A letter to my mom

Dear Mom,

It’s been 18 years (and 2 days) since I held your hand, told you I loved you, and watched you take your last breath. I was 16 years old. A child. Entirely way too young to be motherless.

My aunt gave me the doll about 15 years ago because she has the same name as my mom. I gave her to my daughter a couple of years ago. Abby decided that Janice should join us at our picnic.

My aunt gave me the doll about 15 years ago because she has the same name as my mom. I gave her to my daughter a couple of years ago. Abby decided that Janice should join us at our picnic.

We went to the cemetery this year. I used to go every year, but I skipped the last two. I couldn’t handle it. But I knew I needed to go this year. We packed lunch and took the long trek on the bus and the short ride in the cab. It was nice and peaceful. Abby asked if there was a special song you sang to me and suggested we play it. She’s a very sweet and smart little girl. I played “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” by Bryan Adams on my phone (I’m pretty certain you’d be enamored by today’s technology) and then played a song that makes me think of you – “Because You Loved Me” by Celine Dion.

The universe could not have blessed me with a more amazing mother. You were everything to me. I know I didn’t always act like it. I was mouthy and I said some mean things. I never meant them.

There was no one in the world I trusted as much as I trusted you. There was no one in the world who made me feel as safe as you made me feel. And 18 years ago, that was all ripped away.

I was scared and lonely and I think emotionally I stopped growing that day. I’m still scared and lonely. I feel stuck at 16 . . . still silently pleading for someone to trust the way I trusted you . . . still yearning for someone to make me feel as safe as you made me feel.

There are days when I feel like I don’t know how to be an adult because you weren’t there to teach me. I’m older now than you were when you died. I’m not sure I can really describe how awkward that is.

I’ve put on this façade of strength. I’ve learned how to “act as if” and “fake it till I make it.” I’ve been doing it for 18 years. The truth is that I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. I want to be the person I’d be if you were here to finish raising me, but I don’t know who she is.

I don’t know what to say to my daughter when she tells me she’s scared that I’ll die when she’s a teenager because you died when I was a teenager. I fumble a bit. I tell her I love her and that I don’t plan on going anywhere and that it’s important to focus on today and enjoy today. I wish I could remember what you told me when I was her age and scared that your cancer would come back.

There is so much I never had a chance to ask you, so much I thought there would be plenty of time for. The day the doctor told me your cancer was back, you held my hand and told me not to worry. You told me you planned to see your grandkids (and promptly added, with a smile on your face, not any time soon). I believed you.

I believed you up until the day before you died. I believed you even when you stopped your chemo . . . when I asked you if that meant there was no chance (I couldn’t even finish the sentence) and you said, “there’s always a chance.” I believed you until the hospice nurse sat in our living room and told me that you only had a week to live. And I think a part of me even continued to believe you after that . . . . until 3am when I woke to see the pain on your face and the vacant look in your eyes and I prayed for God to take you . . . I prayed for your suffering to end . . . . and 5 hours later, it did.

Phrases like “I miss you” and “I love you” never feel like enough. What word do I use to explain this pit inside of me? What word do I use to describe the rage and grief that course through my veins? What word do I use to express how badly I want to scream at the universe that it’s just not fair, not right, not okay that you’re not here to spoil your granddaughter or to sit down and chat with me over a cup of coffee?

I’d like to end this with something positive, but I’m just not there right now. I’ve been struggling lately . . . and this is the unfiltered ugliness of it. I’m hurting and (as weak as the word may be) I miss you.

With love always,


13 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Melissa on September 6, 2013 at 9:27 am

    You always make me cry….. I feel your pain now.. Although not 18 years of it… yet. These last 3 months have been horrible for me, and I wish I was more of a friend then and now to help you with your loss, and maybe would understand my own now…


    • {Hugs} I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to respond.

      You were and are a great friend, Melissa. Back then, just continuing that normalcy and that we never lost touch through all of our moves and wacky life crap was a huge help! I am and always have been grateful for our friendship.

      I hate that you have to go through this now. And I wish my experience gave me some kind of magic word to make it better. But I’m here . . . if and when you are ready to break down or just to talk or get the kids together or whatever. I don’t promise to have the answers, but I promise to always be here to listen.

