Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Twenty-Five Years and My Life is Still...

Twenty-five years ago, I was sixteen years old. And on this day, July 25, 1987, my mom died. She was 46 years old and died of lung, brain, and everywhere cancer. She didn't smoke. It was bullshit.

Things I've regretted about this event:

Being sixteen and not really understanding what forever meant.
Not being able to talk to her about the fact that she was dying.
She wrote her friends goodbye letters, but not us.
Not knowing her as a woman, because I was too young to see it.
Not understanding how to deal with it.
Not knowing how to ask for help.
Not knowing what I needed.
Not being out of the snotty teenage years before she died. I wasn't very nice.
Maybe not going to a party the day she died, and drinking so much. But maybe that's what I needed to do...

Of course, if I look at my life and all of its deals, this event was a game changer for me. I didn't have the confidence to walk around as the girl whose mom died. I didn't have the maturity to be gentle with myself. I didn't have the knowledge to accept that I would be sad and alone, but that it didn't have to be a life sentence. I only knew I wanted the pain to stop. So I used drugs, alcohol and my poor boyfriend at the time, to erase my pain. None of that worked.

My dad, didn't have the tools to guide me through that time, and I wasn't open for anything, but running from the pain. I felt completely ruined. I felt like I deserved to not feel pain. Anything that came at me that made me more uncomfortable, i.e., schoolwork, chores, rules, I believed I was exempt from having to participate. I rarely went to school, got kicked out of my house, but somehow managed to graduate. I was pissed off at anyone who wouldn't let me do what I wanted. I had been left, goddamn it. Everyone should let me do what I want or at least help me get what I wanted. Even if it was bad.

I dragged that abandonment baggage around for years. Mother's day hurt, her birthday hurt, her death day hurt. I clung onto people like crazy, hoping they could make me feel better. I still do that.

I put some of the baggage down when I gave birth to my beautiful girl. I was so excited to have that mother/daughter relationship. That bond and love did help fill her void. Probably a little too much pressure to put on a baby.

Becoming a mom also gave me the view of what it must have been like for her, knowing she was dying, and having to leave her children. I understand that writing a letter to us, must have been too painful. Talking about it was too. So I accept that. She had to protect and survive herself. I am sure she did what she could.

I sometimes think about how my life would have played out had my beautiful mom not died so young. What my addiction would have looked like? Would I have done better in school and would I have the confidence to make better choices? In many ways I feel stuck at age sixteen. It has taken me a long time to feel grown up. I am still not there.

But there are some aspects of losing her, that have been helpful to me. I can understand the pain of loss. It is such a big part of who I am today. It played a part of my addiction and it plays a part in my recovery. It taught me that I can survive. That pain happens. That to experience it, and let it flow, instead of running and drinking and expecting people to remove it, is the easiest way to handle it. Hopefully I can share that with others, so that they give themselves permission to cry, be sad, and recover.

Of course, I still miss her. I wonder how she would love my kids, how we would do holidays, what kind of friends we would be? What stuff she would teach me? She got ripped off. I know my kids got ripped off. We got ripped off a babysitter or advice and they got ripped off a relationship with a wonderfully sweet woman. You always glorify the dead, but really, she was the mom I would wish for. Loved me and took really good care of me. When I take this time to stop and think about it, I feel sad for all of us. Forever goodbyes suck. But this is our journey.

I now am five years younger than she was when she died. I know that I need to live my life well. Thank goodness I understand that being sober, is the most important part of that.

R.I.P. Beverly Ann Berry, my sweet mom.


  1. I'm so sorry for your loss. Thinking of you today.

  2. Sorry for your loss, but...you are handling it the best way possible. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with the fact that you ARE still handling it...that kind of thing never goes away and at different stages in your life you deal with it differently, and although you may come to terms with it in a way, you still learn new things about yourself (and your mom) through it, it still colors your world and the choices you make, and it still can feel terrible at times. Its okay to be sad and reflective...it's a testament to how good she was to you, and how far you've come. Hang in there.

  3. Oh my goodness, Bets, that could not have been written any better. I remember going to the hospital to visit your mom after we left Jeff's house and you said that you wanted me to wait in the car. You wanted me to remember your mom how she was not how she is at that moment. You were right. You had the best mom when we grew up together and you are truly blessed to have had her as your mom. You are a strong survivor who wouldn't be as strong as you are now have you not have gone through your trials and tribulations. So thank you for sharing your story and sharing your strength. God bless you, Bets! You are doing awesome! Love and aloha, Ericka

  4. Thanks all. And Ericka, my mom loved you. We had great times. She would be proud of us all. I am.

  5. Lovely post... Your mom was lucky she had you, as well. I can't imagine what it must feel like to know you are leaving. On another note, I love the title of this post, I think only those of us of a certain age probably sang that title to ourselves... And now that song will be stuck in my head all day, thankyouverymuch. --another sober mama.

  6. I somehow missed this post. This is a beautiful tribute to your mom.