Family · Mental Health

These are the moments when it hits me the hardest that Mom is gone.

My daughter is in her second year of college. After many years of crippling mental health struggles, many directly related to high school, she is finally on a healthy upward trajectory, developing a personally satisfying academic career. She is organized, diligent, precise, and a formidable student. Taking ownership of her education, she is eating up and spitting out her classes in the honors program of the local community college and is looking forward to transferring into a prestigious four-year school.

She’s been in finals hell, submitting paper after paper, project after project. She gets her work in on time, and is at the top of her game in school, and has developed a bit of a social life. It’s just enough to give her a bit of relief from the pressure she’s managing, and works hard to balance everything she needs to do, including a job tutoring in the school’s Reading and Writing Center.

The other morning, she came downstairs needing to rant. Apparently, her History professor gave a last-moment 8 a.m. deadline for their final paper. She had planned to submit it later that afternoon and needed the extra 4-5 hours to put the finishing touches on the assignment, so there was a genuine and understandable freakout in the works. Not enough to make her spiral into a bad place, but enough to rattle her significantly.

Chris and I counseled her the best way we could, telling her to finish it, submit it and ask for forgiveness. Arguing with a professor would likely be a waste of time and would not keep her in his good graces. She agreed with our assessment of the situation and got to work. Her first draft was already done, and to be honest, her first draft is usually better than most other students’ final papers. We figured, if he didn’t accept the paper because of bogus messaging, she could escalate it later. For now, the goal was to just get it done and out of her hands.

A few hours later, she pressed submit and released the tension. Whatever would happen was out of her control. She could be proud of her paper and move on to other work.

Fast forward to 12 hours later. She receives this message in her inbox:

Don’t worry about the late submission. This is an outstanding paper! This paper is cogently argued, coherently organized, and as close to flawless as a professor can expect at this level. I can tell you put a lot of time into this very well composed and detail oriented piece, You have a real gift as a writer, keep developing that talent as your studies progress. A

You should consider submitting this to the Beacon Conference. Talk with your Honors Mentor about this, it’s pretty prestigious and is a really nice way to build up your academic resume.

Lastly – you might be a good fit for working at the Reading and Writing Center. I can check if there are any openings if you’re interested.

Blown. Away.

I immediately gave Julia the most loving “I told you so” because I have been telling her for years what a good writer she is. She hated English in high school – she had some bad teachers that poisoned her to the writing process. But in college, her love for the written word started to blossom. She was writing about subjects she was interested in and was praised for her efforts. Now, she’s looking to transfer into a schools with an excellent English program.

We both chuckled at her Civil Rights teacher’s offer to reach out to the job she already holds. Her English professor from last year made the same recommendation and she has been helping other students improve their papers for a few months now. What a wonderful acknowledgement of her abilities. Whatever boost in confidence she can get, I am grateful for.

This is where the tears came in. As soon as I finished talking to Julia about this incredible correspondence, I walked away, and my immediate instinct was to text my mom. This floored me, because it’s been over a year since she passed. I typically don’t get stopped by this, but today it took me down. I sat there, quietly sobbing for a moment, because all I wanted was to share this incredible moment with her. That wound, that was slowly healing, opened up a little. The same thing happened on the day of her funeral, when I wanted to tell her how proud I was of my girls, how brave they were and how much we supported each other during that awful moment.

I think that is the hardest part of losing my mom – those impromptu interactions where we can gush and kvell over the kids. Though we lived far away from each other, those random texts and phone calls kept me going in-between visits. When we connected, it was so satisfying. The love flowed, and the pride and excitement shared between us was like clean, fresh air. Now, all I can do is look up and smile, “Did you see that, Mom? Our girl did it.”

These are the moments when you realize how long the grieving process lasts. Most days, you move through life pretty smoothly. You manage expectations, stress, and once in a while you sit back and enjoy the fruits of your many labors. Once in a while, the grief comes back and smacks you with a brick, almost as a reminder to not forget that a really important person is missing from your life. Don’t get too comfortable, because you will be abruptly reminded that there is pain buried under all the layers of life.

This is where the word bittersweet comes from. I think it’s meant to encapsulate the experience of age. Now, every happy experience has a bit of a sobering sensation attached to it. Don’t worry – that doesn’t stop me from feeling happiness, elation, pride, or all of those good sensations; it’s just that there are now strings attached. Fine. If the price of experiencing happiness is a bit of sobering reality, so be it. That’s what writing is for.

3 thoughts on “These are the moments when it hits me the hardest that Mom is gone.

  1. Stacey:
         I am so happy to hear that Julia has finally come into her own. I
    know what you have been dealing with over the years and I’m sure you and
    Chris are beaming now. I’m so excited for her future. She is bright,
    talented and a wonderful young woman and I know she will be successful
    with whatever she endeavors. I know mom is watching and is thrilled as well.
    Iris

    Like

  2. I know exactly how you feel when something happens that you want to share with your mom and suddenly it dawns on you that you can’t. It happens to me often, even now after she’s been gone for many years. I’ll think, “oh, I have to tell mom this happened, she’ll get a kick out of it”, then I realize I can’t, and it hurts.
    As for Julia, she continues to be our pride and joy. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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