Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Legacy of a Happy Life - a letter to my mother

It's Mother's Day.  In my closet sits a diary.  It contains letters written to me from my mother in the last few months of her life.  She addresses me by my Korean name, starting each entry with "My beloved Sueme," or something close to that.  Or at least I think they start like that.  You see, I've never read them.

Peculiar, right?  One would think that a daughter would have memorized the written words of her dying mother.  But that diary has been in my closet for several years, maybe even ten.  And I have yet to read it.

First off, someone would have to read it to me.  It's hand-written in Korean, a language I can barely read.  Also, I have little experience with Korean hand-writing, so it's even more of a challenge.  I could have my aunt read it to me, and we've even talked about it.  But I must have a block somewhere.

Where's this block?  I'm terrified of something, clearly.

I'm now of the age where more and more of my friends and acquaintances have lost their mothers.  Several posts today on Facebook caption a smiling picture with, "I miss you Mom."  Since my mother passed when I was so young, I don't think I ever grieved properly for her.  A 4 year-old isn't capable of processing anger, bargaining, denial, depression or acceptance.  Actually, I take that back.  I remember a couple of those, in hazy forms.

I remember throwing tantrums and telling Dad that I missed Mommy.  At some point, I knew I could use the phrase, "I miss my mom."  Did I ever over use it?  Possibly, but doubtful since it was always true.  There's a poignant journal entry from my father.  I called him at the office one day to tell him that Mommy didn't like it up in heaven and wanted to come back.  How does a 34 year-old widower respond to that?  I don't think I ever gave my dad enough credit for dealing with that segment of his life.  I also have a drawing of mine which one of my relatives captioned.  In it, I have wings, and my mother has wings.  The young me explained that it was a picture of me turning into an angel and visiting my mother in heaven.  So there is evidence of my bouts of anger and bargaining.  Although I don't have specific stories, I can definitely tell you that I experienced depression.  So, that's three out of five stages of grief.

Perhaps I'm not reading that diary because of denial.

To be honest, I wish this wasn't a part of me.  It's such a burden to miss your mother.  It's a downer.  Although I've gone through plenty of therapy, this grief raises its ugly head every now and then and yanks me into a headlock.  You would think after all these years, I'd be over it.

Strangely enough, as other people's mothers die, I find some comfort.  I don't feel so alone.  In fact, when people ask if I remember my mother, I often respond that my most piercing memories are of feeling so lonely, a  cavernous loneliness as dark as a barren womb … a soul can get swallowed up by the dark.

So maybe I don't read that diary because I don't want to go there again.  Maybe someday I'll have better footing, and reading it won't seem so daunting.  It may even turn out to be no big deal.  I'll read it, cry a little, feel refreshed and think, "Pshaw.  Why ever did I wait so long?"

But the passing of your mother is an event of monumental proportions.  So, I'm just going to be patient with myself and trust that I'll read it on cosmic timing, when my inner cosmos is ready to accept words from that pivotal time in my personal history.  In the meantime, I'll keep filling my days with as much joy and courage, fun and vulnerability, daring and fulfillment as I can … because I know that somewhere, on a higher plane, she's reading the pages of my diary.

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