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Some Mothers Die Twice

Every one has a mother. Mine died twice. She died emotionally before I was born and literally at the age of 50. She had been trying to physically die from before the moment of my birth. She did it slowly in increments and degrees throughout my whole life until she finally succeeded in our mutual last breath of trying to keep her alive.

I often talk about my parents, to students and clients. I want them to know there is life after dysfunction. I have often gotten a pit of shame in my stomach as I speak of my parents in class. It’s the same shame every child of dysfunction gets when they speak of their past – as if the shame was theirs. Since they are both dead, I also wonder if I am not a bit afraid my parents are watching me from some place on high and wincing as I speak. Fortunately, I have good boundaries and know that is their problem. They have been gone a long time, no doubt had a few classes, so by now they know it too.

Every Mothers and Fathers Day I am delighted to celebrate these two scoundrels. It is so clear to me that I could never have become who I am without them. My mother, Nell, was an alcoholic who smoked and drank herself into numbness, beginning in her teens. She lacked the courage for on-going life or sudden death. Instead, she continued drinking until she finally reached variations of apathy, stupor, rage and depression, or all of the above in the same tearful evening, over and over between Librium’s. These were the nights that could be viscerally felt making their approach by 5:30p.m. That is, unless, she was in a precious, but regrettably infrequent, window of being utterly delightful, fantastically fun, incredibly funny and real. These few and far between windows of opportunity that debuted her potential were always fleeting and left only longing for more in their wake. So you might wonder what on earth I would celebrate about Nell this mothers day. Everything!

My mother died spiritually and emotionally before I was born and physically when I was 32. With the exception of a few cameo appearances, she was not a mom in my life. She never tucked me in, made my dinner, called to ask me to lunch or shared in the joy of my children. When I was five, at a time when we had nothing, she tore up her prized squaw skirt to make my sister and I a doll dress for Christmas. And when I was 25 after my divorce a black negligee arrived with a note from her that said, “So start living again” – these were the only two gifts from my mother. No mother taught me how to deal with money, be a woman, hold a child or create safety or love for myself. No one taught me how to be on my own side and make decisions and choices in my own best interest.

Until I became an adult and could see beyond my own emptiness, I didn’t have the compassion to see that my mother was just like me. She had no tools. This precious woman taught me what it looks like when you don’t love yourself, because she didn’t. She showed me how incredibly important being present in someone’s life is because she wasn’t present in mine. She taught me what happens when you don’t fight for your own life and when you let yourself believe that your emotions, feelings and fears are bigger than you are. She taught me compassion because I was able to love her even in her emptiest moments. She taught me forgiveness because I finally understood she never got what I expected from her, and therefore never had it to give. She literally unraveled the whole issue of blame for me. I understood by loving my mother, that parents are only able to give you what has been given to them – not an ounce more.

This coming mother’s day I will celebrate my mother again. I thank her for allowing that empty space in my life in which I could connect to the Universe and the deepest parts of myself. I thank her for leaving so that I could learn about staying. I honor her for never finding me, so I could find myself. With great genuine love, I thank you mom. In some contract signed long before this lifetime, we agreed to this dance and you did your part. You gave all you had and it was everything I needed to be who I am.

© Dr. Dina Bachelor Evan 2013

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