You Don't Really Know Your Mom Until She Loses Her Mom

Mother and daughter wearing red lipstick.

You don’t really know your mom until she loses her mom. I learned this last summer as we struggled through not being able to attend my grandmother’s funeral in Honduras. I was in New York when it happened, while the rest of my immediate family was in St. Louis together. A few weeks later, as soon as I could, I went to visit and spend some time with my mom. She cried, recounted memories, and claimed she'd been prepared for it as my Grandma's health had been rapidly declining.

But I could see through her veil of strength. She was a mess. No daughter is OK losing a mom you can't see during a pandemic of all things. My friend Christina Peña is a testament to this. Her mother contracted Covid-19 and didn't receive life-saving treatment soon enough. Their last communication was a text that truly breaks my heart. I highly recommend you read her story. It's very touching. (Feel free to go read it and then come back here.)

What is so powerful about the way Christina tells the story of her mom is that you feel the devastation and confusion of a daughter who is now motherless, but you also feel the fortitude of a mother who must keep her head up for her two boys. She was devastated but she had to keep on going. 

As someone who is not a mom (to a human, at least), I don't know what it feels like to be strong when all you really want to do is collapse and surrender to your tears. It's a mystery to me how mothers can eat their emotions to be stoic for their kids and family. I'm not sure I'm capable of that, but who knows, maybe that'll all change one day.

What I only just found out is my mom had Covid-19 at the start of the pandemic and didn’t tell me (until literally just a few days ago). Was it because of my friend Christina's mom? I had told her the tragic story, and yes, being trapped in Manhattan as death tolls were rising was no cup of tea either.

My mom claims she didn't want to worry me. (SERIOUSLY???) She also says she thinks the test was a false positive since my dad never got sick. Will I ever really know the reason why she didn't tell me? I doubt it. But maybe that's just one more facet of Motherhood that will remain a mystery to me. 

My only perspective is as a daugher, but I did learn a lot about my mom as she tried to keep it together. I learned my mom lives by her own rules. And no matter how much I'm rattled by how she operates sometimes (as she and I are polar opposites), I realize that she's the one who pushed out 2 babies on top of a long list of other accomplishments. Most moms are probably a hot mess on the inside, seemingly keeping it together on the outside for the sake of their kids, and making tough decisions for their welfare. They deserve a standing ovation for this.

I don't wish the loss of a parent on anyone but I think when you lose your mom, you lose a really big chunk of yourself. I've never asked my mother if she felt this way when my abuelita died, but there were definitely signs of emptiness. In more ways than not, I think the emptiness is beautiful. 

Our moms make us who we are. This is why we celebrate Mother's Day. 



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