Seven months pregnant and sitting shiva, I was convinced that I had a monopoly on my suffering. More than my siblings as my mom and I lived nearby and I accompanied her to all of her doctor’s appointments. More than her boyfriend because he did not know her as long. More than any other girl who lost her mother because my mommy was special. I had loved her so much and depended on her so dearly and spoke to her so frequently, as if that would be enough to stave off cancer.
I recently read If You Knew Suzy: A Mother, A Daughter, A Reporter’s Notebook by Katherine Rosman and was amazed by the parallels down to the awful conclusion.
Having lost my mother has become such an identifying part of my identity. Perhaps because it is still sixteen months later the wound is still raw. Perhaps because it really is a big deal. I no longer feel the need to tell everyone I meet that I recently lost my mom but I do reveal it with frequency. If I had lost a limb, my left hand or even my thumb, the world would know to handle me with care. But barring that, I disclose my handicap.
At my college reunion last Spring I reconnected with a friend and shared the defining experience. We had both been extremely close to and influenced by our strong-minded mothers, a similarity we had bonded over at school. She kept shaking her head no and saying, “I couldn’t” as if thinking about potentially losing her mother would send her health into a tailspin. “Don’t you think I felt the same way?” Just as I am certain that all of my contemporaries shared the same ache in their stomaches upon losing their mothers.
I emailed Rosman while reading her book sharing my amazement at the similarities. We had the familiarity of camp friends reconnecting on Facebook, so many unknown details but this shared bond. I’ve found myself relating to people who’ve lost their mothers in ways I never imagined. It’s as if we are part of this semi-orphan club. We may be cool, but do not join. It’s much more fun on the other side.