December 27, 1999

Dear Mom,

Today is your fiftieth birthday, but of course you know that already. This morning when I got up I actually thought about calling you to wish you a joyful birthday. You would think after nineteen months I would get over the urge to call you, drive to the house just to gossip or visit, and expect you to drop by unannounced. I thought that last year was difficult, but I'm reconsidering. Last year it was fresh, the reality of your death and the fact you were gone had not completely sunk in, but this year as we celebrated Christmas in our new home it was so blatantly clear that you were no longer a part of our lives in the way you should be.
I've moved on from being your little girl and it has been the strangest, most difficult journey I have ever taken. I've questioned every step since your death, I've looked in the mirror and not recognized myself, and I've anguished over decisions in my life that I thought I could not handle on my own. I am not the same person I was and in part your death pushed me into finding myself and what I wanted to do with my life.
I feel guilt every day since your death. I've hovered over your grave and begged for forgiveness and wept tears when I see your pictures. I feel like I let you down. I made promises that I couldn't keep, and I pushed you when I should have just loved you. After your death I could barely get on with my life, I was going along with the motions but I felt lost.
Everyday I questioned my ability to parent, my ability as a wife, and as a woman. I wanted to talk to you, ask for advice and know your opinion. I felt deserted. I began to question everything and there was no where to turn for answers except within myself.
I was afraid that you would disapprove and I found myself asking "would mama approve?" everytime I searched for answers or made decisions. I felt guilt because I was relieved I no longer had to care for you. I was glad that I no longer had to get up in the mornings and worry about your illness, give you pep talks in preparing you for treatment, or listen to you cry. I was sick of seeing you wear the same god-damn clothes everyday feeling sorry for yourself and bitching about how unfair your life had been. Your death freed me but at the same time made me a prisoner unto myself.
I'm still wanting your approval, still wanting to know that you love me unconditionally.
I've changed, and you would probably think not for the better. I gave up your religion and have denied god. I thought that after your death I would be embraced by your Jesus, a Jesus you loved and worshiped, but I found myself searching for him and every answer I found was not what I wanted to hear. There were contradictions to how you taught me, there were contradictions in the Bible, and there were contradictions in my heart. I no longer wanted to be a Christian, I no longer had faith in god, and I was not willing to hand my troubles to the man on the cross to save me from my sins. When I admitted all these things to myself I felt relief but also condemnation, condemnation from you though you were no longer here.
I decided that I didn't want to live my life wondering "what if" or with regret, as you often did. I didn't want to be sad and depressed and saying "why me?" I decided that I was going to do exactly what I wanted to do. I was going to be happy. I was going to stop throwing myself away. I wanted to be more than a mother and a wife, I wanted to be known as a woman with my own identity.
I grew up. I'm happy, and most of all I'm happy with who I am becoming and in part I owe that to you and the fact that you died. Reflecting on your life gave me the courage to change, your death gave me the freedom to explore that. Thank you.
Where ever you are I hope you have found peace and happiness.
I love you,

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