Mothers Sharing Loss

MOMPOINTINGNo one loves me more than my mother. It must have been hard for her to see me so empty for so long, carrying around only memories of my only daughter.

It confounds me how much mothering goes into each person. Each one of us, in our earliest times, had to be carried around, fed and cared for, protected. Every one of us, criminal, teacher, traveler, president, beggar, … is a walking, living investment of time and energy and care. A precious, bottomless vessel of commitment, carried and kept from ruin by someone who must have cared. What did my own mother carry me through? And what did she know of loss? The day at Jones Beach, when I was four and I lost hold of her hand, did she panic? Did she know, for a brief time, how it feels to lose a daughter? Was she plagued with thoughts of what if -, what if -, what if -, like an ongoing heartbeat?

“This is something you never get over,” she said when I visited her recently needing some mothering in the darkest days of winter. “You will live with this the rest of your life.” We talked over omelettes and coffee at Bagel Snack, her regular breakfast spot. My photography class assignment that week was to engage people in their elements and get them to make eye contact.

Even as a mother who has lost a child, I have to remember: my loss is not just my own loss. When my daughter died, someone else lost a daughter. Someone else lost a step-daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, a friend, a music partner, a niece, a cousin, a teammate, a classmate, a soul-mate. A dear young member of a community. I was not, nor am I now, alone in my grief. It was easy for me to overlook that in all my pain. But it makes the pain easier to bear when I remember that others share it. And there are so many others who know loss. If I knocked on their doors or met them hiking in the woods, they would offer me tea, hugs, an ear and kindness.

When I snapped this portrait, I believe my mother was telling me, “No, we can’t eat out every night at Arturo’s Ristorante,” a place we share our joys and sorrows over great comforting food.

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