I used to joke with my mom that our family was actually a coven of vampires.
My paternal grandfather died at the age of 91. Followed by my maternal grandfather at 93. My Paternal grandmother was next at 95. Lastly, my maternal grandmother, 16 days shy of her 99th birthday.
At the rate we were going, I expected the rest of us to hit 100 and then some.
I was wrong.
On July 21, 2017 at 2:08 p.m. my mom unexpectedly passed away at the age of 71.
We were shocked. We were numb.
I was devastated.
I “knew” my parents wouldn’t live forever.
I knew the way newlyweds “know” marriage is challenging or expectant parents “know” raising children is hard work.
Turns out, I “knew” nothing.
Somewhere along the way, I convinced myself my parents would pass away when they were “old.” When the years were evident in the deeply carved wrinkles around their eyes and life’s ups and downs were visible in the subtle shake of their hands and their feather-soft voices that whispered final words of wisdom before they drifted away. And, of course, they’d be together, holding hands.
But that’s the stuff of Hollywood. In the real world, Life doesn’t give a rip about what you thought you “knew”. It’s simply going to unfold in its own way and in its own time because that’s just how Life goes.
At first, I was angry at myself for my naivety. If I’d been better prepared, maybe it wouldn’t hurt so much every time I tried to breathe. If I’d drawn a more realistic picture in my head, maybe I could have avoided the near-constant feeling that I was about to throw up. More importantly, maybe I could have saved myself (and those around me) the embarrassment of bursting into tears in the cereal aisle.
In the few moments of clarity I found those first few days, it occurred to me that I was being ridiculous. Could I have ever really “known” what it would be like to lose my mother, my cheerleader, my confidant, my iron, my rock, my best friend? Of course not. Because if any of us knew what it felt like to lose someone we love, we’d never love them so deeply, so completely in the first place.
Would my heart feel less raw right now if I hadn’t been so close to my mom? Perhaps. But I know without a doubt, I would not be the woman I am without her love. I would not have this life without her fingerprint everywhere. And I certainly would not tangibly know what it was like to be loved so fiercely, without breadth or depth or any limit whatsoever.
And that would be the biggest loss of all.
That’s just my normal.