A Goodbye for My Mother

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We were expecting her. We had spent two days cleaning the house and had moved our bed into the guest room so that my mother and stepfather would not have to sleep on an air mattress. The boys had scattered “things to do with Nana” throughout the home. There were presents under the tree with her name on it, and others waiting to be wrapped. The gifts are not the presence we are aching for.

It is Christmas Eve, and my mom is dead.

That is how I woke up this morning, shaking and soaked beneath the flow of my own tears. I had hoped to find it all a dream. I had wanted to throw open the window and call out to the world that none of it had been real, and a Merry Christmas to all.

Instead there was a child in my arms, sound asleep and faraway. I held him like a parent should, and I thought about my mother and the arms that I will never again feel wrapped warm around me.

I only got to know my mother for 42 years, and that was not long enough.

I am lost in time machine fantasy.

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I didn’t realize how much of my mother was in me until she was gone. I am hollow and I can feel it. My eyes are duller from the inside. My reflection is lost between blurs and too many memories.

Anyone that knew my mom liked her. She was easy to enjoy, kind, and full of laughter. She welcomed the company of others and carried a smile for everyone. She was gentle and worrisome, and quick with emotion.

She was my biggest fan and supporter. Every word I dropped on paper became something to share and praise. Every small thing I did made her proud, and she shouted it from the rooftops. She did the same for my sister.

I honestly don’t know where I will get the strength to persevere.

There is so much I want to say about her that I can’t even start. And yet, if you have ever read a single word by me then you know her already, for my mother inspired much of who I am, and in turn the phrases I have left behind. It was my mother that urged me to create this space, and she was often the only one that let me know it mattered. I am tempted to bury it with her.

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Writing about my mother in the past tense does not seem possible. I never planned for this. I assumed that she would fade quietly into the night some 30 years in the future with loved ones by her side saying the kind of things you do when a death comes that you have braced for. I did not expect to get a phone call from my crying father to tell me that my stepdad and mother had been in an accident. I did not expect him to say that she was dead.

It is surreal. It is not happening. I have willed it away. I refuse to accept it.

I want to shake the world like a snow globe and let the storm cover the tire tracks. I want to hold time in my hand. I want to make it stop.

“You need to call your sister,” my father said. And I did. My sister, her husband, and their brand new baby are on their way here now. We have a need to be together. Perhaps if we are all together it will feel like my mother is with us, too.

And her absence will be deeper felt.

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I have already changed. The act of pulling a part of one’s soul out with a cruel, unexpected yank, leaves you damaged beyond repair. It happens immediately. It leaves you alone in a room full of people.

I am angry and dark. I want something to blame. I want to punch the heavens and make the pain go away, but pain is only part of the problem. There is a new level of sorrow, and I am the saddest that I have ever been.

It is not fair. And there are lessons there. If you have something to say, say it. If you have something to do, do it. And if you love someone, don’t ever let them think that that could change. Let them know that you love them always. I had that with my mother.

I want to hide, and I want to sell everything we have, hold the kids as tight as possible, and seize every precious moment that this world has to offer. I want to run away forever.

There is more, but I do not know what it means. I can hardly accept that it has happened. But it has. Part of me is gone, and I want it back more than I could ever, ever say.

I want my mommy.

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___________________________

barbara-coatsworth-nanaThe boys were sitting on the couch waiting for Nana. They were expecting her, although she wasn’t due to arrive for hours. They expected her to walk through the door with too many presents and long happy hugs for everyone. Then she would join them upon the sofa and they would curl up against her until the day she left.

But I walked in instead, and I told them that Nana would not be coming for Christmas. I told them that Nana would not be coming ever again.

I grieve for them. They are sad, still fresh off the passing of Tricia’s father just two months ago, and yet they do not understand their loss. They do not yet realize what it is that they are missing.

My mom was recently retired, and the rest of her life centered on traveling to spend time with family and friends. All she had planned involved her grandsons. They were her everything. They always will be.

The boys cannot fathom the depths of their loss, but I know.

I know.

 

And I don’t know a goddamn thing.

