Two years ago my mother passed away. We let her body free by the ocean as waves lapsed at our feet. Her departure was sudden. And at the same time slow and arduous.
My relationship with my mother was close. And recently the awareness of this came rushing through me like a storm. Tears flooded down my face and again the pain resurfaced.
As a child my mother, like most mothers, was everything. She was beautiful. Blonde soft wavy hair, kind eyes, and a smile filled with warmth. She was a hard worker and the glue that held us all together as a family. A safety that every child welcomes and grasps onto. I wanted to be exactly like her. I watched her every move. She was my teacher of life.
As time went on life became heavy for her. She wore down. The years of hard work and doing everything herself became too much. An accident at work occurred and it left her feeling physically and emotionally broken. She began to self medicate. And although never admitted it (to me) I'm sure she felt like she was failing. Failing us, her parents, her employer, but most of all, failing herself. I wonder now if it was her perfectionism that became all too much and gradually left her feeling defeated. That she didn't quite know how to come to terms with losing her past strong and capable self. I'll never know for sure. The sudden departure of a loved one leaves much unexplained.
The mother I grew up with began to disappear. Like in a bad dream her body was being pulled rapidly away from me with arms waving and I was screaming to keep her grasp. The close connection we had began to fragment. My anger built as this beautiful person that I felt so at one with was no longer there. To be completely honest and perhaps even a little selfish, I felt abandoned in a way. And at the same time like I was failing because I couldn't save her. I felt I had become a strength for the family. And stepped from behind her shadow to fill her role. But no amount of strength could save her. Her inner critique was all consuming and hidden behind cloudy eyes.
This pain we all felt watching her went on for years. Eighteen to be exact. There were so many attempts at suicide that we all lost count. So many trips to the hospital. Calls from the police. Countless pills and substances consumed that it left her insides hurting. So much pain felt that each day became a daunting challenge. An overwhelming depression had taken hold of her. And had us all in a state of fight-or-flight for much of the time.
My mother took her life in 2016. She fell from a great height. It was a week after I arrived back in Australia after living abroad for a number of years. A few days before my son's third birthday. And while I was pregnant with my daughter. The last conversation I had before her death was one trying to console her after a previous argument we had over the phone. An argument that really didn't need to happen. That took me off guard. But it did happen. And I knew once I had hung up the phone that there was chaos within her mind. It has taken me a while to accept that I didn't cause her death. That the argument we had didn't send her over the edge. That her history of suicide attempts was indication of someone who was clearly mentally unwell. That she wanted out from life and was ready to make that happen.
I don't want to live in the past. But In a way I need to write this as it forms a large portion of the puzzle that is my life thus far. The last two years have sent me into a full blown search for meaning. For who I am. Why I'm here and what I feel I need to do in this time I have here on earth. Part of it stems from a fear that I've been walking in my mother's shoes for so long. That being so similar to her in so many ways my story is destined to end in parallel to hers. But I know in my heart my path is different. I'm walking a journey unique to that of my mothers. It will come with its own rocky climbs. Moments of elation and wonder. And that I'm more resilient than I give myself credit for and have the strength to overcome life's challenges. It has taken a great deal of therapy to finally feel comfortable believing this.
Through the years of suffering, and perhaps even stemming from childhood I've looked at life with a deep appreciation. Noticing beauty in the subtleties. In the everyday life around me. I recall sitting in our backyard after school looking into the depths of the bushland where we lived. It was in a way calming. It grounded me. And to this day I'm inspired by nature. I sit and stare while words play out in my mind about life. About the complexity. And at the same time sheer simplicity and beauty of it all.
Losing my mother led to looking at my loved ones more closely. Noticing how their eyes change when an emotion stirs within. Watching their movements as they do something as simple as colour in. And beneath it all understanding that they could be taken away at any moment, or that I can be taken away from them. At first it filled me with fear. But as I mature I'm developing a feeling of complete gratitude that I have this time with them. It encourages me to live in the moment and dance in this space while I can. For life is unpredictable. And as much as we try to control the future, it has its own haphazard path for us all.
I've arrived at this point of my journey where what matters most is noticing and appreciating the world around me. And above all noticing my loved ones. Documenting our story together through photos, words and films. Watching them smile as their hearts fill with warmth looking at times past. If I can provide a small feeling of happiness and flicker of wisdom through my written and spoken words to help them live a fulfilling life, and inspire that in the lives of others, then I feel my time here on earth has meaning. It allows me to live my life with a sense of purpose.
Tragedy hurts. Deeply. But its how we navigate our way through life. I lost a great love. An inspiration. A part of me and that of my family. But in a sense she is still my teacher. Guiding me gently to discover truth and meaning. Mum if you can hear me somewhere way up there, I'm sorry if I hurt you. I forgive you for the times I felt hurt unintentionaly by you. And I thank you for helping me become the person that I am.