I sat closely by and held the hand of the man who was my bridge for every journey in life and watched him die. With a 3 year old and a sixth month old baby of my own, it was hard to envision a life without him. I was standing on the outside of thirty with nothing but the tenderness of new life surrounding me and no way to comprehend the events that were set to unfold.
No matter how much notice death gives, the heart takes much longer to process. My grandfather had been dying for almost my entire life. He was given 6 months to live when I was only 9. As he lay in his hospital bed celebrating my 29th birthday, my head knew his time was over, but my heart had yet to catch up. My youngest son, who wasn’t even a thought at the time, now bears his name.
A year and a half later, death struck again. This time with no notice and no explanation. No months, no weeks, no days, no minutes, no seconds to prepare. With one phone call, my mother was gone forever. I’ll never have all the answers I want and need.
The life of my mom, as I knew it, was surrounded by sickness. She was diagnosed with Lupus and several other autoimmune diseases not long after I was born. I never got the chance to see her shine before chronic illness took over. Yet, I never expected her to die. I never thought I would be 30 without a mom. I never thought I would make this crazy adventure of motherhood without a mother of my own.
When my stepfather of 30 years passed away three years later, it felt like a huge chapter of my life was slammed shut. I would pick his brain about her; I'd go and sit in her house around her things. Being with him was like being with her, and then he was gone too.
I watched my grandmother bury her husband, her daughter, and her son-in-law. Her strength was one that could not be matched, and she was my rock. After all the loss we had suffered together, I often said to myself, “I still have her.” However, less than a year after we lost my stepfather, we were sitting at her funeral. I still remember what it felt like to kiss her cheek…
Over a 6 year span, I lost my grandfather, my mother, my stepfather, both my grandmothers, and an aunt. You go through various stages in life when you walk away from your village. It’s how you grow and become the person you need to be, but when I turned around, my village was gone when I needed them the most.
Now at the age of 36, I walk through motherhood and my own battle with chronic illness without them. Not alone, but without them…
The loss of people in your village is a void you cannot fill. Time will help, but it does not heal. Life becomes something different altogether, and you figure out how to navigate it.
Today, I am working on me as I continue on without them. Everyday is a new day and unfortunately pain is part of the process. Embrace every single joy. Don’t let them slip by. Adulting is hard! Don’t be afraid to lean on people, but don’t be filled with resentment if they have a hard time understanding your journey. Remember, everyone is carefully walking barefoot down their own path.
Take care of your memories. For you cannot relive them. –Bob Dylan