My amazingly wonderful mother passed away a year ago today. It was the saddest day of my life, as it was for the rest of my family. It hardly seems like a year has passed. Some days I forget that she is gone. I feel like sometimes I pretend it didn’t happen. Other days, the loss is so fresh and raw. My family just left me in Thailand, where I will continue another two weeks traveling to Laos and Cambodia on my own. This was our first-ever family vacation without Mom. It was strange and just…. different without her.
Anyone who knew my mom would agree that she was the queen of positivity. She coined the phrase, “Make it a great day!” (much to our chagrin as young children). She had the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever known and was the soul of our large, close-nit family.
It is a very difficult thing, losing a parent, not only for the loss your soul suffers, but also because you must reorient yourself in the world. The whole family dynamic is thrown out of whack. It’s like we just stand there looking at each other, wondering what we’re supposed to do. It can take a while to adjust and figure out how to take on some of the roles and responsibilities left vacant. It’s a complex task, and I think we’re still trying to figure it out. But we’ll get there.
It’s extremely hard for me not to get trapped in despair and devastation. I consider this a testament to how beautiful and amazing a person my mom was and how deep my love is for her. It’s not a bad thing to be sad. It’s an indicator of how blessed I was to have someone so special in my life. And now I’ll say the truth that I hate to hear: life goes on. It does. It’s a bit depressing, but as long as you acknowledge that, you can keep on trucking with the caveat that you’re going to be sad for a while (if not forever). But you can be so, so happy for the amazing time that you had together.
I feel so fortunate and so blessed to have had a mother who was so kind, worldly, intelligent, and above all, fiercely loving of her family. Mom taught me so many indispensable lessons, and I would like to think I picked up a couple of her many wonderful traits as a human. One of the things I loved so, so much about my mom was that she genuinely loved people. Anyone who met her would comment on how fun, happy and nice she was. She was just fun to be around- period. She always reminded us to count our blessings and be thankful for what we had and to never feel or act entitled and to embrace humility.
When a person like this is taken from you, it becomes almost impossible to see the light at the end of the very dark tunnel. Everything becomes dull, and the joy is just sucked away from life. When I looked around for something positive to focus on, I kept running into the brick wall of “what’s the point?” Life suddenly and all at once becomes trite and almost meaningless. But the challenge (I’m always up for a challenge) is rediscovering the point of it all: the beauty of life and why it is important to go on. This is the main reason I started traveling so frequently over the last six months. I had to go out in the world and rediscover its beauty- in its nature and in its peoples’ cultures- again.
I will say that I am still sad. I always will be. And that is OK. But I am reinvigorated. I have a new “lease on life.” I will honor Mom’s memory and endeavor to always make her proud by being the best me that I can be and by trying to be thankful and to enjoy every precious minute of my life on this planet. I will follow my dreams and make them a reality. I will have the happy, healthy family I know she wants me to have. And I will invoke her spirit and love all to the best of my ability, through understanding and sharing.
I can’t think of a more perfect place to be right now, remembering my mom and feeling her presence. The people of Thailand and Cambodia are probably the friendliest, loveliest people I’ve ever met. Passers-by greet you with a smile or stop you on the street to ask you where you are from, how you are enjoying their country and offer friendly tourist advice. If you leave money or even an expensive camera at a restaurant table, they will chase after you to return it. It is very refreshing to know that such genuine goodness in people exists on a large scale. It is healing.
I can attest to the healing nature of human kindness. When it presents itself in the form of a whole nation of people projecting kindness and genuine well-wishes on to perfect strangers, it is divine.
I may be having an epiphany: the remedy to human sorrow is the kindness of strangers. What do you think?
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