April 10th, was the sixteenth anniversary of my mother's death. It was also my birthday. My mother died at 3:30 a.m. As if by some unknown hand, each year I awaken at this time on my birthday, always with a shudder.
Losing my mother would have been easier if her life had been a happy, fulfilled one. She did not get what she deserved. Never blessed with the opportunity for an education, my mother remained an avid reader and observer of every facet of life imaginable, from politics to the arts. When she typed her fingers moved so quickly that they became impossible to differentiate; she would have been a whiz at the computer. Her gardening was magical. Her flowers adored her as much as her daughters did.
My mother was also effortlessly exquisite until the day she died. As a little girl I remember people stopping her on the street, again and again, telling her again and again that she looked just like Claire Bloom, one of the most gorgeous actors of her day.
My father was equally a show stopper. He was a taller, broader equivalent of Gregory Peck. On the dance floor they were magical together. Until my mother stopped dancing, and my father danced with others.
For my mother and my father were completely unsuited emotionally and temperamentally. And divorce for religious reasons was completely out of the question.
My mother and I were deeply intertwined. I always knew that her closeness to me helped her to compensate for all of her loneliness. Early in my childhood she became so ill that she could not care for me, and I lived with relatives. When I returned to her once again she was pregnant with my sister, and I was almost seven years old. Deep in myself I made a promise: I would be so good to her that she would never be sick again. And I was...Every honor, every accomplishment; every undertaking was for her...for I was terrified of losing her again.
But then as I grew older I made the decision to leave her. I needed to begin my own life, to learn to make my own choices, and to right my own mistakes. Though my mother put on a happy face, she never really forgave me. And, in truth, although there were moments, even hours, of closeness, she left me once again. And so my mourning for her began many years before she died.
With this mourning ever with me, I decided to will myself to learn from our relationship. I am blessed with four children, now adults. I cherish them in the core of my being with deep intensity. But I refuse to allow myself to hold them tightly. I understand that they belong only to themselves and have never belonged to me. I also understand that if I am not disciplined I could cripple them with my love, draining their sense of security and at the same time establishing a pattern of attraction to those who may not mean them well. I have watched it happen to others. I have seen it happen to myself.
I also learned that if we love our children well others will become even more important to them than we are. In appreciating the necessity of this, we set them free.
One of our daughters, my mother's oldest granddaughter, decided to marry on my birthday, the sixth anniversary of her grandmother's death. She named her first granddaughter, now seven, after my mother; and my oldest granddaughter looks just like her great grandmother. Equally beautiful. Today is my daughter's tenth wedding anniversary. Her life is both demanding and fulfilled, but she has telephoned me twice today to fill me in on this and that...
One does not get over the loss of a beloved. The mourning is eternal. But blessedly the sharp excruciating pain dims as years past. Still there are moments when unexpectedly the knife visits again, plunging sharply and deeply.
But if you work hard, and if just a little luck comes your way, there are joys that bring velvet to the knife. There is pride that you have done your best.
Follow SaraKay Smullens on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SaraKay1710