      Love you


  2. Posted by Karen on September 6, 2013 at 7:16 pm


  3. I can relate, though I did not lose my mom so young, and I know that is a whole huge bowl of hurt that I can only imagine. But I do relate to faking the strength to get through each day — yet the hollowness is ever-present. The anger, the rage, all that
    you have described – all I can say is, I know and can relate to all of this. And I wish I could give you a real hug, not because it will make anything better, but just to let you know that I understand.
    Your own daughter is a true gem.


    • I think there are certain things that affected me differently because of my age, but I also don’t think it would be any easier today or in 20 years than it was back then. I used to read a book . . . Letters from Motherless Daughters . . . what was so helpful was that the stories came from women and girls of all ages and at all stages of grief. I think we could be 80 years old and the loss of a parent would still be soul-crushing.

      And a hug, real or virtual, is always helpful!


  4. I, of course, do not KNOW your pain. My Mom just lost HER Mom, but my Mom had 70 years with her. For me, knowing my Mom is 70, is pretty much a daily reminder that I will NOT have my Mom as long as she had hers….but even for as long as I DO have her, it is still a blessing. Especially in situations such as yours, which I also agree feels unfair. My grandma actually lost both her Mom AND Dad when she was a little girl…I don’t remember the age, but I believe she was between 5-7. Her Mom died from kidney disease, so her Dad put the younger kids in an orphanage because there were so many of them, then he died shortly after in a fire. 😦 I never really stopped and thought about this until recently when my grandma died….
    My grandma lost her parents when she was basically a baby, yet she went on to be an amazing Mom to MY Mom as well as a great Grandma.
    So…I guess what I am trying to say is that even though you didn’t get to have your Mom in your life as long as some (which makes me want to give you bunches of hugs!), you can STILL be a great Mom AND a great person. I personally think you are doing an awesome job at the Mom part from what I can see, and you are also a great person! No one is perfect, and being an adult can be confusing and a bit of a downer in itself, so I give you high fives from what you have made of your life and your daughter’s.
    Now that my grandma is gone, I like to think she is now my guardian angel. I don’t know if you believe in that sort of thing, but if you do, just think of your Mom as your angel looking down on you and Abby and smiling right now. 🙂 ~hugs~


    • {Hugs} and thank you!

      Your Grandma sounds like a very special and strong woman . . . my condolences to you, your mom, and the rest of your family.

      And I do believe my mom is looking over us . . . as I am sure your Grandma is looking over you! ❤


  5. *Hugs* Dayle.


  6. Dayle,
    I also do not know the pain you feel. I thankfully still have my parents and cannot imagine the pain of losing them. Losing my grandmother was devastating to me and I’m sure that losing my mother would be worse. I read this letter to your mom and it truly brought me to tears. Sadly I believe the truth is you’ll never find someone that makes you feel as safe and comfortable as your mothers embrace I think it’s something deeply rooted in our make up. However nobody sees you as a lost little 16 year old girl. You have definitely surpassed this little girl you see yourself as and have made the proverbial lemonade from lemons. You’re raising a beautiful intelligent caring little girl who reflects back to the world all the good you have instilled in her. Your mother would be proud of you no doubt about it. Your mother gave you a VERY strong foundation on which to construct your life and you have passed that design onto Abby. You have been a rock for her, a strong female role model to emulate and there is no doubt in my mind nor I’m sure anyone else’s mind that knows you that she will be a solid standup citizen who will continue with the values you gave her and pass them on to her own kids. Your mother is not truly gone she lives inside you and Abby. You two are her legacy and she will live forever. As I stated before nobody can make you feel as secure as you felt in your mothers arms but there are plenty of people here who would offer what they can to make you feel as close to that comfort as possible, myself included. If you ever need someone to talk to, a shoulder to cry on, or just someone to hold your hand and sit in silence for a while I’m there for you and I’m sure I’m not alone. Do not be afraid to reach out for the comfort friends can offer. The only way to make it through this world is solidarity and leaning on others for help. I know that the little voice in the back of your head insists that you must make it on your own steam, and to some point it is right, but depending on friends for emotional and spiritual support is not a crutch and doing so does not rob you of this steam. Nobody who knows you would ever entertain the notion for a millisecond that you’re weak for doing so. As I said everyone needs someone to lean on sometimes. Please reach out to us and let us help you as you have helped us. We all love you Dayle, you are a wonderful woman, mother, and friend. Raising one of the most intelligent, thoughtful, and caring little girls I have ever known. You my dear should be wearing a cape and have a theme song because you are a superhero.

    Love you,



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