I wake surrounded by darkness and she’s gone. . .
I fight to remember the details, but they disappear like steam rising off a pond in the early morning hours. The dream is foggy, as if I am watching through barely open eyes. A tiny glimpse, a distant memory, a shooting star flying across the night sky.
For a moment she’s there. . . and then she isn’t.
I see her in my dreams less frequently now. Most of the time it is pleasant–as if she’s always been there. On some days, though, the dreams leave me with a heavy feeling that stays all day long. Like carrying a five pound dumbbell in each hand through the day–a physical reminder of loss.
Today’s dream wasn’t a heavy one. She was simply there, a part of my life, a part of the story. As I lay in the darkness, I strain to recall her voice and it’s difficult. Why can’t I remember? How am I losing the sound? The tone. The inflection. Much like the dream, it is fading.
Today marks nine years. Nine years since my Dad called with the news. Nine years since I gave up hope for her healing. Nine years since I had a Mom.
They say that time heals all wounds, and I think that’s true–sort of. (Dr. Phil would say time does nothing, what one does in that time is what matters.) I can talk about my Mom now in a way that was not easy a few years ago. Stories about my Mom are peppered throughout my conversations with my kids or friends with ease and fondness.
My mom used to make me baked potatoes when I was sick, I told one of my own sick kids just last week.
Can you imagine the girls closets if your Mom was alive? Chad mused a few weeks ago.
Just last night as I watched Meadow play I mentioned to Chad, It’s crazy that she never knew Meadow.
Two peas in a pod they would be, he said as we laughed about both of their quirky personalities.
We laugh and tell stories and reminisce about days that seem a lifetime ago and it doesn’t hurt, or sting. Today, they are scars, healed over but still there, always present.
Still, there are things that, I believe, will never be settled, will never heal. Memories that will always sting. Questions that will remain unanswered for the remainder of my days on this side of Heaven.
It doesn’t matter how much I turn it over, mull it over, bend and twist it to make sense, I will never fully (or even partly) understand why alcohol won the battle over my Mom’s life. I will never understand why that battle we fought so hard to win, ended like it did.
Sure, I am a trained counselor. I know all the right answers. I know that alcoholism is a disease. I know that alcohol changes brain chemistry. I know that alcoholism is resistant to change and highly prone to relapse. The professional in me fully understands that love can’t cure a disease of addiction any more than love can cure cancer.
The professional in me knows all of these things.
But, I’m not a professional in this case. I am the daughter. I was her daughter. (I’m not sure if I should write I ‘am’ her daughter.) Shouldn’t MY story be different? Shouldn’t OUR story be different?
There are no exemptions to hardships of life, I know. None of us get a free ride.
Still, I often think back to those days we battled for my Mom and I wonder why. Why wasn’t our love enough? In my minds eye I see an imbalanced scale: my Dad, brother, sister and I, our kids, her family, her life, her future, the love so many had for her on one side and on the other side? A bottle.
The math doesn’t work. The scale so easily tips to one side, it’s laughable. Of course we would win the battle. Of course she would choose us.
But life isn’t a math equation and it’s impossible to make sense out of senseless things.
In the end, the bottle won.
Nine years later I continue to sit with the questions.
Why were we not enough?
What was the hurt so deep inside of her?
Why didn’t she let us love her through her healing?
Why couldn’t she understand that we would forgive her a million times over to have her here today?
Why couldn’t she love herself the way we loved her?
And more. . .
Why didn’t God answer my prayers?
Why, when I cried out in desperation, did God not heal her?
There are no periods at the ends of these sentences. There are no neatly wrapped boxes with bows where all my questions can be placed. Instead, the questions linger, they fly through the air and they are scattered about my life. The questions walk with me into every room, into every relationship, and into every situation. The questions surround me like Pigpens aroma and they have become a part of me. A lens through which I view the world.
I have found peace with the questions. Questions that leave me wondering and wishing. . .
I wonder what it would be like to have a mom as I mother. . .
I wonder what it would be like to call her when I’m having a bad day. . .
I wonder what it would be like to go shopping with her around Christmas time. . .
The wishes. . . they are endless. . .
I wish she were here to see we had a third baby. I wish she could have met Meadow.
I wish she could know her grandkids and that her grandkids could know her.
I wish we could meet up for lunch between her house and mine.
I wish I could show her just one of my pictures. Just one.
I wish I could hear her call me Rah-Rah again.
I wish I could go home and see my Dad sitting with her again.
I wish I could call her. . .
The wishes, they are endless. . . they are daily. . . they are a part of life now.
Nine years. It feels like a lifetime. In truth, we lost her long before nine years ago, but on this day, nine years ago it became permanent.
Hope was gone.
Prayers for healing no longer uttered.
Nine years ago the battle was lost and we began navigating a world without her.
Nine years later, the questions remain and I’ve learned that it’s okay. The questions are okay. Joy and sadness can coexist. Sadness doesn’t dampen joy. In fact, sometimes, sadness heightens joy.
I don’t think I’ll ever stop saying, I wish Mom were here to see. . . this or that. Thoughts that only serve to remind me how much I loved her. . .
Still, nine years later, I understand that her life and her death shaped me. I am who I am today because of her life and her death. Today, I can’t untangle it all.
I am grateful for all that my Mom’s life taught me.
I am grateful for all the my Mom’s death taught me.
I hold them both. . .joy and sadness, life and death, before and after. . .
Nine years later I know I am better because she lived.
Nine years later I am grateful for the beauty that rose out of the ashes of her death. . .