Loss of a Mother

| by Natalee Bird |

July 24, 2005

My mother is gone, after weeks of slowly wilting into her final sleep. She waited until the day after my father’s birthday. That was the worst summer of my life.

He had told her it was okay to go. It was the first time I saw my father cry, let alone weep in pain. The weeping willow cries with my father over the loss of love, a mother, a friend. Watching the glorious tree drip sadness from its branches brought a calm over my family we could not comprehend.

Leaving my grandmother’s one night, my mother on her deathbed, I told her, “I love you and will see you tomorrow.” The next morning at my cousin’s, breakfast seemed pointless. My stomach in knots, it knew before I did that my mom was not really where I had left her. A willow sways in celebration of a beautiful soul ascending to heaven. I would see her the next day, but she would not see me. She would not truly be the mother I had left the day before.

My eleventh birthday was one I will always remember but try with everything I have in me to forget. It was only two short months after she passed. More gifts than I needed and everyone was there. Looking back now, I see the pity gifts, and I wish more than anything I had not accepted them. They had lost her too, a sister, a daughter, a niece, a family member they loved. Why did I deserve gifts? I wish my 20-year-old self could go back and throw a fit because it just wasn’t fair. As the iconic Whomping Willow in Harry Potter would throw whatever came close enough, I would hurl all the gifts, all the feeling as far away as possible with all the energy I could muster. I wish at eleven I could have understood. Not that I can understand now, but I can face it and not run. If only I had talked to the counselor instead of shutting down, building the tallest tree reaching seventy feet between any feelings, and remaining numb as a defense.

***

I had the pleasure of coming back to another year at Glen Acres Elementary, a place I loved, to tell my new class about what I done this summer. Sitting at my desk, bawling my eyes out. I remember stuttering, having issues with it being so fresh to get the words out. It seemed as easy as it could be to tell one person at a time, but to have my entire fourth grade class, all their eyes on me, watching me cry uncontrollably as I shook. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do at that point in my life. The wording I used included the phrase passed away rather than saying she died. I can see the pain in my teacher’s eyes, as she didn’t know what she could possibly do. The student teacher handed me tissues, that poor young woman, having to see a little girl in such agony. One could assume I was seen later in the year as the girl who lost her mom. I know people took pity on me.

No one has the right to define me as the poor girl who lost her mother. I am now a young woman who is doing her best to continue climbing my branches one foot at a time and deal daily with the obstacles on my horizon. The loss of my mother does not change that I am a strong person. It does not change that I know what I believe in and stand up for it when I have to. It does not mean I do not have a mother, or people, especially women in my life who love me and I look up to. With every Mother’s day that passes, her birthday, counting that she has been gone ten years now. This is a huge part of who I am, but this alone does not define me.

This one tragedy cannot be the only thing people see. They must overcome the need to categorize people by the way they look or sound or the experiences they have gone through. A human being is a complex and beautifully created masterpiece, with more than one color and more than one purpose, as the willow has not only aided in the creation of charcoal and aspirin, but also simply provides the world with a beautiful creation.

Willow trees do not lead long lives, so as my mother left the earth before I believed she should have, willows die, often only reaching thirty years. That does not mean they do not live to the fullest and leave beautiful memories behind. My mother was a beloved woman and will forever be with me, just as the way the wind hugs the branches and the sounds of the breeze through the leaves will forever be with the willow.

 

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