Sisterhood: I have a sister, I am a sister, I'm a mom to two sisters. Never did I think I would be a part of larger sisterhood, a sisterhood that collectively understands what it's like to turn weepy at the most inopportune times, like when someone offers you wine at your mother-in-law's birthday celebration.
"What's the deal?" one of my brothers-in-law asked after he offered me a glass, as I was getting into the buffet line.
I turned it down with a halfway laugh, joking, "Oh it's been a rough week. I can't handle that right now." I started loading up my plate with rice.
I couldn't help but feel that if I did go there, I might erupt. I tried to shake it off when he joked again, "C'mon, spill it — what is it?" I bet he thought I was going to lament kids' schedules, being worn-out or tired, or the hiccup in the mini-construction plans happening at our house.
I could feel the tears fill up from my toes, through my legs, past my gut and up all the way to my face until they spilled out of my eyes like an open faucet. I looked him right in the face and said, as my voice cracked, "I just really miss my mom." The look on his face was a combo of shock and deepest condolences. "Excuse me," I added, as I immediately put my plate down, turned quickly and practically ran to the nearest bathroom to get ahold of myself. I then called my sister from the bathroom. We talked. I felt better. Because she knows.
Almost one year after my mom's passing, this still happens?! Instant tears. Instant lump in my throat. Instant everything, as though I'm a child or something.
Oh, but I am. I am still her child and she is still my mommy. One year later and all the years ahead of me, I will always be her daughter and she will always be my mom.
I'm finding these days, mostly via social media, that there is a whole damn growing club of us girls, those who are now mothers of young kids ourselves, dealing with the early loss of our moms before most everyone else in our age group. My sister and I talk all the time, about how we feel like we're orphans (we're not) and how nobody else understands all the ins and outs unless they've been through it, too. And all the mamas who are here with me — with us — know.
It sucks and I freakin' hate it.
We hurt, we weep, we smile, we live.
We were so close. We were friends, even though she was always my parent first. We left nothing unsaid, bravely faced reality head on and talked about how much we would miss all the fun we'd have together from that turning point that wouldn't stop coming at us. We pretty much all planned her funeral together during her short hospice care. There are no regrets. If it can be said so bluntly: She died the right way. (I've learned it's OK to say this from a most fabulous book, "Anxiety: The Missing Stage of Grief," that's helping me understand so many things these days.)
Sure, I'm a grown-up, but a major part of me needs her even more to get through this disjointed time without her. The few friends I have who are ahead of me in this stage of life and loss tell me this is all standard. I want my mom's straight-talking advice about whether or not I should keep my older daughter in gymnastics ("It's so dangerous!"), her jokes about how husbands would fall apart if us women weren't around ("He's a man!"), her practical perspective about how I should most definitely keep my girls home from attending a camping party when several of the other kids were found to have lice just five days prior ("Nobody needs to go anywhere extra right now until everything's clear!").
So, I tell myself what she'd tell me. "You'll get through this. You know what you're doing. This is part of life. And I miss you too. But, think of me when you feel low and you'll feel better." It seems to work. The eternal magic of a mother who truly was fabulous, I guess.
The part I'm ashamed to admit, the part that I hope the rest of us in this same situation also feel, is I'm now envious of so many friends who still have their moms. I get cranky when I see young kids with their grandmas, laughing and having fun. I instantly turn weird when I see pictures of "3 generations, lol!" on Facebook. AND MY MOM ISN'T HERE?! WTF. There, I said it. I harbor no real hate toward those who are wonderfully lucky to have three generations, but what I'd give for just one more day, one more hour to talk.
And through this process, I think of all of us sisters — together — dealing with the same conflicts and sadness and confusion and healing. I see your "In Memoriam" picture on Facebook and send you a prayer. I see your #FlashbackFriday on Instagram and nod my head in sorrow, hoping that you're giving yourself grace to sit and cry for five minutes. I feel all of us together, even though we never knew each other's mothers.
So many of us are living this same difficulty — barely middle-aged, with little kids who won't grow up knowing firsthand how fabulous their grandma was — and it is oddly comforting. All of us who've lost a close friend/everything parent are not alone. This new sisterhood I find myself in is helping me through.
Some of us have never met, and never will. Some of us have recently forged deeper friendships because we're coping with the same kind of loss at parallel times. Some of us have reached out to others who we see teetering on the brink of joining our sisterhood because we know how much extra love and support they will need in the days and months to come. We notice each other and nod with knowing looks and deepest condolences that really do mean something deep when we offer them. If I happen to find out you lost your mom ... well, you somehow suddenly feel like my long lost BFF — because we know.
We are a club of mamas who miss our mommies. We hurt, we weep, we smile, we live. For our kids. For ourselves. For the sobering reality that we've learned before we were supposed to that life really does go quickly.
Sisters give each other strength, whether they realize it or not. We are not alone. I feel you, mama.