I have never been a parent, and most likely will never become one. I remember the first time I had this realization. It was when I was reading the obituaries and found my mother’s name listed among them. At first I felt nothing. It was shocking. After a few years of doing this work, she was someone I always thought I would see again. I must have read the blurb dozens of times trying to internalize exactly what the words meant. My mother, the woman who gave me life, was no longer alive. I remember feeling the same distance at my father’s funeral before I started this work. Eventually, the situation became real and with the support of friends and family I was able to understand exactly what it was like to lose one of the people who allowed you to live. This time without that support it was a harder go. With both events I realized that there are some things you never really understand or get over. There are things that happen in life that happen and there isn’t necessarily a lesson because the impact of them muddles that lesson so much that we are unable to open up and the gain the perspective we need to learn it.
My mother was a strong, determined and compassionate woman. Listing off her accomplishments does them no justice, because the relationships she forged, the lives she touched, and the legacy she leaves behind did more than any list or obituary could. She was a parent and by that I mean she sacrificed and if there was complaint it didn’t show in her actions. What I was able to glean from being at her funeral from afar was that her successes trumped her sins and I was proud of her as her son, but also as a human being that had the privilege of knowing her as intimately as I did. This helped cushion the blow of not being able to share my grief as I was with my father’s passing.
Believing what I do about death and beyond I know it’s too late for me to thank her and I wouldn’t really know how or what to say beyond those two words. The list would be long but I think the longer list would be of all of the things I would forget to say. Thanking someone for sacrificing a large portion of their life for you is almost insulting, because I really have no idea what parental sacrifice truly means. I can think about it and place myself in a position where I ponder the opportunity cost of being a parent versus not, but, as with many things in life, you don’t know how you are going to react until you are actually placed in a situation. The closest thing I had was deciding to go through with Terrance’s proposition but even then, it’s not the same as slogging through a week on no sleep while making sure diapers are changed, bottles are had, everyone is warm and healthy and literate and sane and loved and alive.
I’ll really never know.