By Kimberly Rose
Your mom lives forever. At least that is what I told my little girl self growing up. Or at least I was counting on that as truth since I was being raised by a single parent.
I grew up poor, and we moved a lot. I have three older sisters, but there are a dozen years between us. For many years, that meant I had my mom all to myself.
My older siblings were not able to break out of the poverty we lived in. They struggled with many of the same pitfalls and addictions that plagued earlier generations of our family.
I knew about the history of failure and defeat in my family. I was a watcher. I carefully watched the mistakes my sisters and mother made so I would not grow up and make them too.
My mom knew that I had a potential for greatness. She saw the fire and passion in my eyes when I talked about future dreams. My mom knew one thing for sure: God had given her another chance at motherhood late into her thirties. He had also given her what she believed would be a child she could pour into and push to higher ground.
And push she did. I almost buckled under the weight of her expectations. Always late, but never giving up.
I worked hard and earned my high school diploma. Mama cried uncontrollably when I handed it to her. Only one of my family members had completed high school up to that point. I told her that some people at church were going to help me get to college. We were both uncertain about how the financial aspect would all work, but we knew that even though we had economic challenges, I was smart and worked hard. Mom was supportive and inspired. We knew with God on our side it was possible.
Climbing the mountain of college, nearing the peak, seeing the summit of the very last semester, I got the phone call.
“Are you sitting down?” My oldest sister’s voice over the phone. “Mom’s gone.” I wasn’t sure I’d heard right. The air in my body was sucked out. My knees hit the ground. I couldn’t breathe.
My sister’s voice was shaking.
My mother was crossing a popular intersection in our town in the middle of the afternoon. A car ran the light, and hit her, killing her instantly. The car never broke, and never stopped. No one really saw what happened. Only a vague description of the car was reported. She laid in the street for all the world to see, and no one knew what to do.
I called her answering machine over and over to hear her voice just one.more.time.
It was not like terminal illness, where I had to painfully watch her die. I was never given the opportunity to say that one last goodbye. She was here one day, and gone the next, passing through me like the wind.
No more holidays, no advice on marriage, no one to call when I nervously held my crying newborn at 2 a.m.
I asked my professors for two weeks leave from school to bury my mother and take care of my affairs. I knew what I had to do. In my grief, I felt the push. The same push I’d felt all my life – to go on and to honor her with the one thing she wanted.
I graduated that spring earning my bachelor degree. Sitting alone in a crowded auditorium my eyes searched frantically for a sign, anything to symbolize her spirit. My eyes rested on the school emblem. “There you are,” I barely whispered. The school I attended for four years was founded the same year my mother was born.
Sometimes a song, a smell, or someone in a crowd who looks so much like your loved one causes you to look again. Hints of grief are always there. But, we can move forward.
One day, one step, one breath at a time. The best way to navigate grief is to live.
Kimberly Rose lives in Central California. She teaches full-time and is working on a master’s degree in administration. She is a marathoner/ultra runner, chasing the Boston dream. Kimberly embraces grief today by finding the small moments that make life meaningful.
Don’t miss the other articles in this “Navigating Grief as Life Moves Forward” series. Feel free to SHARE with a friend who might need these words of encouragement.
The Garden – an introduction to the series
Grieving Together – an article on grieving with children
Choosing Joy – a guest post about a spouse choosing joy even on a long cancer journey
When a Grandparent Dies – a guest post about how one mom is navigating her own grief and grief with her kids
Facing Triggers and Trauma – an article about steering through grief when triggers and trauma color the journey
When You are the Caregiver – an article about navigating grief and feelings of guilt when you have a front-row seat to a loved one’s decline
When You Have to Say Goodbye to the Place Your Heart Calls Home – a guest post exploring the idea of “good grief” we experience when we are uprooted from a place or home we love
When You’ve Experienced Pregnancy Loss – a guest post sharing a first-hand experience with miscarriage and stillbirth.