Almost a year ago today, I lost my mom to cancer.
I’d never before experienced a pain so acute: a full body ache, a scream welled up inside with no release. For anyone who has lost someone precious, you know. You know about the list of lasts: last text messages, last movie nights, last hugs and last words… you know that sometimes it feels like you’ll collapse under the weight of the loss.
Grief is ubiquitous, yet singular. Because my mother loved me into the woman I am today. She built me a library of my very own, a collection of books by Beatrix Potter, Robert Munsch, of titles like Anne of Green Gables and Madeline. She laid out my clothes, white collared dresses and Mary Janes, did my hair in two neat braids. As a little girl, my favourite colour was pink and hers was too. I’d tell her fervently and earnestly,“I’m not copying you— I really do like it.” But maybe I did love pink because of her. Maybe she shaped the world and how I saw myself in it.
I also told her everything. It was to the point that when swearing me to secrecy my friends had to say, “Don’t tell anyone—not even your mom!” No decision process ever felt complete without her take. The first time I bought a dress without her took the breath right out of me. There are some moments when I feel like she could be in the next room, others when her absence is everywhere, like a black hole threatening to pull me into the abyss. When I tried on that dress, it was like a protective veil within me tore, as I realized there were thoughts and feelings of hers I'd never know.
And yet… there is a piece of her that is infinite in a way I never understood before. Two months after she passed away, my dad, brother and I received a video message from an old family friend. She told us that she’d only just heard the news, that she’d been off social media for a while but, when she logged back in, that she had the inexplicable urge to look up my mom. Through tearful pauses, she told us how much our mother had meant to her, how her parenting style was modelled on how my brother and I were raised. She went on to say that we were lucky, that she was always amazed by the fact that my mom would write us poetry— amazed that anyone could love their children so much. Before this moment, it had never occurred to me the impact my mom could have on people outside of our immediate family, that she wasn’t only living on through us but through the people she touched.
There is something mystical about the power to inspire people through our love, something transformative and transcendent. And maybe we are made up of the love we were given, quilts of kind words and best intentions. And maybe those who loved us also live within us. So even when it hurts, I honour my mom by watering the seeds she planted within me, by continuing to love the things she loved. Maybe after her loss, these words are even more true: she is…
Always with Me.