to the point of tears: some words about my mother

I’ve been trying to think of something to say.

The trouble is that I want to say everything and nothing. The trouble is I am all emotions and no vowels. The trouble is not the silence so much as it is the absence. I can’t quite wrap my head around the sudden hole in the world, the sudden dearth. It’s an emotional sinkhole.

The truth is that my mother was the best person I’ve ever known. Not just the best mother. The best person. Goodness knows, she had to be to tolerate me. But in all seriousness, she was ALWAYS there. It didn’t matter what was going on, or what the problem was, she would listen or fix it. Often times, both. In a lot of ways, I suppose that was like living life with a safety net. That isn’t meant to reduce her to a human problem solver. But words are failing me at the moment.

I know that this will suck for a while. Then, it will suck less. It will never not suck. But I also know that it is important to honor my mother’s memory. The only way to do that is to be strong. To carry on traditions. To be completely myself, no matter what – because she would be the first person to smack me upside the head for not being to who I am.

This is loss is a horrible one. It’s also a humbling one. I’m not the one who needs people, most of the time. I’m the one that people need. (I am my mother’s daughter.) I’m learning that it’s okay to ask for help or just to reach out. And I’m so damn grateful for every single person who is there when I do, from my family to my friends, and to those who qualify as both. (You know who you are.) I am blessed to have such a wonderful support system, and I know that will make all the difference.

Anyone who knew my mother knew this one simple fact: she was amazing. She would do anything for anyone. She never hesitated to laugh at herself – which happened quite often. And while she couldn’t say a tongue twister without hilarious errors, that never stopped her from trying. That actually explains much of her outlook on life and approach to hard times. She never gave up. She never backed down. She found a way to laugh about things.

I will probably be fumbling with all this for a good while. I am acknowledging that, because I can’t see any way around it. If it were easy, if I was unaffected, I’d be a sociopath. But I know that I have people. You all may not be my mother (and god knows, no one EVER can replace her – because that woman knew EVERYTHING), but you are still my people. And for that, I want to thank you. The difference between an absolutely shitty day and a decent day can be as simple as a smile.

Things feel strange. Heavy, like a fog. That will slowly burn away, but right now, my coping mechanisms are people, music, phone calls, and trying to get things done. I’m better when I’m doing things. I’m better when I’m not still. But that’s how I’ve always been. Truthfully, I am more sad than angry. My mother put up one hell of a fight, as only she could do. When she was first diagnosed, the doctors gave her three months. She fought like hell for 2 years and seven months. So, those doctors? Didn’t know their asses from a hole in the wall. Mom’s fight, her tenacity and spirit, is a testament to who she was. She always gave things her all, even when a lesser person might’ve walked away, washed their hands, and just gave up. Giving up was never an option for her. And I suppose that is a major thing she imparted to me at an early age: go after the things you want. It doesn’t matter if it’s a battle. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. There is strength in believing. There is strength in hope. There is power in possibility.

I could sit here for three years and tell you about all of the things my mother taught me. My fingers would probably be bleeding from overuse. But trust me when I say this: if your mother is still around, go hug her. Or call her. Tell her you love her. If she is not, remember and honor her. Because if she’s anything like my mom, that’s exactly what she’d want: for you to live to your life in the fullest way possible. As Camus once said, “Live to the point of tears.”

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  1. August 15, 2012 at 8:19 am

    I only know you from Twitter, but you have my deepest sympathy. I lost my mother when we were both way too young (She was 56 and I was 18) and the hole in your heart never really goes away. It does get smaller, though.

  2. August 15, 2012 at 8:48 am

    This post honors your mother in so many ways, Ali. Thank you for sharing. As soon as it gets into my hands, I will be sending a book to you. As I flipped through my copy of the book to today’s entry, this is what I found. It seems appropriate to share with you today:

    “I am reminded that what I adore, admire, and draw from Mother is inherent in the Earth. My mother’s spirit can be recalled simply by placing my hands on the black humus of mountains or the lean sands of desert. Her love, her warmth, and her breath, even her arms around me –are the waves, the wind, sunlight, and water.” – Terry Tempest Willams

    It is a bittersweet thing to feel our loved one’s presence yet not be able to throw our arms around their solid form. My wish for you is that you feel the warmth and comfort of her presence in the all that surrounds you.

    Much love, chica.

  3. August 15, 2012 at 8:49 am

    That was a very sweet tribute to a wonderful woman. You can bet that she is incredibly proud of her beautiful, smart daughter. Joyce is right: The pain never goes away. But in only hurts where the love is.

  4. August 15, 2012 at 9:10 am

    Ali, I’m squishing you in the biggest hug right now. When my mom passed in April, you were there for me. So we’ll punch holes through this fog together. Yesterday, I picked up the phone to call Mom and tell her her grandson got his driver’s license and went. “Oh. Right.” And then had to flee to the privacy of the ladies’ room to sob for a while.

    Cancer and its treatments suck hairy donkey balls and I’m proud of the way our moms fought for every day they got beyond those grim prognoses and know you are, too. What I’m looking forward to is being to remember and honor my mother WITHOUT the punch of fury for how she suffered that always seems to follow, to do as Blake said: feel the warmth and comfort of her presence.

  5. August 15, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Thank you, Ali. I just sat with two of my best 30 year+ girlfriends and watched their faces as one described her mom’s memorial and the other listened respectfully and said “1 year or 25, it doesn’t matter, it’s a loss” – she lost her dad when we were 17. And I thought of you.

    Just breathe, get outside as much as you can, and don’t forget to eat. And any feeling is OK. honest.

    I’m sorry your Mom had to suffer so, but I am grateful you shared a bit with us.

    Sending best thoughts from Seattle.
    XO
    B.

  6. August 15, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    I am truly saddened that I never got the chance to meet your mother, but I know that her spirit and zest for life live on in you. Please know that as you find yourself reaching out to people in this difficult time, that I’m only a phone call/email/text away. *Hugs*

  7. August 15, 2012 at 9:30 pm

  8. August 16, 2012 at 9:43 am

    You’re in my prayers, Ali.

  9. August 16, 2012 at 10:19 am

    Even though we haven’t been friends for very long, and I didn’t know your mom, you haven’t been far from my thoughts these past several days. You have been, as always, handling yourself with grace through your grief, and I suspect you are everything your mother hoped you would be when she watched you as a little girl.

    I know she’d be proud of you, and this post is a beautiful way to honor not the ideal, but the real and wonderful person she was in your life.

    As always, I am right here if you need another friend.

  10. August 16, 2012 at 10:46 am

    So sorry to hear about your mom. This post is a great memory to her and thank you for sharing, Ali.

  11. August 16, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    Oh, sweetheart, I’m so sorry.

    You are your mother’s daughter, her greatest legacy.

    All the hugs and more. ❤

  12. August 18, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    sorry to hear about your loss. prayers and hugs from me

  13. August 20, 2012 at 1:24 am

    I lost my mother a number of years ago as well. My condolences for your loss.

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