Do I Still Miss My Mother

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“Do you still miss your mother?” The question caught me off guard. My friend and I had ventured out to the park with our children to enjoy a rare sunny February day in Portland. It was one of those deceptively clear days, one of those days that gets you excited for spring, before realizing the sun is still too far away to give off much warmth. We stood huddled together as we watched our children run around the park. I wrapped my arms tighter around my 11-month-old, cozy in the Ergo, trying to capture some of his warmth.

Do I still miss my mother? I paused. Longer than seemed appropriate. My mom died of brain cancer when I was in high school, twenty years ago now. And for many years, I missed her vividly. I missed the smell of cold air on her long wool coat when she came home from work. I missed the sound of her pouring a glass of bourbon over ice. I missed seeing her crossword puzzles, done in felt tip pen, covered with splotches where she had fallen asleep mid-answer. I missed the sound of her voice. Later, I missed remembering what her voice sounded like. I missed her.

With time the rawness of her loss faded. Although her absence was felt, I no longer felt in danger of falling into the hole her absence created. I could see the edges of it. I learned not to get too close.

Do I still miss my mother? Because I lost her so young, I find that I don’t miss her as much because of the experiences we shared or the conversations we had. I miss her for those we didn’t.

When I got pregnant with my first child, my mother’s absence loomed larger. There were so many questions I wanted to ask her. Did she get morning sickness? Did she worry like I did about the little life growing inside her she couldn’t see? What was labor like for her?

After my son was born, I wondered what she felt as a new mother experiencing the exhilaration and monotony of motherhood. I wondered what advice she would have given me. I wondered if I would have called her for reassurance with milk streaming down my chest and tears streaming down my face. I wondered what she would have said when I told her my son’s first word – cat – the same as mine.

Although I felt lost at times that first year, I didn’t feel as lost as I thought I would. I am fortunate that my father married a wonderful woman after my mother died, and I know that if I need expert mothering advice I can turn to her. But I also know that although my mother isn’t here to guide me physically through motherhood, she has equipped me with the skills I use every day as a parent. She taught me the importance of humor and to be generous with laughter. She taught me about forgiveness and acceptance. She taught me how to live with grace and grit even when everything falls apart. She taught me that life is short, way too short, and that I cannot let a day go by without telling my children how much I love them and why.

She also taught me about selflessness: I think about how sad she must have been to leave us so young, knowing that she would never get to see her grandchildren or experience motherhood with me. And yet she hid that sadness, protecting me and my brother even as cancer left her defenseless.

Do I still miss my mother? I felt fresh sadness as I thought about this question. Sad for her that she never got to meet my children or my brother’s son, so alive and warm and full of personality. So uniquely human. But I also felt solid in the knowledge that she was and is a part of me, and part of my children too.

I looked at my daughter, all of two years old, climbing out onto a branch, dangerously close to tipping into the pond. She thought better of it and got onto her knees, shuffling back to the safety of shore. She came running over to me in that high-knees, toddler way of running that seems to take longer than walking would. She gave my legs a quick nuzzle, taking comfort in my presence, and then shot off for another adventure.

“Yes.” I finally said.

12 responses to “Do I Still Miss My Mother

  1. I too lost my mom when I was young. I still have days when I miss her so much, it’s been over 25 years now that she has been gone. I just realized the other day that I have now lived longer in life without my mom than I did with her. I wish my kids could have met her, she would have been a wonderful grandma.

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  2. What a raw and touching post. I am sorry for your—and your children’s—loss of someone who sounds like a beautiful person. You do her tribute by the thoughtful and loving way you live.

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  3. You took my feelings from losing my mother and put them into beautiful words. I lost my mom to brain cancer as well. She got sick when I was 11 and lost her battle just before I turned 14. I miss her terribly, but feel as thought I really didn’t truly *know* her. I grew numb for awhile, and then after falling in love, getting married, and having my first child I had a new waves of grief. I felt sadness for all she was missing and not having her there with me. I finally had a glimpse of the pain she must have felt having to leave my dad and her two babies behind. That will never stop hurting. And I believe I live with extra worry/anxiety that I may not have had if I had not experience losing my mother. She was a beautiful person inside and out and is a part of me.
    Thank you for your words.

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  4. When reading this, I felt like I was reading something that came from my own heart. I lost my mother when I was 19 to cancer, and I miss her every day. When I was pregnant with my first baby, my father also passed away from cancer, and I feel the loss of their physical presence in my son’s young life every day. I am now pregnant with baby number two and I still miss being able to ask my mom the thousand daily questions that come with parenting. Even with this sadness though, I too focus on the selfless person my mother was and the love she and my father showed towards me and my sister. While they may not be here in body, each and every day I feel their collective spirit and see it shining through in my little guy. Thank you for articulating so beautifully what I am sure is a shared feeling among so many.

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  5. Yes and yes. My mother also died of brain cancer and I too had to navigate becoming a mother without her or my father. Thank you for this beautiful piece giving voice to the brave among us who stare down the edges of loss and walk on!

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  6. yes, I still miss my mother. She died almost 33 years ago. I’ve lived the majority of my life without her. She never knew my husband, my kids, me as an adult. Yes I still miss her.

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