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120 Responses to “A Goodbye for My Mother”

  • I’m so sorry. There aren’t any words for that kind of loss, especially, as you said when it wasn’t supposed to happen yet. You and your family are in my thoughts.
    Sherry Carr-Smith´s last blog post ..Pregnancy Update: Grow, Baby, Grow!

  • Trish says:

    Whitney, you write with passion and truth. As one of your cousins and with my kids growing up with you and Tiffany, my heart breaks for you two. Your Mom was a great person and friend. I loved her smile and when I think of her, I will always remember how infectious it was. Your Dad and Mom did something right, as you and Tiffany are great parents. Please keep the cousins informed on her service. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of you. She will be missed.

  • I am so sorry to hear of your loss, your mum sounds like a fantastic woman. What you have written here is a truly beautiful tribute to her.
    Jonathan Ervine´s last blog post ..8 thoughts from my 8th month as a parent

  • Bridget says:

    Very touching and emotional I’m grateful my mama is still around even if she is old now…I wouldn’t want more! God bless!

  • Lorne Jaffe says:

    Whit, we haven’t really “met” in the Dad Bloggers group, but that’s of no consequence, of course. I just read your blog and want to extend my deepest sympathies. What you wrote was beautiful and heart wrenching. I can’t imagine what it must have been like, but then again, you captured it perfectly. I’m so so sorry.
    Lorne Jaffe´s last blog post ..O The Places My Mind Goes – Part 2

  • Katie says:

    Oh Whit. I have no words that can provide you any comfort, but know that so many people are holding you and your family close as you grieve this incredible loss. May you all gradually find peace in your new normal. I’m just so sorry.
    Katie´s last blog post ..This is a (Long) Catch Up Post

  • twobusy says:

    I’m heartbroken for your loss, and stunned by your ability to weave together here such ache and tenderness and glow and sorrow even now, in the midst of all of this.

    I wish I had more to offer you than “I’m sorry.”
    twobusy´s last blog post ..The Birthday

  • Kristen says:

    My heart hurts and my eyes just keep pouring forth more and more tears for you and your family. We unexpectedly lost my father-in-law a few years ago and everything you write is so, so, so true. As painful as this was to write, please know that it’s a gorgeous, gorgeous tribute to her. My thoughts are with you all.
    Kristen´s last blog post ..Because you don’t even know who I am

  • I hate that your mother is dead! I absolutely hate it. I look at your pictures of her, and I know that woman. Not literally, of course, but I know who she is, was, will be. I love that she’s the one holding the two finger salute up behind your head in that photo of the three of you. That was her sense of humor, her irreverence, her absolute certainty that her love for you and yours for her was such that sillyness was always an option. I miss her for you. I hate that she died this way. I hate that you’re going through this. But I also know that since she’s inside you, as you say, you will make it through to the other side of grief with something joyful to say. I don’t know how I know that, but I do.
    Jane Gassner (@MidLifeBloggers)´s last blog post ..My New Old Age

  • I wanted to write and express my sincere sympathy on the loss of your mom and step-dad. I was 33 when my mom was killed, and my dad severely injured, in a car accident. I know what you are going through, and it sucks. Big time! Hold the memories of your mom close, and know that these will sustain you in the days and months ahead. Praying for you and your family.

  • Arlene Guerrero says:

    Keeping You And Your Family In Our Prayers From Tucson Az! ! Sorry For Your Lost!! God Bless!! <\3

  • Sharon Doughty Balentine says:

    Your loving tribute to your Mother is touching beyond words.
    So many will miss your loving,wonderful,kind mother but no one more than you, your sister, your father and those dear grandsons, extended family and so many of her friends of which I belong. Your mother’s family moved into my neighborhood when they first moved to Tucson. She and I became best of friends back in the day, and remained that way. Her parents and mine were very close. Her dad and mine went to many a football game together. When I would return to Tucson to visit my folks she and I would get together and she would visit with my folks as well always having a sweet, loving smile. I am so glad we were able to connect just this last month. My heart goes out to you and yours and will continue to keep you all in my thoughts an prayers.

