When I was sixteen, my mother died of breast cancer. I have been considering these past months what it means to be motherless. The label hangs over me, attaching itself to every aspect of my life. Motherless daughter. Motherless wife. Motherless writer. Motherless photographer. Motherless mother. Whether I am prosperous or in debt, I am motherless. Whether I am successful or a failure, I am motherless. No matter my experiences, my mistakes, my triumphs, it means something, everything, that my mother is not there.
It is bewildering attempting to describe the worth of my mother and my need for her throughout my life. With so many years that have passed between her death and now, I wonder at times how much of my memory is fabricated by my want of the lost unconditional love and the desire for a supportive someone to talk to about my goals and defeats. I know within myself that this deep longing for my mother would not exist had she not been at least partly what I remember. She was imperfect, but she was important to me when she was alive. She has remained just as important even after her death.
I go through phases in my life where I miss my mother more than at other times. I am in one of those stages now, caught between trying to move forward with my life and pining for the past. It feels sometimes that ~this~ being a part of my life means I miss out on the present moment. I don’t want to focus so heavily on what I used to have and on what I lost. Without my mother, though, I oftentimes feel disoriented and unsure of myself. I feel ashamed of my mistakes. I feel guilty for being flawed. I feel these things at a level greater than I felt them when my mother was in my life. She could help me find reason. She could help me find motivation and ambition. She could just help.
I wish I could go to my mom for help now, ask her how I can get through a predicament I have been facing and trying to understand. Since my mom died, I don’t ask for much help from anyone. I’ve encountered too many people who feel entitled to attach conditions on my life I just can’t meet. It’s important to me to live life on my terms, and I’ve disappointed so many that it feels easier to do things on my own.
Of everything that the motherless title represents, the worst of it is misunderstanding. I feel misunderstood in my grief, in my priorities, in my worldview … except when I am around other women who have lost their mothers, too. Not only have I missed out on my mother’s advice and sympathy, but I have missed out on that confidante who knows me inside and out. That person who can guess without me saying what is going on in my life. That person who made mistakes, too, and is willing to laugh or cry or be angry or work alongside me.
I hate the motherless label. I wish I could shake it off, forever banish it from the details of my life. Honestly, I just wish I wasn’t motherless. I miss my mother so badly. The size of the label and the extent to which it reaches into my life is evidence of the significance my mom held in my life. She was afraid that I would forget her. I wish she could have known that it would be the opposite. Every day I think of her. But the motherless mark on my life is here to stay. The only option I have is to accept it.