By Anonymous contributor
“If gold rusts, what then can iron do?” – Geoffrey Chaucer
The minute I turned eighteen, I left home and never came back. Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration; I came back a couple of years later after my mom died. She kept her illness from everyone until the family reunited around her at the hospital.
At twenty, I didn’t know the first thing about how to handle death, let alone the death of my mother. In a beautiful irony, we grew closer in her final year of life. Mothers were supposed to be perfect, right? But mine was far from it.
In seventh grade, we got in such a huge argument that she screamed at the top of her lungs that she was skipping my final band concert. Yet here, in a stored-away purse she wore during those years, was a single-use camera. When I developed the film, the reel contained pictures of me at that final concert. A wave of sadness overwhelmed me for the years I held that against her.
When I was sixteen, I wasn’t allowed to go to my best friend’s sweet-sixteen birthday. I was “disrespectful” to her and my father earlier that day. In another purse: a thank you note from my best friend’s mother for the gift she sent on my behalf.
In a purse I’d never seen, a medical school ID card and some wilted flowers. A note from the police station about a domestic abuse case number and the card for a divorce attorney. The date was before I was born. She stayed married for 22 years before calling it quits. A year later, she was dead.
Like all children, I believed my mother was the gold standard of perfection. As an adult who’s lost her mother, I now realize that even gold has imperfections. I see my parents as perfect as they were capable of being – given the circumstances.
We live in a society of self-absorbed perfection and gratification. We don’t live in a society where it’s okay to say things we don’t mean. It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to be human. I realized after nearly a decade following my mother’s passing that she had made mistakes, said things she hadn’t meant, and had done it all because she was human.
Everyday, I try to do my best as a fallible human to forgive. I must admit, I forget to do that a lot, which makes forgiveness something I’m not very good at. But, on the days I remember, life’s a little easier.
I’m glad I’ve been able to continue getting to know and understand my parents, and myself, after they are gone.
It would be interesting to read more about this, Jan. If you ever feel inclined to share more, I expect many people would value a gentle look into your experiences.
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