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This week: The moment you knew you were no longer a child.

Losing a parent is never easy, no matter how old or young you are. I lost my mother the year I turned 30, and during her illness and after it, I found strength I never knew I possessed. I am the baby of the family, with 13 years between my only sister and I. She is older and wiser and stronger than I will ever be; and I’m not just saying that because she might read this. I have put my sister on a pedestal my entire life, often when that was the last place she wanted to be. But in the middle of our mother’s last illness my sister had to be out of the country, so I was left with Dad and my aunt. The prospect of life without Mom was devastating for all of us. A husband and lover grieves differently than a sister, as a daughter grieves differently in turn. When the phone rang no one ran to answer it. When the doctors spoke of arrangements that would have to be made, my father refused to listen. So when the end came we got word to my sister and she came as fast as she could. In the meantime I found myself having to answer the phone, to choose the last outfit my mother would wear during her wake, to order flowers and food for the inevitable out of town guests, to find the perfect photos to display at the funeral home, to help Dad choose his final gift for her: pink mother-of-pearl rosary beads to wrap around her fingers.

My mother and I had talked about what might happen during this time; the events that caused her death were swift and unexpected but the winter before we had discussed at length how I would function after she was gone. We didn’t usually talk about such morbid things but I had become convinced that I was going to lose her soon and the prospect terrified me. This is the only time in my 43 years that I had a sort of premonition. She assured me she was not about to die; she had high blood pressure and diabetes but they were under control. She told me that when she died, in the far far future, I should not be sad; I would always have her with me. She jokingly said I would never be able to get her voice out of my head and by golly she was right about that. I think it was during this conversation and of course the terrible events that happened just six months later that I realized I was no longer a child. I couldn’t just run to my parents or my sister and have them solve my problems for me. For they might not always be there. 

I would have to listen to their voices inside my head and forge my own path.

Next week: The worst thing that could happen.

This is the latest exercise in my 642 Things to Write About Project. Click on the link to find out more, or click on the category 642 Things to Write About Project to read past exercises.  🙂