Thursday, February 7, 2013
Our mothers, our daughters
It has been a hard week for mothers of daughters.
Over the weekend, a dear colleague lost her daughter -- a beautiful lass the same age as me -- to a rare and extremely malevolent form of cancer. Her mother is a senior colleague of mine, whom I have known for over ten years. A fiercely independent fiery woman, she raised her two daughters alone. They were so close, they might have been sisters. In the obituary she wrote for her daughter, she honoured her memories and thanked her for the precious times shared.
She signed off "Mum xx".
Then she added, almost in a postscript:
Rest now, my darling.
Those four words undid me today.
In those four words, she was no longer a colleague or friend. She was no longer the strong one, the one holding it together for everyone, the one staying optimistic and grateful.
She was a mother: tender, loving, protective. Grieving. In those four words, she conveyed all she had seen: the suffering she witnessed; the pain that would never heal.
On Monday, a little friend of my daughter lost his baby sister. It was known while she was in utero that she would be born with heart defects, but modern medical technology gave cause for optimism. The entire family (and community) braced themselves for a difficult time. But they gathered around hope.
That tiny little girl did not survive the multitude of operations she had to endure in her first weeks of life. Incredibly, her mother brought her son in to kinder on the first day of term. She sat on the couch and cried, held by a beloved mentor and friend.
I share this today not to be ghoulish or sensationalist. Or disrespectful. And please forgive me if reading any of this has touched tender spots in you. I am still trying to process my grief, and understand the role it is playing in my general sadness. I didn't know my colleague's daughter, though I am attending her funeral this afternoon, to show my respect for her amazing mother. I don't know the mother of my daughter's playmate very well at all.
Something in these stories touches me profoundly. Perhaps because they are about mothers and daughters. Perhaps because they remind me how much I have to be grateful for.
Perhaps because I will never be able to understand or rationalise them. These losses are unfair. Unfathomable.
Perhaps because they remind me that holding a space for this grief, this loss, connects me to mothers and daughters across the world. This exquisite pain feels timeless and universal.
And completely and eternally mysterious.
We are all daughters. We all have mothers who have loved us and whom we have loved in return (be they our biological mothers or other older women who have fulfilled that role). We are all mothers, even if we have never physically borne a child ourselves. We becomes mothers in our roles as aunts, older sisters, mentors, friends, creative beings.
And in typing these words, and in reading them, I see that our love is illuminated and that we are all touched by its gracious light.
Even in the mystery.
May love guide you in all of your choices today. And, if you have the chance, hold your beloveds extra close.