My heart is broken. I buried my mother and my best friend last week and I feel as though a truck has driven through the middle of me.
My mother and I had one of those relationships where store clerks thought we were sisters. She always dressed younger than I did and she relentlessly tried to get me to wear more make makeup and nicer shoes. Sometimes she won, but most of the time my stubbornness kept lipstick off of my face.
But what I miss most about my mother is her comfort. She was the essence of comfort. Being in the same room with you made you feel as though life was OK. If the country was at war, if I made a terrible mistake speaking at a conference or whether one of my kids was in trouble, when I sat in the same room with my mother, I felt that I could make it. Was that her personality, her voice, her attitude that gave me that overwhelming sense of calm? I don’t know. As a writer and professional observer of people, I am at a loss to pinpoint what in her being exuded the sense to others in her presence that they were going to make it through whatever grieved them. That’s why I need her right now. I need to be in her presence so that I, a grown woman with my own children, need to know that I will be OK. Intellectually I know that I will, but I want to know this on a much deeper level.
As I grieve the loss of this magnificent woman, I cannot help but think about myself as a mother. I am forced to ask myself what my own adult children will mourn in my death. Will they miss the books I could have written or lectures I wasn’t able to give? I don’t think so. Would they miss my laughter or the soothing words I would give them when they were down? Perhaps. Most significantly, would they miss the mysterious calm and joy of my presence, as I miss with my mother?
Each of us parents must do some soul searching when it comes to what we leave for our children. The bulk our daily efforts goes toward driving them places, working harder to provide more stuff or organizing their days. I can guarantee that none of our children would miss these things. Anyone could step in our place and continue on. What I want my kids to miss is me. I want them to have felt so much love, so much comfort and so much joy in my presence that they will have known what love, joy and comfort feels like. And the only way they can miss me this way is to have spent enough time in my presence.
The question that each of us mothers or fathers must ask ourselves is, will our children miss the things that we give them or do for them, or will they miss the person that we are? I hope that my kids will miss the latter.