The New Norm
The days after that, like much of this chapter of my life, are blurry. I have flashes of memories of her visitation in the funeral home and the actual funeral. But, the flashes I do have, I remember, not even like they’re yesterday, but like I’m living them in present time. The sights, the smells, the sounds…I relish the sensory capture I have of these moments because although they’re horribly sad, they’re also very important to me.
As sad as this sounds, because my Mom had been in the hospital for months before she passed, I didn’t really feel like it was a huge adjustment to live without her at home. But, I was also only 5, going on 6. We visited her site at the cemetery often and for years, I associated being in that place as being with her.
The thing is, because when you’re so young you don’t really discuss these matters with your friends, you have no idea that you’re the only one going through this. Your friends and classmates know your Mom died – they made pictures and sent well wishes to you. Some of them even came to the funeral. I didn’t know this until a few years ago. I knew that some of my classmates’ moms picked them up from school, but I also knew that some of my classmates also had older siblings who picked them up, just like me.
It wasn’t until Mother’s Day that I realized My Normal wasn’t normal.
As you do in Kindergarten, we were making Mother’s Day crafts. I made mine with no complaints, not saying anything, but all the while, wondering what I was going to do with it. When I was done, I marveled at my creation…and then walked over to my teacher and quietly asked who to give it to. That year, my Dad got my Mother’s Day card. And it wasn’t his last.
Knowing that losing my Mom somehow set me apart from everyone else, whatever crawling out of my shell I had done up to that point was gone. I started sitting at the back of the class at circle time, I went back to the reading corner. As Mother’s Day approached, we also started singing Mother’s Day songs, and I found myself sitting at the back, crying quietly and secretly. I snuck to the cubby area or the washroom in moments like these, and waited for the music to stop. When my teacher found me, I don’t remember ever singing those songs again. I don’t remember if the whole class stopped, or if maybe I was brought somewhere else and distracted. Either way, my teachers were really good at handling it and helping me.
Over the next few years, I found myself trying to understand what Cancer was. I knew my Mom had it and that I lost my grandfather to it as well a few months afterward. Once I realized it was a disease, it was then I realized how important it was to do what I could not to get the disease too.
This, ALL of this, was pivotal in my life, and steered my outlook from then on.