My mother died eight years ago today. The anniversary never fails to make me sad because I miss her and feel that 51 was too young for her to go.
What the anniversary doesn’t fill me with is regret. For much of my life, my mom and I had what might euphemistically be described as a troubled relationship, but before she died, we’d made our peace.
This wasn’t a deathbed conversion. We’d gotten along much better in the years before she died — a mix of my getting older, both of us making more of an effort, and, as my mom liked to say, us making better friends than roommates. It helped that when I hit my 20s, I had a flash of empathy for the fear she must have had being the divorced mother of a 3-year-old when divorce was still less common.
Still, as Mom battled cancer and it looked like she was going to lose, I seized the opportunity. I voiced some of the years of swallowed hurts, and we agreed she could have been a better mother, I could have been a better daughter, and we loved each other, imperfections and all.
I’d had a little experience with this idea of wanting people close to you to know how you feel. In high school, I had a dumb fight with the guy I dated on and off for most of three years. I stormed off and we didn’t speak for I think several days. Then he was in a car crash that put him in the hospital and killed his best friend. My heart seized at the notion that this trivial stupidity could have been the last memory he had of me and the last one I had of him.
That feeling has stuck with me. No matter how mad I might occasionally get at John, I am always sure to tell him I love him before one of us leaves. I’ve broached some tough conversations with my dad, and been pleasantly surprised at his willingness to talk about his feelings of not being more involved in my childhood, among other things.
If my mom had suffered a sudden heart attack instead of fighting cancer, I might not have had as much chance to say what I was feeling. All of this celebrity death news lately — Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson — should have us well reminded of the certainty of death. Since every one of us will die someday, and you can’t be sure when it will be, you might consider not only appreciating each day of your own life but also each day of those around you.
If someone you loved died today, what would you wish you had said? Can you tell him or her right now?
I’m not fixated on death, but having a deadline does help motivate making changes instead of just talking about them. Here are some recent blog posts I’ve written related to remembering our mortality:
- Frank Sinatra reminds us to live until we die
- Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture
- “One Month to Live” encourages readers to face mortality and live life to the fullest
Rest in peace, Linda Newvine-Pussehl. We miss you.