I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t be changed by a death of someone close to them. My mother and I were extraordinarily close. Our identities were intertwined far and deep. While we spent a lot of time together, the last four years had been complicated. Not with our relationship but within myself becoming a mother. I had postpartum anxiety and felt paralyzed. My mother was a huge support and a big reason I got through it but it is something I struggle with.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer the week I gave birth to my second child (2014), my son Matan. As far as we know we don’t have a history of breast cancer and don’t carry the gene. She was stage II and there was no doubt in my mind that she would pull through. I feel naive now at those thoughts. She finished her treatments and just 4 month later she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. A year later she was dead (2016). It was in her liver and bones and eventually it went to her brain and bone marrow. It all happened so fast.
I gave birth to my daughter (2012) and immediately could feel that things were off in my body. My mother who at this time was living in another state came and stayed with us. She helped me get out the door. Literally she packed my diaper bag and we walked to the downtown with my new baby. She was a person who didn’t sit and let things stop her. She faced them head on. I’ve always thought she was a better mother than me. She had the kind of patience and sacrifice to be a mother to a 100 kids.
While the last four years I wasn’t a bad mom by any means but I couldn’t clear my head. One example of this is that my mom wanted to drive up to her favorite knitting store. It was a 5 hour drive. She had never been there and wanted to get away with me. My son at the time was very young and I was breast feeding. On top of this he was a bad sleeper and being up all night left no energy for much else. I felt I couldn’t get away and I was having anxiety over taking him on the drive in winter. My mom, who was wonderful, understood but I’m sure she was disappointed. This makes we sad to think about. There was a memory that could have been made and I missed it.
I kept thinking about the future and how we were going to do so much together, even the not so far off future. Just to when Matan was done breast feeding and sleeping through the night. Then I thought even further into the future about my mom, my daughter and me going away together and having quality bonding time. Or even my mom and me getting lunch while the kids were in school and going shopping but there isn’t that future anymore.
I’ve lost grandparents in their 80’s and 90’s, I’ve lost friends but loosing my mom has dug in deep and opened my eyes.
So how did my moms death make me a better mom.
Being Present – Not that I have completely forgotten about the future but I’m here more than I had been. The realization that things can change and go bad fast has caused me to stop each day and be here. I still spent almost every day with mom so there are no regrets there but I wish I had not worried while being with her. She was there and things were not as big of a deal as I had built them in my head. Now I can’t be present with her but I can with my family. I can hold the people I love longer and laugh at the end of even the hardest days. Yes there are still hard days. A hard day dealing with grief and raising a 2 and 4 year old but I can check myself and come to a better place.
Stop Worrying – Don’t get me wrong. There is till worry. Who couldn’t worry when you let your heart wonder in the world everyday but I let go just the same. I can’t control everything and the worry was holding me back. I still grapple with this but I don’t want to pass this on to my children. They would resent me holding them back over worry all the time (they are my children so I still get to worry some). I’m sure my mother worried about me when I was younger and even as an adult but she said she had “faith”. I don’t think she was entirely talking about god but about the fact that she wasn’t going to let worry control her. I would ask her how she let me do so many things that now if I think of kids doing them I cringe and she would say “Mara, you have to have faith”.
These were the things I need to reflect on in my life and make better. I reevaluated how I was doing things. I don’t think I needed my mother’s death to make these changes, I think it just woke me up sooner. I decided to go back to being a stay at home mom and to start this blog. I hope that big things will come through my life and I’m starting now. Though I still struggle, I feel a peace I haven’t felt in a long time and I cherish it all.
Love you mom
(1983, I’m the baby right by her side)