* Please note that this post was written on June 23, 2011.
Ten years ago today was when my mother let go of this world and embraced the light of God. It was one of the worst days of my life, as there were many things left unsaid and unfinished.
For me, the first year was the most difficult, an emotional roller coaster that I just couldn’t escape. There were many firsts- my first birthday spent planting tiger lily’s in the front yard, her first birthday with a trip to the Art Museum in Birmingham, cut short by local bomb threats just after 9/11. First Thanksgiving huddled in the bathroom as the tornado warnings passed. First Christmas breaking down in tears as gifts were handed out.
There was the day I picked her ashes up from Birmingham, an awkward trip home as I was so afraid to drive, and the day of meeting doctors impacted by knowing my mother in ways I could not. There was amazing trip out west where her ashes flew in the Colorado mountains- a time of healing and letting go.
As the years passed, these events, markers and memories blend together, a time to honor, a time to remember and a time to return to where I came from.
It’s easy to romanticize our relationship, but the truth is we loved hard, we fought hard. There was a push-pull- resisting the one we want love from the most. I was the rebellious daughter, and she was the hovering mother. Yet, she was the one who I could always go to- for advice, for encouragement, for a connection that no other could give.
I have realized that few will remember my mother in the ways I have, but she is kept alive within my memories. After my mother passed, I whispered, “This will not be in vain.”
I am just now understanding what I meant when I said these words. It is so easy to drown in a state of despair and loss. It is easy to lose one’s way after such a personal and intimate loss.
Ten years later, I am amazed at where I am- married to the most amazing man, writing and providing space for others to write and heal, and yet I am asked to return to a storm-torn town where I once lived to remember the history of which I emerged.
For many girls and women who have experienced motherloss, there is a counting of markers- first, fifth, tenth. Each year brings a new place in time and new challenges along with it. There is no forgetting. Time does not heal all wounds. The supportive words of others often fall on ears that cannot hear anything except for the mourning sounds of loss.
Today, woke early, and before the sun was up had already written about six pages in my journal, tears falling down my cheeks, staining the purple tinted pages. After work, I had dinner at a local café, watching storm clouds pass overhead, but held off long enough to see an amazing sunset. I drank a glass of wine, enjoyed soup and egg rolls, and took a deep breath.
This year, there is also a celebration- as I felt that in many ways I have taken the harder road, I have followed my dreams- upheld the path of creativity my mother set out for me in our original art show, Leaving Traces. What does it mean, to nurture and hold this line, this life that often brings adventure and insane into the same sentence? What does it mean to truly take care of this gift?
And this weekend, I will drive to Tuscaloosa, take down the paintings hung side by side, from a mother and her daughter. Life will go on, and through my work, I hope to touch many more lives. Truly, her death was not in vain.