I still wear my mother’s shoes sometimes. When she died, I donated most of her belongings to charities, but I kept a few things, including a pair of black boots. I love them so much that I wear thick socks to make up the difference between our shoe sizes. I have even had the soles replaced to give them more years of wear.
My life has been divided into two segments, Life With Madeline, and Life After Madeline. Today would have been my mother’s 76th birthday. Today, marks exactly four years, six months and eighteen days since she died from a malignant a brain tumor.
A lot has happened in Life After Madeline. I wrote and published a book about my mother. I traveled with my family to Mexico, Europe, New York and California. I ran a marathon. I shepherded two children from elementary school into middle and high school.
My older daughter grew into an accomplished volleyball player, had her first boyfriend, got her driver’s license, took the SAT and has visited colleges. My younger daughter got her ears pierced, grew taller than her mother and proudly dances solo on stage in front of live audiences at competitions.
My mother would have loved these milestones. We would have talked for hours on the phone, parsing every detail, her hanging on every word, asking me to go back and repeat touching moments and funny things my daughters did and said. This is what I’ve been missing for four years, six months and eighteen days.
Since my mother’s death, I have had many friends who also lost parents. They have asked me for advice. I have tried to give them the most wisdom I can muster, but the truth is that I am no closer to understanding Life After Madeline than I was in 2012.
What I do know is that while she is not with me in these milestones, the choices I make, the way in which I handle difficult situations, and the way in which I celebrate joyful moments are all informed by my Life With Madeline.
My mother was a brilliant, kind, energetic, beautiful force of nature. She cannot be replaced in my life or in the lives of others who loved her. But I am trying to live out her legacy. So, while I will pause today to remember her birthday, as I do every year on Dec. 26, I will move forward in the shoes I have inherited, Madeline’s shoes. They’re a little too big for me, but I’m slowly growing into them.
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.