Monday, March 16, 2009

Who Am I?

I am a mother. I am a bereaved mother, determined not to let my son's death be what defines me as a person. There is so much of me, of my true spirit waiting to be rediscovered. I was told once upon a time that we are the sum of our past experiences, that which we have done and felt shape us into who we are today. So I pause, and reflect, and think back to moments in my life that sum up who I am...

I am fourteen, eyes full of wonder, pretending to be more mature and sophisticated than I truly am as I gaze through the glass at the Mona Lisa. I am in Paris and I am enchanted with the idea of the City of Lights, the spring air and being far from my mother. I'm in the Louvre, soaking up the beauty of the great masters, Rembrandt, Renoir, Degas, Piccasso and for the first time in my life I feel tiny. I am humbled in the presence of such splendid works of art, so much so that at that moment in time my very existence seems insignificant. I am in awe of the history, the stories, the sacrifice and the feelings I get as the paintings speak to my soul. I am in love. A stroll down the Champs Elysees, a glass of beaujolais at a sidewalk cafe, Easter mass at the Cathedral at Orleans. The architecture whispers to me, as if to say, "We were here, this was our life, our dreams..."

I am sixteen, sitting on the back of a Harley Davidson as we whip through the streets of Vancouver. I'm hanging on with all my might to the burly biker named Drew who is taking me downtown to a dance. I'm terrified and exhiliarated. I realize that the only thing between me and the road is the skull cap I'm wearing and I push away thoughts of certain death by concentrating on the feeling of the wind on my face, the anticipation of seeing my friends and dancing the night away. I am forming relationships now, solid friendships, some of which will last for decades to come. I have a diverse group of people in my life, real people with beautiful hearts, people who are capable of forming deeper bonds, for whom truth lies in not what you look like, but in who you really are. I am accepted and it feels good.

I am eighteen, and I am at my mother's house getting ready to load up the furniture and appliances she is giving me. Having had her third car accident in about two years, my mother has decided that her MS is getting the best of her. She can no longer maintain her independence and she is going to live with my grandparents. I suddenly realize that I have no home to go to if things get rough, I'm now completely on my own and I'm scared. Fear turns to anger when my grandmother pulls me aside to say, "We'll probably end up putting her in a home, she won't last with us." I think to myself, "I wonder if my mother knows she's giving up her life here thinking she'll live out her days with you, only to have you put her in a home in a few months?" I feel the need to tell my mom what grandma had said and when I do she gets tears in her eyes and tells me they won't do that to her. She was wrong.

I'm twenty-nine and my marriage is in a shambles. Thinking a vacation is what we need I surprise my husband with plane tickets to New Orleans for Mardi Gras 2000. I'm catching beads and dancing in the street, flashing my boobs and stuffing myself with crawfish and beer. I'm having the time of my life ignoring what's really going on. I close my eyes and listen to the sweet sounds of a live jazz band playing in a club on Bourbon Street, wishing I was somebody else. By the time our plane lands in Seattle we are broke and barely speaking. " Your breath stinks" he says, so I turn my head towards the window and don't say anything else on the bus ride back to Canada. Welcome home, I think.

I'm thirty and my marriage has just fallen apart for good. For the first time in years I am alone and although I'm hurting, I'm free. I realize how much I have compromised for my husband and I start going out again and it feels like a rebirth. I can't believe how much I love the sun and I am tanned and freckled and windblown these days. I enjoy music, listening to what I want for a change, from rap and dance music to Metallica and classical. I love it all. I can sing in the car again while I drive, something my exhusband hated for me to do. I'm desperately broke, working two jobs six days a week and I've never been happier. I've met a younger guy and fallen instantly in love. Shane and I start planning to have a family, everything I've ever wanted is starting to fall into place. We marry, seventy-five days after my divorce is final, one year and twenty-two days after we first met.

I'm thirty-three and have been crying for what seems like months. Desperate to have a child and waiting to find out why I had just had three miscarriages in a row. A trip to Vancouver and a diagnosis at last. The next day I find out I'm pregnant again and I panic, is it too late for the drugs? Faithfully I begin the regiment of injecting blood thinners twice a day, hoping beyond hope that this time it will work. I wake up screaming in the recovery room, my God, this is pain like I have never known it. Congratulations, your daughter is doing fine...I lay there sobbing. Can this be real? I am a mother at last.

I'm thirty-seven and I peer into my mother's eyes as she lies motionless in her hospital bed. I'm holding my newborn daughter. "Mom, my son died..." The veil lifts for but a minute and she whispers, "I'm sorry." I'm crying. I am a mother without her child, and a child without her mother. If there was ever a moment in my life when I needed my mother's lap, it was this moment of heartbreak, having held my son while he died in my arms. I feel like a tree without roots, like a strong wind will blow me over at any moment. I look down at my baby and at my husband holding our three year old and think, "At least I have you." We have each other and someday I'll be ok.


  1. Have you ever visited a redwood forest? Your comment about roots reminded me of them. These magnificent trees grow taller than any other tree (except maybe the giant sequoia. I can't remember.)and yet they have incredibly shallow root systems. Ihave been told that they remain standing because the shallow roots of each tree twine with the shallow roots of its neighbors, forming a mat that holds each tree in place.

  2. That's a beautiful thought Jesse, thank you for that. I'm sure the only reason I'm standing these days is because of the support I've found through you and some of the friends and family who have stood beside me during this time in my life, it's been the hardest thing I've lived through. I'm so glad I found you. Hugs to you, Evelyn and Oliver

  3. Stumbled across this when reading links from links from glow in the woods. It's an incredibly powerful piece of writing and I hope that writing it brought you some peace.

    Sorry, that sounds incredibly twee :( I hope you understand what I mean though.

  4. also here from Glow...this is an amazing epic of a post, a snapshot of moments of living.

    the last paragraph shook me to my core.

  5. Again, I was beaten to it.. I'm here to say thank you, a huge thank you for your writing. You're part of a group of writers nominated, but you know that already:

    This was indeed epic. I feel like I know you after this. I like that.
    Much love.