November 22, 1999 is a day that I will never forget. It is the day that my mother passed away. I was 17 and a senior in high school. She had been in the hospital for a couple weeks this time. Her death wasn’t necessarily unexpected, as she had been sick for a long time, but it still came as a surprise. A surprise…that at the age of 17 I was not aware would affect me the rest of my life.
Well I guess my mom had only been really sick for about 5 years, but at the age of 17 that seemed like a life-time. She had COPD, caused from years of smoking. She had been diagnosed many years before (when I was probably 4 or 5), but it wasn’t until I was 12 that her disease really started to affect her. It started gradually at first, with shortness of breath when she walked, but quickly lead to her not being able to work within that first year. The last 3 years of her life she was in and out of the hospital almost on a monthly basis and was on oxygen 24/7. The last couple years of her life she couldn’t do much on her own, so I became her primary caretaker. I spent a lot of time with my mother, but we never really talked and we didn’t know anything about each other. Looking back on things now…that is my biggest regret….that I didn’t take the time to get to know her as a person. She was always just my mom or the person I had to take care of. She was the person I was embarrassed for my friends to meet. I never looked at her as a person with her own life and stories from before I was born.
The Motherless Daughters (MD) class and ministry have helped me tremendously in dealing with my mother loss. Before attending the class, I had kept all my thoughts and feelings about my mother and her death inside. I would only speak of her in positive terms, and after 11 years I still blamed myself for her death. When I took the MD class in the fall of 2011, I was expecting to talk about my mom and how I had dealt with her death. I wasn’t expecting to learn about how her death had affected other parts of my life; my way of relating to people and that I had actual feelings about my mother that were not positive.
I learned that I was angry at my mom for dying. I felt as though she had chosen cigarettes over me. Before the MD class I never would have allowed myself to think that…let alone write it down for other people to see. I realized that it’s ok to have negative feelings about my mom and her sickness…and that it is ok to express those feelings. I also learned that because I had been hurt by my mother, that I avoided having close relationships with people. I was afraid of being hurt again.
Through the experience of losing my mother and going through the MD class, God has taught me that He really does take the things in our lives that hurt us and uses them for good. I have learned that it’s ok to get close to people, and while I still have a lot to work on, I am beginning to establish close relationships. I am letting others get to know who I really am. I have a woman in my life who has taken over the mother role that I never thought I would have again and tried to convince myself I didn’t need. While things in my life have not always been easy, they have brought me to where I am today, and that is right where God wants me to be.