I never gave any thought to being in the Dead Mother’s Club. I know it is universal but you don’t think about it until you’re in it. Of course I know many people who have lost a mother, prior to losing my own. They seem like normal people – walking around, talking, functioning, enjoying life. Who knew they walk around with a hole in their heart? Sometimes a hole from all the love that is missing. And some have a hole from the love they never received from their mother and never will.
I have been in many “clubs” in my adult life. I have made many friends who have children with special needs, like myself. I connect with other women who have had breast cancer. I’ve been a runner, practiced yoga, swam, read books. I have been a happy participant in most of these groups (as happy as one can be with a disabled child and breast cancer). I have never worn one particular “membership” as my primary identity or badge of honor. I have accepted these roles in my life and try to pay it forward by helping others. They all contribute to the gestalt of me.
But this time it seems more deeply personal. And more comforting to talk with people who had a “good” mother and experienced a similar loss. One woman told me that 15 years after her mother’s death she still feels the urge to introduce herself: “Hi, I’m Judy, my mom died.” She told me that my Mom will “settle in with me” after a time, and guide me as I continue on with my life. Another friend said she hates the term “lost my mother.” Thinking of her mother as “lost” is disconcerting; she died.
Dads are equally as important as Moms, but different. And everyone has different, unique relationships with each parent. Somehow speaking with people who have lost a Dad is not the same as talking to a woman who has lost their Mom. These people still know loss; it’s just different.
My sister and I recently cleaned out my Mom’s closets. I am more sentimental than my sister so we were a good team. She helped me to let go of things that would just clutter up my closets. I was a task master, keeping us focused so we could complete the job in the one day my sister was in town. Neither one of us are particularly into shopping or clothes.
She said, “I hate shopping. And I hate shopping in Mom’s closets.”
Mom had a Kleenex in every single pair of pants she owned. It made us chuckle. And she labeled a necklace in her jewelry box “for Naomi’s sweet 16.” My daughter is only 10, but my Mom was thinking about gifting her as she had her older granddaughters. It made me cry.
I made my sister take a purse, some jewelry, some shoes, scarves, etc. She was particularly drawn to Mom’s comfy clothes, that we really never saw her wear – sweat pants, a cardigan sweater. We laughed, knowing that Mother would find this amusing.
That task is done. We have things that were Mom’s that are meaningful to us; myself more than my sister. My husband finds it a bit curious, since he teases me for being unsentimental most of the time, constantly cleaning out our house and giving things away.
“You can’t take it with you when you go,” I always say. Also,
“I’m pretty sure our son’s wives won’t want a box of their preschool scribblings.”
Contrary to what my husband thinks, I am sentimental, and having things of my Mom’s makes me feel her presence more strongly.
I have taken to cooking and entertaining again, something my mother and I shared in common. I find it therapeutic to bustle around in the kitchen, sauteing onions and garlic, trying new recipes. It makes me think of my Mom, who was a wonderful hostess. She created a warm environment, where people felt enveloped in her home and appreciated for what they “brought to the table,” She had a knack for creating delicious meals and presenting them with great style – good taste all around.
My father and I are muddling through, helping each other deal with our loss. I am his “rock;” he is my surviving parent. I always include him in whatever my family is doing, to help him fill his days and ease his loneliness. And my family and I benefit from his wisdom, presence and love. He has his friends, old and new. He goes to coffee, dinner and the movies. It is strange to see my Dad as a vulnerable man, available on the dating market. He is figuring out how to be in the world without his beloved spouse of 54 years. I love my Dad and know that he adored my mother. I trust that he will find a way to live a different, happy life. It is an adjustment for all of us.
Mother is gone. Thank God I have my father, husband, sister, children and friends. I’m slowly finding my equilibrium.