Five Years and a bit more

When I talk about my parents dying, I tend to group them together. ‘My parents died’. Not as accurate, but its a lot quicker to say when anyone asks. The truth is, there was a fifteen day period where my Dad had passed and my Mom was still alive. I didn’t appreciate that at the time. I didn’t appreciate that my Mom fought for each and every day past August 31st. I can’t imagine what it must have felt like to be at peace with your impending passing, only to have that peace harshly and suddenly ripped away from you. My mom lived those two extra weeks for us, my brother and I. She lived as long as she could to make sure that her children were taken care of.
dsc02231.jpg
My Mom really wanted to live to see my brother graduate high school.

My Mom and I had a very complicated relationships, as most mothers and daughters do. We loved each other, but we didn’t understand each other. We were different people. I had always hoped that I would grow closer to Mom as I grew up. I pictured her cheering for me at college graduation, smiling through tears from the front row at my wedding, in the delivery room with me when I gave birth to my child. I saw all of that so clearly. I saw myself coming to understand her as I grew up and became a wife and mother. I imagined I would call her up for advice. I imagined my parents being frequent and willing babysitters to their grandchildren. All of that is gone now. I can still have those things, but I can’t have her with me like I always pictured.

That’s something they don’t tell you about losing a loved one. You don’t just lose them once. You lose them again and again every time something happens that they would have been there for.

Paris july 2012 177
This looks like an album photo and that is why I chose it. My shoes cannot be forgiven.
There’s a quote from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone about Lily Potter dying to protect Harry. I had just reread the book and felt this quote came back to me at the right time. The quote is:

“… to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever.”

My Mom’s gifts to me are still being discovered. I remember her saying, “I’m your biggest supporter”. I still feel that support, even five years after she’s been gone. But, a girl will always need her Mom. No one can make you feel loved like a mother. No love rivals a mother’s love. My Mom loved me enough to live fifteen days past death. I love her enough to make every year without her a year I make her proud.

Ashley

Five Years

Five years ago, August 31st was a Saturday. The weather was unremarkable, we were having a house party, and my life changed forever. This wasn’t the kind of change that I worked for. Nothing I did made it happen and nothing I could have done would have stopped it. I can’t put into words how powerless, how helpless I felt.

Five years ago, my father died. Quite unexpectedly, I might add. I was expecting my mother to die. She was coming to the end of her almost year long fight against cancer. She had just come home from a week in the hospital and was now in Hospice care. For anyone who doesn’t know, Hospice is a service for people at the end of their lives. So, it was a certainty that I was losing a parent.

But expectations can never prepare you for reality and I hadn’t even been expecting this. Who even could? Who would think that one parent would die while another parent was about to? There’s the saying, life is stranger than fiction. I could’ve lived without having my life be a perfect example of that.

I’ll never forget that day, the unmistakable worst day of my life. The combined total body numbness and overwhelming emotion that I felt once what happened had sunk in.

But that was five years ago and today should not be a day to remember my grief. Today, I remember my Dad. The last thing I remember him saying was, “I’m so glad you and your brother are home. I’m happy we’re all together.”  I remember him being happy to be with the people he loved and those who loved him.

My Dad loved fully and openly, and he taught me to do so as well. Now, it’s one of my favorite parts of myself. Anyone who was important to my Dad knew they were important to him. He felt no shame or hesitation in expressing his feelings and emotions, a trait that is unfortunately less common in men than it should be.

My Dad was IS one of my favorite people in the world. We understood each other. We looked at the world in similar ways. He was the first person I went to when I wanted to talk. He taught me how to give advice, how to empathize, how to listen. The day after he died, I said, “The only person I want to talk to is the only person who’s not here.” This is one of the things I miss the most.

img_5385.jpg

I lit five candles today. This is the first time I’ve consciously done something to commemorate the anniversary of his death. Perhaps that’s because this is the first year I haven’t had the start of a school year to worry about. It’s very confusing to be starting a new semester and also be thinking about death; the clash of a beginning and an ending. Hopefully I’ll adopt certain actions or dedications for these anniversaries in the future. I always have memories but it feels good to do something.

Ashley

A Letter to my Sixteen-Year-Old Self

Hi. It’s me. Well, it’s you, ten years into the future. You’ve graduated high school and college. You’re done with school! I think that should make you happy. I barely remember being 16. I know you’re sad and worried about if your friends like you as much as you like them. They do. They love you. I’m sure you’re curious about what my life is like: where I live, what job I have, what my boyfriend is like.

But I’m really writing to warn you. I guess ‘warn’ isn’t the right word. I want to try to prepare you for something you can never be prepared for. Sounds ominous, huh? I want to tell you that halfway between you and me, something happens. You can’t change it, so I won’t tell you specifics. I will tell you that it will hurt. It will be the worst pain you’ve ever felt in your life and it will be with you in some form or other for the rest of your life. Yes, it’s a big deal. So, I want to give you time to appreciate what you have. I want you to stop fighting with your mom and dad because almost every fight will seem stupid in hindsight. Trust me. I want you to be unashamed in your love for your friends, your family, or any of your interests. That passion and love is what helps to heal you. I want you to not worry about your future. I’m not at the end but I’ve dealt with your biggest worries and conquered them. I want to tell you that it’s okay to try something and realize it’s not for you. You do not have to make one decision and stick with it. Making mistakes is how you learn and grow.

Part of me wishes I were you. I wish I could go back and worry about grades and parents. But I remember you were sad. You’re still sad. Sorry. I’m working on it, I promise. I think it’s going to be a lifelong issue. Sorry about that, too. But you are surrounded by people who love you, even if sometimes it feels like you are very alone. I can’t stop the bad things from coming. I can’t protect you. I can only tell you that I’ve come out the other side and I’m still up and fighting. And having fun too. I promise you have fun.

I’m proud of us. I’m proud of how you are going to handle what life throws at you. And you are going to handle it. You’re going to handle a lot more than a lot of people your age could. You are strong. You are brave. You are loved.

224647_1046094350261_899_n
Me at 16
IMG_5067
Me at 26

I love you