It’s been a long time since we’ve talked. Almost 35 years. I still remember that warm, August night in 1979. I remember Keith walking in (though he should have been at work…a bad sign) and saying, “Mom’s gone.” Although I understood the meanings of those two words individually, when my brother linked them together, their meaning escaped me. “Gone?”, I asked. How was a girl not yet 13 supposed to accept that her mom has just died. I knew you were in the hospital because you were sick. But seriously, you were never coming back? You were my mom. Moms come back. But you didn’t. I felt so guilty not having talked to you on the phone that day to tell you I love you. I was busying playing. I figured I could call you the next day. But there was no next day. If only there was a way for us to know when we have reached our last “next day”.
I didn’t understand everything you were going through in the hospital. I thought it was just the illness. Emphysema was serious, I knew. But I had no idea of the other struggles you had. The struggle to not be afraid all of the time. The struggle with depression. The struggle to just exist and blend with society. All of this was too much for you. You were mentally and physically exhausted. I will never have the facts to determine exactly what went through your mind. I was only told you gave up. You needed to just let go so you stopped fighting to live. I get that now. But then, then I only saw you stopping the fight to be my mom. When you let go you let go of me, too. And I fell. I landed in a house (although with my other family) that was not a home. Not for me. It was cold and lonely. It was clear that it would be better if I were just a visitor rather than a permanent resident. But that is another story. Back to our story.
For a long time, even though I missed you terribly, I was angry. Angry that you left me. Angry that you abandoned me. Once I was in my 20s I started asking questins. I learned through conversations with your sister and my cousins where you really were back then; Not physically but mentally and emotionally. I felt guilty all over again. This time I felt guilty for being angry.
I learned that much of our family, by this time, was suffering with varying degrees of depression and taking meds. Sure, now you can’t turn on the TV and not see a commercial for a prescription med that treats depression. But in 1979 it wasn’t so acceptable and well-known. It makes me sad to think that maybe you felt lonely because you were different. Maybe you felt like you were crazy? Maybe you felt like you couldn’t be my mom because you were different?
I started researching mental illness and depression. I talked with professionals. I took several Psychology classes. I read a lot. It made me so sad to think that you were so lost in your own mind and couldn’t break free. I want you to know that I understand now. I’m sorry it took me so long to get it but I do. I do get it. Your battle was bigger than any of us knew. I still miss you terribly. But I am not angry. I don’t feel abandoned and I am not lonely. You will be happy to know that I do not suffer from depression. I’m not ‘cheerleader’ perky every day but I do okay. I rely on God. Prayer combats the bad days.
Mom, you taught me how to love. You were an example of how to show the people in my life that they are important to me. You made me a better mom. I miss you so much, every day.
Write back soon.