Understanding the Permanence of My Mother’s Death

It comes back when I’ve forgotten what it’s like how much it can hurt. It’s there when I need someone to love me unconditionally. It’s there when I feel lost, unable to make a decision, unable to leave things the way they are. It’s there when I need my mother.

Grief never ends. It’s there when I need to tell my mother about my day. When there are so many questions I have to ask her. When I long for her comforting words, telling me I don’t have to be afraid of anything. When I wish for her to tell me she is proud of me, for fighting, for not giving up, for loving myself.

I miss her when I think of her irreversible departure. The more I change, the less of the person I will be when she was still alive. And the older I get, the more we grow apart because she can no longer grow with me. I’m mourning the idea she will never get to meet the person I am now: stronger, calmer, happier. Whenever I experience rushes of happiness I’m overwhelmed by the knowledge of my inability to share this with her.

There will never be another day for her to embrace me. I have long forgotten her smell, the texture of her aging skin, the stories behind her scars. Soon she will be just a background figure in conversations with others, dismissed of her own history.

I try to keep her alive by telling her stories, keeping her memories as vivid as mine. Stories of her going to England as an au pair when she was not even 20 years old, and leaving the unstable family after only one week to work at a hotel. Stories of her first boyfriend from Germany. Stories of trouble in the family or the neighborhood, that she somehow always knew about. Tiny milestones of her going to the supermarket with my dad, a week before she died. Milestones I still wish were a breakthrough in her recovery.

And yet I feel like I’m always falling short. I will never be able to repeat her memories in the same way I express my own.

Grief never ends. There’s an end to days covered in sorrow, weeks filled with sunshine can go by. I can think of my mother and forget that she’s no longer with us. Until something makes me aware of her departure. On these days, felled trees are set on fire, leaving a heavy cloud of smoke that makes it impossible to breathe through.

I can’t grasp the permanence of her death. Sometimes I find myself trying to understand what her absence looks like, though I will always lack the words to describe the emptiness that I feel. In the same incomprehensible way that I have been telling about someone else’s loss for the past six years. It’s my story, but I’ve never felt it as my reality.

One day, my mother disappeared, and I have no idea where she went. She left and she won’t ever come back. Ever since she hasn’t gotten any day older and she doesn’t know anything about the days I’ve lived, the things I’ve done.

I’m here because of where she is. I’m here because she died. I’m her daughter, mourning her.

I find comfort in grieving her. In remembering her essential presence, for as long as she was with me. For the value she had in my life. Even though there are days I need her more than anyone else, even though I am angry at her for leaving, it means I will never lose my gratitude, my memory of her, my love for her.

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