It has been over eight years since I lost my mother. I became an orphan with my dad’s death early in 2014. Losing my parents, both of whom were well into their eighties, was a horrendous blow to me. Just yesterday I had to stifle an urge to call Dad and share some news with him. I loved both my parents and their deaths hit me very hard. Losing someone you love, cherish, and respect is a devastating blow but what about losing a parent that was not worthy of respect, someone who could be cherished by few and respected by none? What must that feel like?
I did not see eye to eye with my parents and my passage into youth and adolescence was often quite rocky. We had major parent/child differences revolving around responsibility and generational issues: My relationship with my folks was not perfect because there is no such thing as a perfect relationship but it was based on love and acceptance.
This last week I had two long time friends lose a parent. Betsy, a woman I have known since the mid 1970’s, lost her dad, a man she cherished and looked up to. I am confident that I know how crushing her dad’s death was to her. I understand that the bond between a father and daughter is different than between father and son but I feel certain that although the details vary the pain we felt when our dads passed is similar.
But what of the other circumstance? What about a mother who rejects her children and derides them? What must the passing of that woman feel like?
I met Julie in the early eighties and we have grown closer as the years progressed. I know her brother and father too: All three are outstanding people that I am proud to count as friends. Mom, who I met once, was described by one and all as incorrigible, unreasonable, self-centered and downright cruel. Do I know this to be the case? I do not, though this sentiment has been shared by many more than the three family members and in this case the subjective reality is far more important than objective observation. Dad and mom divorced and the children’s emotional reality was that the woman was so scathing to them that they viewed her as cruel and unloving; a very sad state of affairs.
Death of a loved one always hurts, but all four of those that passed lived long lives and three of the parents had worked hard to bring love and harmony into their homes. I imagine that the exception, the death of Julie’s mom, must be even more painful to her children because there was only discord and tension, rejection and tears. With death there is no opportunity for atonement or reconciliation, only a life time of what ifs and whys.
I have no words of comfort for Julie except to emphasize that she did everything a child could to make a healthy relationship with her mother but time and again she was rejected. We can’t go back and heal relationships once someone leaves us but we can work to bring joy to our own children and not repeat the mistakes our parents made. I know Julie has a loving family and I hope they buoy her in her time of sorrow and that she does not succumb to the emotional torture that the loss of a parent can create because she, like all children, should have a legacy of love given to them that they can pass on. She was denied the first part but is doing a grand job of passing on love to her own children.
Let us hope that all that have passed rest in peace and allow we the living to do the same.