I sit here today, still numb by losing my mother last month. There have been 4 people who have shaped my life and who I am. I’ve lost 3 of them and am struggling to move on without these great forces.
First, my Dad. The first man I loved, the first man I danced with, the man I looked up to and relished in being his little girl. While he was not the ‘best friend’ kind of Dad, he was always there, teaching important lessons. Whenever someone compliments me on my use of the English language, I know my Dad lives on in me through the lessons he taught so constantly. And the fact that my face is his face, keeps him close to me always. Nobody else has that ‘Charlie Cole smile’ so famous in my family.
Two years ago, I lost my beloved oldest brother. I’ve written before about his influence on me. While we weren’t close as children, him being the oldest, and I the youngest, we developed a deep relationship as adults that I treasured and had so many hopes of things we’d do in the future. His visits were more frequent in the later years. I look back now and am so grateful we had so much time alone together. Losing him shook me to my core. He was the kindest person ever, strong, brilliant and a good man, taken far too young. Even in his dying, he showed immeasurable strength and love.
Last month, I lost the third and most significant rock in my life, my mother. Again, life gave me a special gift when she moved in with me in November, giving us 5 months together. They were hard months. I had a hip replacement, she fell and need rehabilitation for 6 weeks, was increasingly sick and finally her heart failed. I think her heart was just worn out. She’d given so much of it throughout her 92 years.
My final pillar of the 4 is my sister, my first best friend, my confidant, my go-to person in nearly all situations. Realizing there are just 3 of the original 6 people in our family, has brought us closer, more cognizant of the importance of family. The two of us, and my other brother live far apart, but in our hearts, we are close and speak often.
So, as I go through Mom’s things and find touching reminders of our lives, I have periods of deep, deep pain and loss. This morning, I discovered an email between my sister and me at the time of my brother’s passing. With it was a tribute I wrote to him that Mom had saved. I also found a letter from her youngest sister, written in 1959, just months before she was taken too young. Mom saved so many treasures!
I also find myself with a deepening sense of resolve to live my life with more meaning. While I’ll never be the person my brother was, or the mother my Mom was, I can take what they gave me and be the best me I’m capable of being. That is my vow to them. I’ve been on a journey of living a happy life, making conscious choices about it: who to include, who to exclude, what is best for me so that I can be the best for others, how I can give back and live a life of meaning. The awareness of the shortness of life has now heightened this desire in me.
I don’t yet know how this will all play out. I’m eager to see how I can take these immense tragedies and turn them into something that will honor the people we’ve lost. I hope to be kind like my brother, reliable like my father, and loving and supportive like my mother. If I can accomplish that in my life, I think I’ll die with few regrets.