Deep Within



When I was 11 years old, my mother Rose died suddenly of an aneurysm at the age of 40. She lived with a heart condition from a very young age.

I will never forget the horror of watching the paramedics' scramble around our living room, unsuccessfully attempting to revive my mother's still body. Upon our arrival at the hospital we learned that she had died instantly. All I remember is my Dad and I clinging to each other in the lobby as he wailed "She's dead, she's dead ..." I felt an overwhelming urge to blurt out what my small brain was silently screaming -- let's die with her. I wanted to be dead too because the pain was just too much to bear. How could we possibly go on without her? I never even got to say good-bye.

Losing my mother so suddenly, especially at such a crucial age, has unquestionably been the most life-altering, atrocious thing that has ever happened to me. We were very close. She was a nurturing, vivacious woman admired by many, a shining example of unselfishness and compassion. I learned just last week that the reason she underwent open heart surgery in 1960 (one year after her wedding) is because the doctors told her it would improve her body's chances of being able to endure pregnancy and childbirth. She wanted a baby more than anything else, and spent the entire 9 months in bed and the last 5 weeks of her term in the hospital. I am her only child.

It has only been in very recent times that I have discovered just how this loss has shaped my life. Reading the book Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman turned the lights on for me and helped more than words can describe (I would HIGHLY recommend it). Others who have experienced sudden early mother loss can surely relate to these feelings:

* feeling like the rug will be pulled out from under me at any minute * "What If Syndrome" * a perpetual need for closure * "Superwoman Syndrome" * accomplish as much as possible ... time is running out * a constant need to connect with the people in my life

The ironic thing about all of this is that on the exterior, I seem to be a very "together" kind of person. But no one knows that at the core of my being lies a scared little girl whose soul constantly pines for mommy. The security and wholeness I seem to possess are merely an illusion. In this regard, I am The Great Pretender. How could I possibly let on that I really feel like an incomplete human being, almost a species of another sort because my mother died when I was a child?

On a more positive note, I feel blessed to have had such an incredible mother, even if it was only for 11 years. And my Dad took such good care of me in that difficult role as a single parent, even treating me to a trip to the Azores Islands two months after her death, to see the house she was born in and to meet my great-grandmother, so I could connect with Mom's past. He is an absolutely marvelous father, and I could never had made it this far without him as my anchor. In time he married a friend of the family, and a year later I had a new baby brother. I'm fortunate, too, that my stepmom has given me so many wonderful gifts -- a reconstructed family, love, and the joy of seeing my Dad (Tony) happily in love again and so well taken care of.

Despite the deep wound motherless daughterhood has inflicted upon me, I've managed to find happiness and live life to its fullest. I honestly have to say that what has saved my life and kept me sane all these years is the support and connection of my Dad and relatives, my extraordinary husband, and my friends; being involved in a volunteer work, and the dream I have of seeing my Mom again.

In this vivid dream, I'm gardening in the back yard and a familiar voice says "You missed a weed right there." I turn and it's HER! Now vibrant in health, she's as beautiful, jovial, and loving as always. We scream in delight and hug each other and cry and laugh for an hour. Then I say "Mommy, I want you to meet my wonderful husband Jody, and your grandchildren! Let's go in the house!" Our walk up the path is intercepted by the bouncing lioness and her cubs which frequently play with our family in the yard. My husband has cooked up a fabulous dinner and bathed the children because he watched the reunion from the upstairs window and wanted everything to be just right. We come inside and Mommy ecstatically hugs and kisses everyone as we all snuggle on the oversized sofa and exchange stories of childhood and the changes the years have brought during the time she was asleep in death. She knows why the lions don't harm the children and why her new heart beats strong. She learned about this back in the early 1970's. She gazes at the sun setting on the horizon, as the brilliant colors reflect off both the sea and her tear-stained face, and thanks God above for His magnificent grace. And we all live happily ever after. Only, guess what -- this is no mere utopian dream that consoles me in the night. This will someday come true. Serious students of the world's best selling book are comforted by the picture it paints of the future, when "the lion will eat straw just like the bull ...and a mere little boy will be leader over them ... no resident will say 'I am sick'... all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out ... death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away." (Isaiah 11:6-9; 33:24; John 5:28; Revelation 21:4). In the words of John Lennon's song Imagine, "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will live as one." This is the solid hope we cling to and stake our lives upon. We'll all have to pinch ourselves to believe we're really living this dream.

Additional comments from Debbie


You can send email to Debbie at: [email protected]
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anniversary date 05-05-98
date of post 11-05-98
updated 04-25-00

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Crisis, Grief, and Healing: Tom Golden LCSW