I will never forget that day. My dad and stepmom came to our apartment and picked me up. Just me. My older sister had stopped visitation with my dad at this point, and my baby sister stayed home. This had never happened before.
I felt special (and as the “middle child”, that meant everything).
We drove for a bit and stopped at a sweet shop. My dad bought me a chocolate milkshake. We drove to a nearby park (we called it the “duck pond”) and sat down at a picnic table.
“She has maybe 6 months to live”
I didn’t drink much of that chocolate shake. I cried, I got angry. They were telling me that if my mom did come home from the hospital, that I couldn’t live with her. That she wouldn’t be able to take care of me. That I was coming to live with them.
This was a Friday. By Tuesday, she was gone.
I was 12 years old and my mom was EVERYTHING to me.
Ovarian cancer stole her from me.
Here’s what I lost:
My history – your mom is not finished telling you about your history at 12. The things she has, you aren’t old enough to understand the sacredness of keeping. It might be there on the fringes, but it isn’t imprinted in your mind yet. My dad was remarried and nobody wanted to talk about my mom after she was gone. The snippets I was able to glean were like treasure. I longed to find some secret journal that my mom had kept for years and years. She wasn’t that kind of person though. I have very few pictures and my memories and that’s all.
The mom moments – Learning how to put on makeup (although she never wore it, so not sure she would have been much help there), crushes on boys, fights with friends, going to the prom, graduating, getting married. Oh my gosh, having babies. As if missing her during my teen years wasn’t awful enough, she also wasn’t there on my wedding day. I remember sitting by myself after just putting on my makeup and seeing myself in the mirror. A bride. Your mom should be there with you when you see yourself as a bride for the first time. Oh my gosh, missing her so much it physically hurt. I had to start my makeup all over again.
The future – She will never hold my babies. We will never have grown up adult conversations. I will never have that gradual progression into friendship that happens when a mother and daughter travel through adulthood together. I will never get to take care of her like she took care of me. Thankfully, I know exactly where she is, and I know as a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, we will be together again one day. It is my greatest comfort.
Security – Losing your mom at the cusp of teenagehood shakes you to your core. It depletes your confidence and it zaps you of your comfort. It is a harsh reality check that you can truly, madly, deeply love people and they can leave you. They can leave you through death, and you start realizing that they can leave you by choice as well. You become a people pleaser. You become a doormat. You become an introvert. You forever have trust issues. On a good note, it made me less tolerant of toxic people, I understood both the fragility and complete unfairness of life at an early age.
I lost my dad a few years ago. As an adult. He was alive for the birth of both of my babies and got to hold each of them. It didn’t make his death hurt any less. It didn’t make me feel any less orphaned now that both of my parents were gone. I went into a complete stupor and had to go into counseling after his death (that’s when I was diagnosed with this). Losing a parent as an adult sucks too.
We had time though. We didn’t use the time as we should have, too much of it spent apart. Never truly estranged, but separated. What a waste. You’d think we’d know better. Thankfully though, I had my moments with him. He walked me down the aisle. He held my babies. He saw me graduate. He passed down his history to me. I understood the importance of keeping it sacred. I remember it. I wish I had asked more questions, but I don’t think you can ever be fully satisfied that you have had enough time with a parent. You will always want more. Their work is never ever done. My stepmom has stepped up as both of my parents now. I don’t spend enough time with her. You would think I had learned my lesson.
You are forever scarred when you lose your mom at 12, but in some ways…you are also blessed. You are stronger. You can stand on your own. You can be a better mother yourself. You can understand the importance of passing down history. You hop into the picture even on your “ugly” days. You savor every moment. You sacrifice your time for your children. You sacrifice money for your children because you know creating memories with them is worth more than a huge bank account.
You understand that tomorrow is NOT promised, for you or for your children. So (in my case), you bring them to church. You teach them about Jesus. You guide them to join you in Heaven one day. One day, we’ll all be together. What a glorious day that will be.
If you know a young girl (or boy) that has recently lost their mother, come alongside her/him. Let them talk about their mom. If you have any history to share, share it freely. Don’t worry about upsetting them, they need to know. They want to know. Even if it is hard, they deserve to know.
Have you lost someone? Want to talk about it? Comment below.