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DEEP WITHIN

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When I was 11 years old, my mother Rose died suddenly of an aneurysm/blood clot at the age of 40. She had suffered heart trouble since childhood and lived with complications resulting from open heart surgery performed in 1960, a year after her wedding. I am her only child.

On that appalling Friday night, May 5, 1978, my Mom and Dad were customarily watching television together on the living room floor. About an hour after I went to bed, she turned to him in a panic and said "Oh, Tony ..." and immediately went limp. I awakened to the sound of my Dadís voice calling out "DEB! Weíve got to take Mommy to the hospital, hurry and get dressed." I flew down the stairs and was met with the scene of numerous paramedics scrambling around trying to resuscitate my mother. Iíll never forget the horror of watching them unsuccessfully attempt to revive her still body. They took her out the front door on a stretcher as her arm dangled off the side. "Maybe thereís still hope -- they can help her in the ambulance, or at the hospital," I thought. At the hospital we learned that she had died instantly at home. All I remember is my Dad and I clinging to each other in the lobby as he wailed "Sheís dead, sheís dead ..." I felt an overwhelming urge to blurt out what my small brain was silently screaming -- letís 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.

Partially because I was so young when she passed away, I didnít really have the ability to grieve properly. Kids just donít have the same coping skills adults do. Since talking about it was far too painful, it was easier to lock the feelings away in a sealed drawer, so to speak. Iíve been suppressing the emotions connected with this loss for these past 20 years -- the hurt, anger, despair, the feeling of being cheated out of a normal life, etc. What has resulted is an accumulation of pent-up feelings and a stunting of the grieving process. Coping and healing can only arrive after you face your feelings head on. Iíve come to learn that trying to bury grief merely postpones it and intensifies it. Refuse to allow it a healthy outlet and it will surely seep out in its own harmful way.

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.  It has only been in very recent times that I have discovered just how this loss has shaped my life. For one thing, I always feel like someone is going to pull the rug out from under me at any minute. When all is going well, this is a bad thing because certainly it will be short-lived. As a result, Iím constantly worried and anxious inside. I have "What If Syndrome." What if my life is cut short too? What if something tragic happens to yet another person I love? It drives me nuts. These worries, along with a constant need for closure, are by-products of sudden early mother loss. Secondly, by reading the book Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman (which by the way I would HIGHLY recommend -- it turned the lights on for me and helped more than words can describe) I came to understand why I immerse myself in more projects in a week than most people dare to take on in six months ... staying busy is really a diversionary tactic. You donít have time to think when youíre perpetually rushing around. And if you donít think about the pain, maybe it canít overtake you. Also, an abrupt death so close to home sends the message that life can end at any moment. Youíd better get the things done that youíve always wanted to do, for time is running out. Thirdly, the severing of this mother-daughter bond -- perhaps the most influential and powerful bond there is, one that is supposed to feed you well into adulthood -- leaves a child just hanging emotionally. So itís no longer a mystery to me why I have such a need to connect with people. Itís a subconscious attempt to close this gaping hole in my chest. Perhaps thatís why I have always been a person with a considerable number of close relationships. I get so attached to the individuals in my life, bonding with so many yet still experiencing deep within the soul an emptiness and isolation that lingers like London fog. I thrive on being close to people, yet the closeness scares me. It probably frightens me because I worry they will go away someday and this fragile heart will be slashed yet again.

The ironic thing about all of this is that on the exterior, I seem to be a very "together" kind of person. Those who know me describe me as highly organized, motivated, successful, confident, strong, the one who always comes to peopleís emotional rescue, a friend to all. But no one knows that at the core of my being lies a scared little girl whose soul constantly pines for mommy. That assortment of inadequate feelings described in the above paragraph remains invisible to the outside world. The emotional 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? Nobody would understand anyway -- best to keep it a closely-guarded secret. Just let them think youíve got life all under control, and everything will be fine.

A profound loss I feel is the inability to share a friendship with my Mom in adulthood. From what I knew of her during those 11 years we were together, I know she and I would have become the best of friends. In fact, I have recently discovered that I look for her qualities in my friendships and bond closely with people who are characteristically similar. There are so many things I want to ask her. Though we were close, I deeply sense the loss of not getting to know this wonderful woman on an adult level. She remains somewhat of a mystery to me, and I must piece her personality together through distant memories, photographs and movies, and the tidbits of information accumulated through relatives and friends. I canít just pick up the phone and ask for advice or feel the warmth of being wrapped in her arms when I need encouragement. She wasnít there to share the excitement of her daughter falling in love. She wasnít there to see me walking proudly down the aisle in her wedding dress.

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 Momís 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. Iím fortunate, too, that my stepmom has given me so many wonderful gifts -- a reconstructed family, love, and the joy of seeing my Dad happily in love again and so well taken care of. To this day they are "soul mates." (Note: Sadly, 16 months after I wrote this, my father passed away on December 2, 1999. See Personal Observations on Grief and Loss for what that ordeal of grief has taught me. And also Healing Tools that Have Transformed My Life" to see how I finally came to acquire a sense of completeness and emotional wholeness.)

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Despite the deep wound motherless daughterhood has inflicted upon me, I have managed to find happiness and live a full life with no regrets. 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 special volunteer work, and the dream I have of seeing my Mom again.

In this vivid dream, Iím gardening in the back yard and a familiar voice says "You missed a weed right there." I turn and itís HER! Now vibrant in health, sheís as beautiful, jovial, and loving as always. We scream in delight and hug each other and cry and laugh for hours. Then I say "Mommy, I want you to meet my wonderful husband Jody, and your grandchildren! Letís 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 donít harm the children and why her new heart beats strong. She learned about this back in the early 1970ís. 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, surprise! -- this is no mere utopian dream that consoles me in the night. This will someday come true. Serious students of the worldís best-selling book, the Bible, 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 ĎI am sickí ... 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 Lennonís song Imagine, "You may say Iím a dreamer, but Iím not the only one. I hope someday youíll join us, and the world will live as one." This was just a dream to that songwriter, a world too good to be true. But little did he know a perfect world transformed by the Creator is the solid hope millions of us cling to and stake our lives upon. Weíll all have to pinch ourselves to believe we are really living this dream.

 

© Copyright August 10, 1998 to present, by Deborah McGeorge, St. Augustine, Florida

 

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 bookani2.gif (24050 bytes)  Recommended reading:

Motherless Daughters
The Mourning Handbook
When Someone You Love Dies (audio version)
Attacking Anxiety & Depression
 (Lucinda Bassett's AMAZING program)
PMA Institute
The Sedona Method


 

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