“Enough about your dead mother,” one kind person commented beneath one of my Mother’s Day blogs one year. “We get it. She’s dead.”
Spoken like a person who has never lost a parent.
So, here’s a warning: Yes, this post will be about my dead mother. Please, for your own safety, do not read it if other people dying somehow offends you.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I believe the highest compliment anyone can receive is that their legacy lives on after they die. They live on in the stories people share about them and in the way their lives have affected others — their family, their friends, their colleagues.
I attended a memorial service for my colleague, Mark Binker, this week. It was unlike any memorial service I had ever been to. Why? Because it was real. People shared heroic, touching and funny stories about him. They reminisced and they grieved for a life cut way too short, a force of nature, someone who shined both as a journalist and a family man. While it was sad, there was an underlying theme from all the speakers— pay attention, this is how life should be done, take what you can from these stories and incorporate them into your own life.
This is the fifth Mother’s Day since my mother’s death. I don’t miss her any less than I did five years ago. I don’t feel her void any less profoundly, but I have managed to incorporate her legacy into my life in ways that are seen and unseen. I seek new challenges, even when failure seems a likely outcome. I am trying to be more compassionate, to take the time not just to meet others’ needs, but to recognize them. And, more recently, I am learning how not to suffer fools, how to surround myself with people who give me energy instead of take it away.
The reason I am still writing about my dead mother is that these lessons have happened gradually in the years since her death. They didn’t come to me the moment she died. They were part of an evolution, part of the self-actualization that can come on the heels of grief and honest introspection. I am a living legacy to my mother.
Don’t get me wrong: I am not perfect, far from it. Neither was she. But I am moving in the direction of creating the best version of myself, one that I hope my mother would be proud of.
So, yes, I will continue to write about my dead mother. I am a writer. Writing is how I process the world around me. It also is how I attempt to share what I have gleaned through my personal experience of loss, one that I know many of you share based on your candid and touching emails that I have received over the years on this topic.
My advice: Never stop thinking about the people you love, who you have lost. Never stop talking about them. In this way, we honor their legacy by allowing them to live on. To me, that’s pretty close to heaven on earth …
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books, including some on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.