  • Shelley shelton says:

    Whit, I am friends with Bill’s sister Cindy. I never met your mom, but I can barely type through the tears after reading your post.

    I can’t pretend to “know what you’re going through” because we are all different, with different family dynamics and different journeys, but I can share with you that my own mother died suddenly in a car crash in 1989, when I was 17. I went to school one day and by the time I got home, I was motherless. I think many of my tears are because what you have written so accurately describes exactly how I felt on Dec. 1, 1989, the day after my mother died and life as I knew it changed forever.

    I know what it’s like to want time to stop, to go back. To want to make something be true (or untrue) through sheer force of will. To feel so completely lost without the biggest source of nurturing you’ve ever known, and to not know how you’re going to continue. I want to tell you, embrace that for now. Let yourself feel it. And know that time marches on whether you want it to or not. Suddenly you’ll find it’s been a week since the news, then a month, then a year. Sometimes, you’ll feel great, and you might even feel guilty for feeling great, and other times, well, you’re going to want your mommy. I still say it sometimes now, 24 years later, at the age of 41.

    And there’s not a damn thing you can do about it but accept the love from the people around you. Let them support you. This tragedy will certainly make you a better parent. I didn’t hug my mother goodbye the day she died. I was too busy running out the door to catch my ride to school. But I have to tell you that I have hugged my daughter (I have just one child) each and every time I have ever left her, ever. Or any time she has left me. She’s out with friends tonight; I made her come back from the front door and give me a hug. I sense you will and do have the same sensibility.

    In some ways I’ve become less afraid of life. There’s no point worrying about what *could* happen, because whatever is going to happen, will happen. I don’t court danger, but I don’t fear the bad things in the world either. I learned all too well that it’s beyond my control.

    Please don’t bury this blog with your mother. Like you, I’m a writer (I know your dad, as I was a reporter for the Arizona Daily Star, covering Marana, for several years) and one of the best pieces of advice I ever got right after my mom died was this: Write down everything you remember. You’re grown, so you don’t have siblings who need help remembering like I did, but do it for your children. And for yourself. You’ll be amazed at some of the stuff you can forget in 10, 20 years. Right now it’s all fresh, but it fades. Write it down. Remember it all. And above all, grieve in your own time, in your own way, and heal as much as you can. And know that there are people out here who you don’t even know, who are sending you much love and positivity.

    Peace and love to you and your family.

  • jco says:

    such a beautiful and powerful tribute to a woman who must have been incredible, indeed, to spawn such an articulate, sensitive, intelligent and thoughtful human being such as yourself, Whit.

    wishing there were something i could do, something i could say. there’s not. praying for resolve. and peace. and serenity.

    much love from the Southeast…

  • This is my first time visiting your site, and I think I may need some time to fully process my own thoughts as well as what you’ve written here…but I wanted to say Thank You.
    I lost my own mother suddenly a decade ago, when I was a 21-year-old college senior. Your writing echoes so many of my thoughts…things I couldn’t quite convey at the time. I still remember vividly how lonely it felt…the aching hollow that seemed to take up residence in my chest, the realization that the world I knew no longer existed, and the voice that continually wailed inside of me–”I want my mommy”.

    Thank you for sharing this, and for articulating what I could not. I’m so sorry for your loss, and I wish I could offer something to help…to take away some of your pain. All I can offer is the knowledge that you’re not alone, and that (as unfair as it seems at times), life continues and the pain does lessen–eventually. I doubt that’s any real consolation, though.

    Sending thoughts of love and peace to you and those you hold close. <3
    Allison Gray Teetsel´s last blog post ..Comments

  • This is grueling. I can’t even imagine what it’s been like.
    RAinbow motel´s last blog post ..Postscript

  • Dan says:

    I’m sorry man. i lost my dad this time last year and it’s not easy.

    Sorry.

  • I am so sorry for your loss. My mom was yanked from me too early too. it was a huge shock. I am a writer as well. Though at a time before my writing and social media, It took me 20 years to be able to write about her. And even then i could not even get a tip the emotion I felt. So I remark at your ability to write this and the depth of expression you are able to share.

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