It’s the one thing most people ask their God/the universe when they lose someone they love.
I have lost two moms now — my biological mom shortly after I turned two (she lost her battle with breast cancer). And my stepmom who has been gone for four long/short months, as of the 16th. Sidebar: I hate using the word “stepmom”. It sounds so nasty, and I always viewed her and loved her as my own mom. She was the only mom I ever knew. I was too young to remember my first mom.
I have one memory of my first mom, and I don’t even know if it was something I made up — we’re both in the master bedroom of my old house, and she’s sitting on the edge of the bed combing my hair and, for some odd reason, I distinctly remember that the light in the washroom was on.
And that’s it.
That’s all I have been holding onto since I was little. The only thing that makes me feel like I actually shared time on this earth together with my mom.
If it’s even a real memory.
Losing my second mom this past November makes me think of my first mom and how she was only able to watch me grow as a spectator from heaven. I think about the weight that she must’ve carried on her shoulders, knowing that she’d be leaving my brother and me (6 and 2) with my dad… the worry of us being okay when she’s gone. That couldn’t have been good for her recovery. I never knew her and often wonder if I am anything like her, or if my parenting style was similar to hers, or if I’ve picked up any of her signature traits.
I honestly believe that all the tears I’ve cried in the last four months are more than the tears I’ve cried in the other thirty-something years that I’ve been alive.
Yeah, I cried over boys, I cried over the stresses of school, but nothing is as deep and as painful as losing someone in your family… like your mom. Twice.
I cry for myself. bB will soon be the age I was when my mom died, and the thought of leaving him this early in his life… I don’t even want to finish that sentence.
I cry for my dad, who’s had to go through this again. He is no doubt the strongest man I know. The fact that he still gets up every morning and starts his day, or that he can still act silly with his grandkids, or laugh at a joke, says so much about his heart and the kind of person he is. I can only pray that I’ve inherited that gene of resilience from him.
I’ve spent my whole life visiting my first mom at the cemetery in Scarborough. I talk to her like I would to anyone else that I spend time with — updates on my life and maybe a heads up about my brother or my dad, in case they don’t get a chance to make it up there to see her. No tears. And it’s fine.
I guess that’s the one thing that brings me peace. I know one day (not any time soon), I will be able to visit my second mom and have it not hurt so bad. Don’t get me wrong, the pain is still there, but it’s a pain that changes you in a way, that becomes a part of the new you and grows with you as you move forward.
I can’t help but feel guilty, even though I know in my heart that my first mom wouldn’t fault me for crying more tears or feeling more pain from losing my second mom. I know she is just happy that my second mom was around for us, that someone was there to watch us grow and guide us.
I’m a mom now, so I get it. There are no feelings of selfishness or jealousy when it comes to raising your kids. You do whatever needs to be done to make sure your kids are taken care of and loved and protected.
When my second mom passed away in November, I didn’t ask why. I knew. It was so that my brother and I wouldn’t have to grow up without a mom. It was so that my dad wouldn’t have to be alone in raising us. And I had a good amount of time with her, not long enough, but hey I’ll take what I can get. I was thankful. Grateful. That I got a chance to have memories of a mom that I never had with my first one.
They’re probably both up in heaven, yucking it up right now, and sharing stories about us.
I remember a part of my wedding speech, where I told my second mom that my mom in heaven thanked her for picking up where she left off. And my whole heart believes it to be true. She and I are both thankful for that.
So why did all of these things happen? Why did they happen to me?
Well, I know that everything happens for a reason. And I could spend my life trying to search for the answer, but I trust God’s plan. In trusting Him, even though I don’t know where this life will take me, I feel like the answers have revealed themselves to me naturally.
I don’t ask why they left. The answer for me is always the same — God called them back home. So instead, I prefer to reflect on the lessons I learned from having them in my life.
They say that people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.
For both my moms, I feel like they are all of the above.
For my first mom, the reason was to give me life. To bring me into a world that I feel I can change and make better. To give me a big brother who would be my first friend and my lifelong protector (as if she could foresee that I’d need someone like him in my life). It was also to give me perspective. For the years in between my first mom passing away and my second mom coming into my life, I felt the void of having just a dad at home. I was still young, but old enough to see that I was different from my friends at school. So, keeping those memories and thoughts with me as I got older really helped me learn the lesson of being grateful, of being afforded a second chance and not messing it up, of being able to see the positive side of a negative situation.
Even though she was with me for a brief season, she still continues to impact my life. During her time with me, she provided me with the fundamentals, and probably endured what I think is the hardest part of childrearing — the beginning (I’ve had my own moments with bB, so I know how trying the first two years are). But, more so in her passing do I feel like I have evolved the most, and I continue to grow because of my experiences not having her here with me.
For my second mom, the reason was to mold me, to have a more active role in my life. To be strong for me in a way that my first mom couldn’t be because of her cancer. My second mom came into my life so I would know what it feels like to have a big family. So I could witness the importance of God in my life. So I could have sisters who would later become a huge reason why I feel like I’m a great mom today, and so I could finally be a big sister to a little brother.
She was around for many seasons, then left. And in her leaving, I am grateful for having spent time with her. I’m glad I got to go to the Philippines, just me and her. I’m glad that I’ve had my own personal talks with her. Those memories that only she and I share are the ones I will keep close to me forever. She has given me the gift of a second chance, and not many are fortunate to have one.
This part of my journey has reminded me that tomorrow is never promised. We are on borrowed time. How will we use this time? How will we treat each other in the time we have? What is most important to us?
Isn’t this a great lesson to learn?
Both of my moms are with me for a lifetime, obviously because I am still here and because they are very much a part of who I am — how I live, how I love, how I think, how I help, how I view the world.
I am a proud product of nature collaborating with nurture. And I am lucky enough to have had two moms.
It’s no wonder that both of them are celebrating their birthdays so close to International Women’s Day. They are great examples of strength, hard work and dedication, kindness and thoughtfulness, and just all-around awesomeness. I am a work-in-progress mom, striving to be one of the greats. Like them.
Happy birthday, mom. I’ve never forgotten about you. Never will.