Mom died nineteen years ago today. Breast cancer. She got sick when I was a kid– it was a rare time when she cried, but she did so in the car while we were going somewhere unimportant.
My mom’s birthday was this past week, had she still been here, she would be seventy. She died when she was fifty-two. I’m forty-six, so that seems quite young– in fact, it seemed that she was really young when she died.
I have a son who is six. I find myself placing a hand on his forehead when I enter or leave the room. It’s a sort of reassurance, probably more for me than him. My mom did the same thing to us kids. Even when she was sick, her hands felt warm. I remember that warmth as something other than just a touch; it was a remembrance of her presence as she moved about the house.
She died almost nineteen years ago. At what point do the factors of my own memory and aging begin to overtake the brilliance of her impact on my psyche? Will she pass into a state of legend? I have learned more about my mom since her death than I knew of her during her life– not the details, or the “mom” aspect of her, but who she was as a human.
She was a person before I arrived. She lived for twenty-four years. When did she decide that something as simple as touching her children on the forehead would be the right thing to do? Was it natural? Or learned?
For me, it was learned.
It seems like an anchor that keeps her memory closer to me than just a myth, or a legend. I think that when we lose someone we love so much, our goal is to stop them from becoming a part of history.
History is distant; loved ones are now, even if they are giants in our memory.
Bad things happen. Frequently.
Bad things cause vivid memories, and if they linger, and you write, you can turn those same images into fuel that churns the waters of your imagination.
I’m writing a character who is totally enmeshed in loss, and I reach back to a short poem from 1998 to find the fuel I need. I hope you enjoy it, and that the emotion is real, maybe?