her? I’ve been told at different points in my life, by several people who knew her, that I remind them of her. When people tell me I look like her I’m always flattered because wow, was she was gorgeous! I’m sure all children innately admire their moms, but there’s no disputing her beauty. From what I remember, and what I hear, she was just as beautiful inside as out. Maybe that’s why people were attracted to her, men and women. I’m told she had a magnetic personality and was always a blast to be around.
My hope is that through this book I can finally heal from the pain I’ve experienced from her passing, perhaps offer a little hope to someone who’s experienced the same kind of heartache. And on this somber day, I think I’ll hug my kids a little tighter and make sure they know how much I love them, so that if the unimaginable happened, there would be not a shadow of a doubt that they are loved beyond measure.