Life is filled with defining moments.
Everything from small, seemingly inconsequential experiences to large life changing events.
It could be something as trivial as shaking someone's hand or reading a new book or even trying a new food that leads you down a path you didn't anticipate or expect.
Or it could something monumental like finding true love, having a baby or the death of a loved one.
Defining moments don't determine who we are as people, but they do create chapters in our lives. And if you're so inclined, you can go back and reread these chapters, but they're never quote the same as when they are being written.
Growing up, my life was filled with "defining moments".
When I was a kid, my mom gave me a brand new set of finger paints and told me it was ok to paint on the walls. That was a defining moment.
She taught me that creativity took all kinds of forms and that expression should never be hindered by something as silly as a lack of canvas.
No matter what the medium or media.
One of the first swimming lessons I ever had was when my mom pushed me off of a fishing dock and into the water.
She, of course, immediately jumped in right after me…but her point was, nothing is ever as scary as it seems and there's no better way to tackle a problem, then head on.
Again, another defining moment.
Although my mom wasn't what I would call "fearless", she was adventurous…in her own way.
And there are hundreds of little examples that I could share that helped form my "Carpe Diem" outlook.
Do I always "Live Each Day As If It Were My Last"?
No. Not always. But I could never be accused of not trying.
And that's because my mother filled my life with her version of "seize the day" moments.
And that continued until the day she died.
But that chapter is over.
I'm 41 years old now.
I've been married for over 10 years. I have no kids nor do I want any.
I think it's safe to say that there are no more "defining moments" left to be had.
Oh sure, there will be stand out moments. Possibly even enduring moments.
But nothing defining.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not throwing myself a little pity party over here. It's just a fact. I think you get to a particular stage in your life and certain things just sort of fade away into the distance.
I think it's what becomes the basis for nostalgia. That wistful affection for the past.
The problem I have, is that my life is now defined by one solitary moment.
The day my mom died.
And every event, past, present and future, falls into one of two categories now.
"Things That Happened When My Mom Was Alive" and "Things That Happened When She Wasn't".
I know that sounds sad and probably more then a little bleak. But it's exactly how I feel.
Every morning that I have woken up since February 1st, has been cold and empty.
Every night has been bitter and lonely.
When I think about things that happened while I was growing up, the nostalgia is gone.
Those fond memories have been replaced with sadness and grief.
I don't smile when I look at the walls I once painted on.
I don't care about "Seizing the Day" because who is there to seize it for?
I know that in the real world, its been over 6 months since she died and I should stop whining and get on with my life already. Right?
I mean, come on…how long am I going to milk this?
But the real world isn't something I really relate to anymore.
The real world is where my mother is buried in a box in the ground.
The real world is where I never get to see her face or hear her voice again.
The real world is where I have to deal with a cold and unfeeling real estate agent trying to feed me low-ball offers on her house and where her vulture ex-neighbors can't pick over her corpse fast enough.
Calling me at home, asking me for her stuff…since, you know, she won't be using it anymore.
Why would the real world be a place I would ever want to acknowledge or accept?
My mom is gone and from here on out, every moment is one I have to spend without her.
And every moment without her is one that feels incomplete.
Like a puzzle missing several important pieces.
That's how I feel.
Again, I'm not trying to be overly dramatic or feel bad about myself.
These are heavy emotions, but they're also facts.
Someone once told me that the price we pay for having a loved one is the grief we feel if and when we lose them.
…ok, I get it…seems like an even trade off.
It's that whole "It's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all" adage.
Except that there's an even bigger, more powerful axiom.
Admittedly it's no less of a cliché, but this one carries the unrelenting weight of regret in its wake.
"You don't know what you've got until it's gone".
I can't think of a more accurate statement then that one.
Except maybe "If I knew then, what I know now".
I always knew that one day, my mom wouldn't be around.
I knew it, but I didn't understand it.
If I understood it…I mean really understood the gravity of what life would be like without her…what would happen….I would have been better able to recognize all of those defining moments.
I would have been able to see them for what they were.
I could have taken stock of who I am and how much of that came from her.
I would have appreciated it more.
I could have acknowledged it more.
I could have gone to her house, walked in the front door, given her a hug and thanked her.
For absolutely everything.
But I can't.
All I can do is sit here and think about what I should have done….what could have been.
All I can do is type the words "Thank You Mom" and hope that in some small way, she can see it.
...and I do hope
Thank you mom