In September of 2012, my mom died. I was 15 years old, and I cannot begin to describe how hard it is to lose someone who means so much when you still have so much life ahead of you. In the days and weeks following her death, I became painfully aware of one thing: I’m never going to wake up and have a mom again. Ever. At 15 years old, that’s a pretty bleak thing to have to look forward to every single day. It’s been five years, and I’m still devastated, I’m still confused, I’m still angry. My mom never saw me turn 16, she never saw me get my driver’s license, she never saw me go to prom,  she never met my first serious boyfriend, she never saw me graduate high school, she never saw me get into Yale, she never saw me leave for college. She will never see me graduate from college, she’ll never see me get my first “real” job, she’ll never see me get married, she’ll never meet my children. My mom has missed so much already and she’s going to miss everything else.

Most people don’t ask me what’s it like, which I’m grateful for because I don’t think I can answer that question. I just know that personally, losing my mom felt like the worst possible thing that could have happened to me. I was very close to my mom, and some people don’t really understand what that means. My mom was my best friend. I told her everything, and I rarely went a day without talking to her. Most days, I called her on my way home from school, despite the fact that I would walk into the apartment in fifteen minutes and see her. So, for me, losing my mom was like losing a huge part of myself. Something is always missing and nothing or no one can ever fill that empty space. Every day, I have the urge to tell her something, but I can’t. I can call Linda, I can talk to my friends, I can close my eyes and pretend I’m talking to her, but I still feel like I have this weight on my chest that I just can’t get rid of.

I’ve been thinking about her a lot lately. I always do when fall rolls around. September-December is a particularly rough time for me. The beginning of September brings the anniversary of her death. Her birthday comes on November 1st, then there’s Thanksgiving, which hasn’t felt like a real holiday since she died. Then my birthday arrives in December and I want to enjoy it, but there always comes a moment in the day when I remember that this is yet another birthday she is missing, and I am continuing to get older without her here to see it. Christmas is much like Thanksgiving, a family holiday that doesn’t feel real because my family doesn’t really feel like a whole family without her. That first fall/winter without her was awful, and it’s gotten better each year since, but the truth is that I still feel like an old wound is being ripped open every year.

I keep thinking that one day, I’m going to wake up and be 30 years old, and I will have lived half of my life without my mama. And then more years will pass, and eventually I will have lived the majority of my life without her. I’ve already lived a fourth of my life without her. And that’s just not fair. I spend a lot of time (probably too much) thinking about how my life would be different if she had never died. Sometimes I think I probably wouldn’t be at Yale; I would’ve missed out on a lot of amazing experiences that I was able to have just because I’m here and I would have never met my friends, some of the best people I know. I would have never wasted so much time being angry at my dad. Maybe I wouldn’t struggle with depression. Maybe I would. I don’t know. Usually, I try to look at all the things I do have, and not all the things I don’t. And I’m usually able to look at my life and realize that all the things I’ve been through have made me a stronger, better person, and have led me to all the good things I have now. Most days, I feel lucky. But some days, I’m not that strong. Some days, I would give up anything to be able to curl up in the bed with my mama, or to sit on the back porch and tell her all the mundane details about my day, or to just listen to her sing one of those old country songs she loved so much.

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