On May 3rd, 2014 my mama died in a tragic accident.
On May 4th, 2014, her official declaration of “Brain-Dead” came through in the wee hours of the early morning.
On May 5th, 2014, she was finally taken of life support as doctors harvested her organs for donation.
Throughout those three days, I barely cried. I ate a couple bites of a muffin and half a grilled cheese. I filled out paperwork, coordinated with the healthcare team, and proceeded to sign my name on her death certificate. I was 23 years old and one year past university graduation. I was living at home – just me and her – and a world without my mom at it’s center point was so far past foreign to me, that I had no idea where to begin. Putting one foot in front of the other seemed a task so monumental, there were moments when I didn’t think I’d survive.
But survive, I did. And 5 years later, I am able to look back on the way the world crumbled around me and find peace. That is something that for a very long time, I never thought I’d be able to say. Please don’t get me wrong- I still carry a burden of pain that at times is so intense it takes my breath away. But that pain is my love for my mama turned inside out, and I know the truth is, it will never fully go away.
A lot of people like to say “time heals everything,” and I want to be very clear in saying that I couldn’t disagree more emphatically. Time did nothing for me. As evidenced by the fact that in the first two years after her death, I don’t think I made any tangible progress at all. Time is not the answer … At least it wasn’t for me.
What led me to healing was a concentrated and focused effort. What led me to healing was grueling therapy. What led me to healing with the support of my partner, Mac, my dearest friends, and the family that surrounded me with love and kindness. What led me to healing was prayer, mindfulness, meditation, and journaling. What led me to healing was connection with others. What led me to healing was immersing myself in my grief and letting it wash over me. Rather than pushing the sadness away, I learned to experience it in it’s fullest. I learned to face the fear of it, so that I could come out the other side. And while coming out the other side does not mean grief is no longer a part of my daily life, it does mean that I am now equipped with the strength to handle it.
No, time didn’t heal me; my desire for joy did. And that desire for joy was handed down to me directly from my mama.
5 years ago today, I woke up and it was an ordinary morning. I made breakfast and coffee for my mama and me. We hung out in the kitchen, and chatted. I laid down on the kitchen floor and tried to get her to join me in a core workout (which she refused because she couldn’t stop laughing at how ridiculous I looked). Our typical banter went back-and-forth, and when she left the house, I didn’t think to give her a second glance. As far as I could have ever known, she’d be coming back. She always did.
My breath stops when I realize that it’s been 5 years since I had a conversation with my mom. 5 years since I ranted or vented to her. 5 years since we laughed together. 5 years since we put on a CD and danced around the kitchen like fools together. 5 years since we argued. 5 years since we teased. 5 years since I heard my mom tell me she loves me, and my God that is something I still need to hear. 5 freaking years.
And yet, I’m still here.
I have a beautiful life that came together by grace that is certainly not my own. I am endlessly grateful for the people who are a part of my ‘every day.’ I couldn’t be more lucky. This month, I’m marrying the love of my life (a man who my mom completely adored!), and while my mom won’t be with us that day, I know she’d be beyond giddy in these final couple weeks as we await the big day.
She’s been gone for 5 years, but everything I am is still owed to her. She raised me with love. She told me time and time again, ‘kill them with kindness,’ and her voice rings in my head with those words every day. She taught me to believe in magic and miracles, and though for a long time after her death, I didn’t, I’m now reconnecting with that side of myself, and I know it’s making her smile. My mom filled our house with books, music, and an encouragement for make-believe. These are the makings of my spirit today.
Though my time with my mom was cut short, I wouldn’t trade the years I had with her for anything on earth. I miss being loved so fearlessly and unconditionally. I miss having a childhood home to go back to. I miss having the safety net that only a mama can offer. But in spite of all these things being gone, she’s left me with so much more.
She’s left me with memories of a life well-loved and lived. She’s set an example for integrity, kindness, and compassion. She was the world’s very best mama, and I miss her more with each day that passes. But it’s a gift to have had a mama so worthy of missing, and for that, I am forever grateful.