I picked up the traces of her life by reading her journals. She had some stored digitally as well. It took me about half a year to go through it all, and then a few more months to organize them and put them in a nice timeline. Now I know as much about her as she has documented… and I feel like I know her for real. I feel like I have wasted so much of my time seeing her only as mom and not as a person. I haven’t asked her enough about her childhood, about how she met my dad, and how it felt before we were born. And now as I’m holding the last piece of paper she wrote, sitting on her death-bed, my hand is shaking. I put it carefully aside and collapse into a thunderstorm of tears and regret.
Never could I have imagined she has been through so much pain in her life. She never showed any signs of it. She was always strong in front of us. If there was one thing she was determined never to show her children; it was weakness. She felt like no matter what, we should know that she is always going to be that solid pillar we can lean on. That she will never break down.
But she did. Time and again, even after we grew up, mom broke down. We never knew, but it’s all written here in her journals. She would cry loudly when we weren’t home, and she wrote about how our dad was a true hero. She felt they had some sort of telepathic connection; that he would always show up at the right moment to simply hold her.
And holding her he did. Till her last breath our dad held mom in his arms. He literally never let go. Nobody said or did anything. We had collapsed on the floor. I had gone blank and my sister started screaming uncontrollably. She looked up at the ceiling and screamed: “God, why?”.
It took me three years to go through her stuff. My dad won’t do it. He told me and my sister to give away her clothes. He said those were the most painful ones because those held her scent. My sister and I would go and sniff at mom’s clothes the first few days after she passed away. It made us feel like she was with us… that she was out somewhere… maybe on a week-long conference in another country.
Therapy helped us quit that habit… and eventually we stopped going into her closet. Dad won’t sleep on their bed. He slept on the couch for a few months and then bought a single bed and stays in the living room. We are fixing their bedroom right now so that dad can move back in. It’s about time, we think.
Dad has already read all mom’s stuff. He had read it while she was still alive. Mom had written personal letters to us all during her last months in life. Not only to us; she had written to her family, relatives and friends as well. Everybody loved her so much. Some of her friends went into serious depression and needed therapy, just like us.
In her journals, she once mentioned how cool it would be if one of her daughters chose to be a writer. She never mentioned this to us. This was while we were still in pre-school. Funny how it turned out; my sister a soon-to-be-journalist and I a student of English Literature. She never failed to tell us how proud she were of us. She never cared about our grades. No, what mattered to mom was the soul of a person. She said we were angels sent from heaven to make this world a better place to live. Mom taught us kindness, and to stand our ground with our beliefs. Dad was always by her side, and the both of them showed us strong promises of true love. It taught us to be patient. And now when I read through the part where mom met dad, I truly realize what patience is all about.
I feel so sad when I realize that she felt she was all that she could be after she met dad. That before that, she was unhappy with herself and her life. The words she used to describe her are horrifying. At times I found myself screaming out loud reading them. My sister and dad would come rushing in, only to find me shaking in a heap of papers.
The demeaning of herself went down gradually after she met dad, and after she had us she no longer felt bad about herself. She loved her role as a mom and thought we completed her.
It does feel good to know that we had done so much for her without even trying, but I keep feeling there was so much more I could have done. Sometimes, I’d close my eyes really hard and wish to go back in time – before she met dad – and tell her how amazing she was. Mom would do the same thing… wish to go back in time, that is. It’s uncanny how similar we are. She had a tough life, but I learned sadness as well the day she left us. And that’s why I feel like I understand her so well now. How she dug into herself whenever she was down… how unreachable she could be… how cold she’d seem to the outside world. I was all that. But then I also read about how she climbed up from the mess all by herself, and thank her silently for the strength she has passed on to me… to both me and my sister.
It feels like her passing has put a responsibility on our shoulders to be all that we can be. People say these things all the time, but I feel it now more than ever that I need to live up to the expectations she didn’t have but should have had. Parents having expectations on their kids is just natural… but my mom was always so proud of us, that she never really thought about the future. She trusted our judgement and believed in us. She had such a strong faith that we would lead good lives. I feel enlightened by this. My sister and I are nothing special. We are average people who simply share a passion for life. Just like mom did. But she thought of us as so much more. She could see and bring out what made a person – what was unique for each individual.
I guess that is why I can see dad smiling all of a sudden sometimes. You’d think that after she went away, he would break down completely and not be able to pay any attention to us. But my mom was wise. She chose him for a reason. She knew that regardless of what happened to her, he would never fail in his responsibilities. We saw it, without understanding then of course, the night she finally closed her eyes. And we’ve seen it since. He would cry with us. He wouldn’t hide it like mom. But he would also cook and wash our clothes. He wasn’t the only one; mom taught us so much that is now stored in our subconscious mind… I guess that’s why we could survive her passing. She has prepared us for everything. “With love, patience and respect.” Those were the final words written on her last entry.