There are a few things that happen once you get engaged: You call all your loved ones to tell them about the good news, you begin to plan your big day by buying magazines, and you start having more serious conversations about the future with your soon-to-be husband/wife. I, on the other hand, only did two things since my engagement in April of this year: I first called/texted all my loved ones about the proposal when it happened, and then, I buried the one person who was the only reason why I would’ve had a ceremonial wedding in the first place — my mom.
I’d never imagined in a million years that I would’ve lost my mom and become an engaged woman in the same year, on the same day, exactly four months apart from each other. For the past three months, I’ve been trying to adapt in this new world that I was unwillingly invited to; trying to breathe through the grief-polluted air while learning how to walk without the guidance of someone who has been there the entire existence of my life.
See, the thing is, my mother played the role of both parents. My dad, who passed away a few years ago, was barely in the picture, and my uncle, who felt like a father to me, passed away 10 years ago, unexpectedly. While this lack of male guidance has probably contributed to a few relationship problems — another story for another day — my mother proudly took on this dual role (with the help of my grandmother for a few years) to bring me up.
So when my boyfriend of eight years finally popped the question in Washington D.C. during the Cherry Blossom Festival, I immediately FaceTimed my mother to tell her the amazing news: her daughter was getting married. Relief and happiness came in the form of tiny teardrops as I watched my mom cry when I showed her the ring and told her she was the first person we called to tell about our engagement. In between wiping away her tears, she excitedly told me to show her the ring again and proceeded to advise when I should have my wedding. My mom explained that my grandmother didn’t have long to live and that it might be a good idea to have the wedding sooner than later. While I brushed off this suggestion because my fiancé and I had too much going on at the time and wanted to enjoy our engagement for a little bit, I do wish I had listened to her advice — but for a completely different reason.
The thing that I didn’t realize was that, subconsciously, I believe she was talking about herself. Back in 2013, my mom injured her back on the job and was in chronic pain ever since. She had back surgery in 2014 that didn’t go as well as we’d have liked, and we tried everything we could think of — and everything that her insurance would pay for — to help her heal. However, nothing seemed to work long-term. The role slowly reversed and I became the parent; taking her to doctor appointments, trying to get her to get out of the house, listening to her whenever she needed to vent. I felt helpless in her world; I couldn’t find a solution to the one thing that was weighing her down. All I ever wanted was her pain to go away, and the only thing I could do was stand by her side and watch how the pain and emotional turmoil made her brittle and small.
However, no matter how much pain she was feeling, she was always a phone call away. I would call her almost every day to talk about everything and anything. Whenever I would head to the subway, I would call; whenever I saw something that might make her feel better, I would call; or whenever we just wanted to chat just for the heck of it to catch up, we would both call. Sometimes she wouldn’t return my calls, but she always reassured me that everything was fine. So, when I noticed that she wasn’t calling me back for a few days, I began to panic. I naturally have anxiety and always have to find ways not to let my imagination run wild. But this time, I knew something was different.
An hour-and-a-half drive later, I found my mom, in her bed; just her body, not her wild spirit. She unexpectedly left us (for herself and me), and just like that, my world got turned upside down. My worst fear came true and the one person I wanted to call to help get me through it all was no longer able to come to the phone.
During the first few weeks, my family and I were showered with love. My friends provided a safe space for me to communicate, my fiancé’s family physically provided emotional support in ways I could’ve never imagined, and my fiancé, still to this day, has been my rock to lean on.
But through this trauma and grief, I slowly learned how uncomfortable it can be for others to talk about loss, especially if they’ve never experienced it before. While I know everyone means well, loved ones end up changing the course of the conversation to deter from the sadness by inquiring about the wedding. Even though it may feel like a happy topic to talk about, all I can think about is how I can’t have my mom there by my side on what’s supposed to be the happiest day of my life.
Now, I’m not even sure where to begin. The thought of picking flowers, going dress shopping, or sending out invites feels trivial. How can I plan a wedding when the one person I want the most in the world to be there won’t physically be there? Who is going to walk me down the aisle? Who am I going to dance with during the mother/daughter dance? Who is going to zip up my dress when I need help? Who is going to come with me to pick out my wedding dress and tell me how I honestly look? These would be the thoughts that would run through my head when everyone would ask about our wedding. But instead of vocalizing them, I would smile and say, “Oh, we don’t know yet, but I’m sure we’ll figure it out soon. We’re kind of enjoying our engagement at the moment.” While it’s an event that I was once so excited to discuss, now I’m afraid to explore.
However, I know deep down that my mom will be there in spirit, like she has been this whole time. She’ll be there watching when I become a wife, she’ll be there when I try on my dress, and she’ll be there when my best friends in the whole entire world help me put on my dress in her honor. Her love will never vanish because I feel it every single day. I see the gifts that she provides me here on earth and I’m unbelievably grateful that I know what unconditional love feels like thanks to her.
Hey Mom. Today marks three months since you’ve became an angel. I️ wish I️ could call you to see how you’re doing, but instead, I️ listened to a video where you talked, so I could pretend that we were on the phone again. Even though it’s been three months, it sometimes doesn’t feel like you’re gone at all. Every now and then, I️ receive these little gifts from you, whether it’s a beautiful sunset or a song, to remind me that you’re always there, watching over me. Since you’ve left, I’ve been trying to understand and deal with the sadness and grief. Sometimes there are good days, and sometimes there are days where I️ just want to curl up in bed. But when those days happen, I️ just think about the last time I️ saw you, and how you told me how you wanted me to go after what I️ want and to make the most out of every moment because I’m almost going to be 30. While you’ve always given me life talks, I️ am unbelievably grateful for that moment. I️ know you always wanted the best for me and I️ hope that I️ make you proud of everything that I️ do moving forward. Mom, you’ll always be my best friend. While I️ yearn for your judge-free love, those museum Met Gala visits, or simply the sound of your voice, I’m glad that you’re no longer in pain because of your back. Chewy, Eric, and I️ miss you so much, but I️ want you to know that we’re all doing okay. Actually better than ok. We’ve been graced with a Mom who loved us unconditionally and because of that, we’re able to move forward with the known feeling of what it’s like to experience eternal, selfless love. Thank you for giving me life. I️ hope you’re hanging out with unkie, having a few good laughs. I️ love you, I️ love you more, I️ love you always, I️ love you forever.
Now, as I enter this next chapter in my life, I try to live by the motto that my mom bestowed upon me from the last time I saw her, “To go after everything that you want, because life is too short and you’re about to turn 30, and I want you to live out your life.” While some days (or weeks) are hard to manage, I hope I make her proud of everything that I do moving forward with my life. I want to continue her legacy, and the best way I know how is by continuing to create a life based on love, passion, and kindness — and if that means getting married to the love of my life with everyone she has loved and cared about as well to witness our wedding in her honor — then, Mom, I hope you’re ready to party.