Loss in motherhood is much different than when you’re a child. I know this because I had a lot of loss as a child, from my brother to my teenage cousin, my grandfather, uncle, and the biggest blow, my father, when I was 13. But when they died, I got to feel it.
I got to cry in a corner, call out of school and or work, throw stuff. Literally. I picked things up and threw them. Shoes, a vase. I was angry. And I wasn’t a mom. I could act like an animal in my mother’s home, revel in my own sorrow, drown in my sadness. It was my right- I was grieving.
I broke a lot of things in my wake of grief- like my closet doors. Those damn closet doors. They haunt me now as an adult. I broke them half a dozen times when my Dad died. But my uncle was there and he fixed them. My Uncle Ted, who just passed.
I’ve lost people in my adult years, too. My God Father and grandmother, the last grand parent I had, both passed before I had children… I got to feel those, too. But since my daughters were born… everyone has been OK. And it was supposed to stay that way, but April is the cruelest month.
While we celebrate marriage (my sister and brother-in-law) and the birth of our sweet Adelaide, somehow death does not escape us. The man who I believed hung the moon is now gone, 17 years today… and the first man who would never give up on me is now gone, too.
I didn’t get to say goodbye. Because I’m really no good at goodbyes. I am not good at letting go… I once thought if I told my Dad we would all be OK, that he would stay just to make sure. But he didn’t. He took his last breath on the tail of my voicing it’s ok to let go, and that was it. I don’t say goodbye well.
I got to see Ted a year ago… my goodbye was a wonderful family dinner, my uncle getting to hear that the growing belly in front of him was Camille Thea– for Theodore. That was goodbye. Goodbye wasn’t seeing him when he was no longer himself- that’s just seeing someone at the end.
Losing someone when you’re a mom is quite different. Motherhood changes the parameters of grief. The confines of your tantrums become the shower walls in which you kneel to cry. The pillow that takes the tears, silently falling from your eyes. You don’t get to break down and throw things… and man, I want to throw things. I want to create the destruction on the outside to mimic the turmoil that’s on the inside. I want to break a closet door.
But you don’t get to do that when you’re a mom. And Ted would have reminded me, this isn’t about me. This isn’t about anyone. This is life- the cycle of it, at least. And people are meant to be there for just as long as they are.
In this life, I’ve made 2 daughters- so I don’t get to throw things, I don’t get to lose it. There are small spaces for things like that in motherhood. And those small spaces are filled. The large spaces, for the living, those are what Ted wanted. So I wrote it down on a piece of paper- how many times I wanted to let go. How unfair it is. And I threw it away.
I wrote this for Ted to be read, by my mother, at his memorial service, which happened to be on Friday (Addie’s birthday). I hope you have a man like my uncle in your life.
There are a lot of you who know a lot about Ted. Or Uncle Ted, as I knew him. A military man who worked as hard at everything as most get to at one thing in life. A father, a husband, a family man.
A family man.
The uncle I knew, once stayed after the passing of my father for weeks beyond his initial booked flights- from the west to the east coast-because he needed to. For my mother, for his passed brother in law, for me. I can never forget that. The anger I spewed 17 years ago, almost to the date, to a man who came less than 24 hours after he was called.
And he held us together, so much so that I continued to thank him- even last summer- for putting my closet doors back on the track I’d kicked them off of repeatedly. I can’t say he even remembered those closet doors, but to me, they signified the first person after my Dad that wouldn’t give up on me.
He lives on in his great niece, my daughter, Camille Thea. She, in fact, looks just like me- who looks just like Ted’s sister, my mother, Susan.
And so we all come back to Ted.
You know a lot about Ted, but I’ll bet you didn’t know he once silently, without praise or thanks, saved the sanity of a whole family. As I bounce my sweet baby, newly minted with a single tooth, she reminds me that new life blossoms where the lives we never thought we’d lose have gone. He lives on. In love. Always.