When I was 21 my mother was killed in a car accident. It was a horrific life changing moment and my world has forever been defined by the ‘before’ and ‘after’ of the moment two policemen turned up at the door. In the grief filled chaos that was that night I remember at one point taking a deep sharp breath and then saying, “I’m going to have children one day and my mother is not going to be here.”
My mum was my best friend. It may sound clichéd but it’s true. She owned a restaurant and used to make me work there. And I say “make me” because every Friday and Saturday night she would drag me kicking and screaming to work, when I believed it was my teenage right to be off partying and kissing random teenage boys. When the night ended and we would drive home, my mother and I would park in the driveway and spend hours gossiping. She listened to the drama of fights I was having with my friends, coach me through my latest crushes and listen eagerly as I told her my dreams to travel the world.
I spent 10 years grieving her death. It wasn’t an unproductive 10 years, but I never quite knew how to be fill the hole that she had left in my life. When I fell pregnant with my first child I secretly wished for a daughter. I didn’t tell anyone, but I felt like if the baby was a girl I would have that mother daughter connection back.
When she was born and I held my daughter on my chest night after night my last thought was of my mother. I sucked in every sleepless hour, grateful that my defining moment was no longer my mother’s death, finally trumped by the beautiful squirming baby that needed me. And I started to learn more about who my mother was. I felt like we had kicked off the next stage of our relationship. I finally understood the woman who had devoted her life to her children. I felt the need to protect and nurture this baby, without ever needing the recognition, just like she had. And I realised how upset she would have been that I had spent so many years holding onto my grief.
Don’t get me wrong I had my moments. When I saw my father go goo gah over my baby, I had the sudden rush of realisation that he could know my child for the next 40 years but my mother never would. Or hearing my friends talk about their mothers frantically cleaning or cooking for them in the new baby stress period that I would never know. Or when my child was old enough to ask who the woman was in the photo that took pride of place on the mantelpiece.
I finally understood that the ache for her would always be there but my life had finally got in the way of my grief. She had taught me everything I ever needed to know about how to be a mother. That it was unconditional and that death wouldn’t change that.
Do you relate to this?
Sam Lane chats about losing her mother below. For More of Sam On The Couch, click here.