Note: This is the third of three parts, a piece about how losing her mother at 11 years old has shaped Alaina Leary, a student at Westfield State University who is interning with Beetle Press this semester. Click here to read from the beginning.
By Alaina Leary
Losing my mom also came with questions that could never be answered.
One of the most difficult things to deal with after losing her was coming out as bisexual. I always regretted that I had not talked to her about it before she passed away, although my dad assured me that she would have loved me and accepted me.
Then, on the first day of high school, I met a girl who would become my best friend, and who I would slowly fall in love with over the course of a year. I’m left always wondering what my mom would think of her if they had the chance to meet.
My life has become separated into two categories: people who knew my mom and people who didn’t. I still have two very close friends from before she passed, but the rest of my friends know nothing of her beyond my detailed stories.
Whenever I lose another person in my life, I think of what my dad told me when my mom passed. He said, “It made me think of my mom. I missed her, and she was the one I wanted to talk to about it.” But she had passed about three years prior.
My dad was absolutely right. When my friend Mary passed away in March 2012, it was my mom I wanted to talk to, despite her never having met Mary. I cried for both of them the moment I found out about Mary, and often, when my sadness about one resurfaces, my sadness about the other isn’t far behind.
My life has also become about waiting for funerals. A part of me is startlingly aware that anyone in my life could die at any moment, made worse by the large number of people I have lost.
In addition to my mom and Mary, I’ve also lost an aunt, a great-grandmother and a grandmother. It felt like every other month I was writing memorial Facebook statuses.
Sometimes it feels as though Peyton Sawyer, a television character who also lost her mother, is right when she says, “Everyone always leaves.”
My worst fear is not failing out of college or having someone discover a secret; it’s losing someone else that I love. I can’t name someone I am close to whose funeral I haven’t imagined.
When I don’t hear from my dad for an unusually long period of time, part of me is absolutely convinced that he is dead. I am attracted to stories about death, because characters and people who have experienced this kind of loss are bound to understand me. I’m always ready to cry along with them and a part of me is crying for my own losses as I do.
That’s not to say that acknowledging that life isn’t permanent is always negative. Almost all of the time, it is positive encouragement for me. I know that I could lose the people in my life, so I appreciate them.
When I graduated from high school, I wrote over 20 letters to all the people for whom I had “unsaid feelings,” including friends but also acquaintances and people I disliked.
I’ll be the first person to put aside homework to spend time with a friend or family member, and people can expect me to try my hardest to show up at events they plan.
The phrase goes: “live like you are dying,” and I’m not perfect at it, but I certainly do think about it at least once every day. It has made me vastly more grateful, the kind of person who has a jar filled with at least one good thing about every day in 2014.
People tell me I’m empathetic, caring, honest, optimistic and as close to being stress-free as they have ever seen, but it wasn’t always this way.
I owe the best decisions of my life to losing my mom – including the decision I make every morning to make the best out of whatever happens that day.
Alaina, thank you so much for sharing your experience of how losing your mother at such a young age has influenced your life. i have shared your entries with my grief groups and they have been very well received. I love your idea of the gratitude jar and have started my own! I do hope you continue to pursue writing as you are very talented and have so much hope to offer. Surely your mother is so very proud of you!!! Blessings to you.
Thanks so much Cathy for your great feedback for Alaina. She is indeed a great writer with a lot of wisdom. So glad her thoughts were helpful to your groups!