Dear Mom,

It’s been 24 years since the day you left me. That seems like an absurd number, but I know that every year the number gets bigger. Each year, it feels like you’re getting farther away. I lose more memories. I live farther from the people who knew you. Most of the people in my life have never met you. Some of them don’t even know that you’re gone. With each deathiversary, I get more accustomed to explaining where you are.

The closer I get to your age, the more scared I am for myself. Joining a grief group has helped me to realize that this is normal. Most of us who have lost older siblings or parents assume we won’t make it past the age they were when they died, and when we do, we don’t know how to handle it. We never envision ourselves reaching 40, knowing our mom never will, but here I am. I still have some years before I reach 36, but the dread grows the closer I get.

A lot of people mark traumatic experiences, especially deaths, with “before” and “after.” This is how trauma survivors tell time. And while this is how I mark other events in my life, with you there was no “before.” The floaty recollections I have of you feel like another life, a dream, a made up story. My whole life has been “after.” For a while, I wasn’t sure what that meant for me, but recently my trauma therapist explained to me that my trauma isn’t in the fact that you died. I don’t remember it. The trauma of losing you happens over and over again, every time something happens that you should be here for and you’re not here.

I have more pictures of you in my room now to help me remember. I’m doing regressive memory work with my therapist to draw out old feelings and, hopefully, old memories. I mainly remember you taking care of me: scraped knees, bee stings, injuries of childhood. I remember you waking me up to lick the spoon from a batch of brownies. I wonder if you knew then that you didn’t have much time left, and that sweet memory would be more important than my 8pm bedtime.

Next to my bed, I have a tryptic of you, signing to me that you love me. I. Love. You. You smile back at me from a 90s hospital room every night as I go to sleep. And I know that you loved me. There are pictures to prove it. You stared at me with a look of deep adoration. But sometimes I get angry at you. I wish you’d left me more things to remember you by. I wish I had letters for each birthday or a recording of your voice reading me a bedtime story or a video telling me all the things you couldn’t tell a five-year-old. I know it’s not fair to ask for those things because I’m sure you did the best you could. I only ask for them because I miss you.

I’m not sure what I believe about where you are anymore, but I hope wherever it is, it’s peaceful. I hope you are proud of me, but I hope you don’t miss me. People tell me you’d be proud of me, but it doesn’t mean much. Even so, I try to live each day like you’re watching me. I look for you in crowds.

Love you always,

Brenna

6 thoughts on “Dear Mom,

  1. Brenna, I remember. I remember hearing about you shopping with a relative for tights to wear with your dress to the funeral; you matter-of-factly told the sales clerk that your Mom died. I can only imagine the impact that had. I remember singing in the choir at your Mom’s celebration of life service – what a privilege. And I remember singing later the special piece your Dad had written in her memory and honor. I remember your Mom at the women’s retreat with Liz Curtis Higgs. Liz brought your tiny Mom up on stage to illustrate how “one size fits all” panthose were ridiculous (Liz is a taller, larger woman). The visual was priceless! I pray that YOU will remember that you are loved.

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  2. Brenna, your Mom loved you so much – with all of your heart. She was proud of everything you did then, and I have no doubt she is doubly proud now. What she feared most was not dying – it was leaving you. Your Mom’s funeral service was a celebration through many tears. Her life gave so much to celebrate. But you were her biggest celebration – her pride and joy. Thank you for your beautiful thoughts and sharing them so others can learn from your grief and healing process.

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  3. Brenna,
    Your mom loved you so much. She told me that she was afraid that you would not remember her if she did not survive the cancer. She went down hill quick and I bet she did not have the strength to write anything. She was a fighter to the end. Marcia was a special mom and a great friend. Your mom and dad went through this cancer with so much strength and courage. They left no stone unturned and were so worried about you going though this as a little girl.
    I lost my mom at 15. I know how you feel not having your mom in your life. My dad turned his back on me and my sisters when my mom got sick. He had no interest in our life anymore. I lost two parents.That was so painful. I always admired how your dad took such good care of you.
    I read the book Motherless daughters which helped me as a young women. Praying for you, Brenna through your loss!!!

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