Today is my mom’s birthday and I have to count to remember that she would have been 64 today. I’m sure my dad has thought a time or two about Paul McCartney’s song “64” and that McCartney wasn’t with his first wife at that age either, although their separation was for much different reasons.
My mom would have sang it to my dad and they would have laughed and smiled together.
But most days I’m not dwelling on what it would’ve been like to have my mom with me anymore. Most of the days I’m just enjoying my job at a high school that lets me get to know students instead of just teach them. I’m settling into our new old house that my mother almost feels a part of because I know she would have loved all the intricate parts. She would talk about the stained glass windows, wood floors and mantle pieces, and how “they just don’t make houses like they used to.” I’m appreciating time with Brandon and how he is such a perfect match for me. This year for my birthday he made me feel so special with secret gifts and guests, just like my mom always used to. I’ve been realizing that he helps make missing her less painful because he has so many parts of her personality in him. Most days I’m getting to focus on building stronger relationships with my dad and brother. There’s always a bright side that you can find in tragedy (something my mother taught all of us). I’ve found a real relationship with my dad and a renewed closeness with my brother. Those things would make my mom so happy. It makes it all better to know she would be so proud of all of us.
Most days now I don’t cry when I think of her. Most times when I’m telling stories I’m laughing and happy to remember. I feel grateful that so many people that I’ve met after my mom died have told me that they feel like they’ve met her just from the stories and pictures I’ve shown them. It’s an honor to carry on her stories, to continue her legacy of optimism.
So, today when I feel sadness and grief come back I welcome them. Grief no longer overwhelms me; now it reminds me of the gift that my mother was to all of us.
It’s a strange thing– this moving on and living life. Sometimes I fear that as life continues I’m walking further and further away from the memories of my mother. But today as I celebrate her I know that I don’t have to worry about losing her in that way. I hear her voice through my brother when he tells me that mom would be proud of me for standing up for what I believe in, and for working to educate and elevate those experiencing poverty and oppression. I feel her in the hugs from friends and coworkers who probably don’t even know that they remind me of my mother when they give that good squeeze. I see her in my own blue hair that I wouldn’t have had the guts to get if I wasn’t able to tell myself, “my mom would LOVE this!” And I hear her again and again in my head telling me she loves me.
Happy birthday mom. I love you now as much as yesterday, and I always will.