It's been 15 years since my mom passed away.
A day that is scarred into my memory for what feels like a minute by minute play by play every November 12.
I thought about writing this whole thing about how grief has changed over these years. How before it felt like a nonstop hole in my heart that left me at times paralyzed and overwhelmed by tears as I cried them out on the roof of my house at night, or in the shower so no one would know how much I hurt. And that with time, it does start to become less and less. There are still moments of sadness, but it doesn't hurt the way it did. I've dreaded this 15 year mark for the last few years because I realized that from this day forward, I will now be living without her longer than I had her.
But in the end, I thought it would be most therapeutic to write a letter to my younger self.
Dear 15 year old me,
I know right now you are reeling. I see you sitting in that hospital room with the picture of the moonlit waterfall on the wall after they just told you your mom didn't make it. How is it one minute it was a normal day, eating lucky charms downstairs talking about going to the mall with your cousin and the next, you're here. The voices in the room fading away as you try to process the next steps. You're thinking about how you need to be strong for your niece and nephews. And for your dad. You feel that you cannot be strong unless you build a wall. You're getting ready to wipe away the last of your tears that you'll let yourself have for at least the rest of the day.
You contemplate if you can get away with not even telling anyone at school because you just want to have a space where no one knows and just treats you like nothing has changed. Sorry to tell you, but word spreads fast and everyone is going to know before you even get to class. But don't worry, your friends are going to be there for you. In fact, you're about to delve deeper into some relationships that really going to make a difference in your life.
Tonight is going to be hard to fall asleep. It is going to be a night you remember the rest of your life. Why? Because Mom is going to visit you in this dream. This dream is going to be the source of your strength that gets you through your darkest days. In the dream she tells us "I love you. Everything is going to be okay. Even when it feels like it isn't, I promise you everything will be okay". Hold these words close to your heart, you're going to need them.
I wish I could tell you it gets easier.
But really, it just gets easier in different ways and harder in others.
Hold your relationships dear to you. They become your reasons for living even when you feel like you don't want to anymore. Know that you are important. Important to your dad, important to your niece and nephews, important to your friends and family. You need them as much as they need you. It really is okay to cry in front of people. You don't need to hold back your tears until you are alone. People want to be there for you. Let them in.
You will think to yourself so many times about the saying "Everything happens for a reason". You wonder what good can really come out of your mom passing away. There is absolutely no way that the death of your mom can come out positive.
Now I know I'm only 15 years ahead, and we still have our whole life, but I have started to notice a few things.
In a few years from now, you are going to start on a path that takes you to New York City. Crazy right?! I know that that feels impossible as you are probably at home now trying to eat a dinner that you don't actually want to eat. But yes. You will go to New York to go to school for photography. Yah, I know you're thinking about being a vet right now, but you're gonna have a total flip.
While you are in New York, you are going to learn who your true friends are. Many will leave or lose contact much to our dismay even now while other relationships will strengthen. This close nit group of friends that you're left with is all you really need. It's going to be rough learning those lessons, and even this far down there will be days where you still wish they were there. But trust me when I say, you're going to be okay.
You're gonna talk to a guy who is gonna change your life for the better. He is going to come when you least expect it. He is nothing like you thought who you'd end up with and yet be everything you've ever wanted. He is going to make you laugh. He is going to be your friend. He is going to knock down every wall and you're going to barely realize he is even doing it.He is going to lift you out of that haze of feeling like you are walking in a never ending nightmare to where you can see the sun again. You and him are going to fall in love in that amazing city. You two are going to have the best adventures together. Time is going to do this weird thing where it feels like you've known each other your whole lives and at the same time it feels like just yesterday he gives you a necklace of a key while on a ferris wheel asking you to give him a chance. Take that chance.
Then one day, there is going to be a little bean in your belly. You are going to feel like your world is getting flipped upside down again. You are going to question how can you become a mother without having your mom there with you. You realize you have entered a club you have never wanted to be in. This club of motherless mothers. You will give anything to be able to make at least one phone call asking about what she did when you were little or just advice on anything. And sorry to say, this feeling is going to come in and out as your navigate this parenthood life. But you will find a group of moms that become a great anchor for you.
There will be a time where you feel like maybe you've entered a stage where the pain doesn't hurt anymore. But instead, you notice that it likes to creep in during your happiest of moments. You will come to a time of your life where there are these big significant moments and she isn't there to see them. She isn't going to be at your graduations. You will see your friends have their senior shows with their loved ones while you have no one but your Love present. You are going to have a beautiful baby girl and no picture of your mother holding her. You're going to get married and she isn't there. You're going to have a second baby girl and she still isn't there.
All these big moments.
You will come to know these big moments are filled with just as much happiness as it is sadness. And that's okay. It's okay to let out a few tears at each of these milestones. I wish she was here to meet our husband. To meet our sweet babies. To tell us how proud she is of all the things we've accomplished.
It is going to be hard as your girls start asking questions about your mom, where she is, what happened. They will wish to meet her as much as you wish they could. They will find excitement whenever your necklace clasp meets your pendant cause you tell them that it means your mommy is thinking of you which will both warm your heart and make you a little sad at the same time.
I think about all these things and realize, if mom didn't pass, I would likely be on a very different track in life. We probably never would have moved to NYC, probably wouldn't have met our love, wouldn't have had these two wonderful girls that brighten up our day. Our life would be very different. And maybe these are our reasons why it happened. Maybe this really is a blessing in disguise...
I'm not going to lie, 15 years later and it still sucks. I know you probably cannot believe that this is where life will take you in the next 15 years. All the lessons we are going to learn. Maybe this is just the optimist in me, but I do feel like mom's words that you'll hear tonight of everything will be okay is absolutely true and that everything does happen for a reason are worth holding on to.
Just keep your head up. Take it one day at a time. I know it's hard, but you don't have to be as strong as you think you do. Your life is going to be filled with so much joy and laughter. The hugs and smiles from your daughters will just melt your heart. You will see a little of her in them every day.
Everything will be okay.
Love, 30 year old me.