January marked 25 years since I lost my mom. She passed away in 1994 when my sister and I were still teenagers and her passing left a big hole in our lives — and we both think of her every single day.
Losing her became a defining part of my identity. We had lost our father four years previously in 1989 so I have now spent the majority of my life without them. During my 20s and into my 30s it was something that came up often as when meeting people, most people automatically asked about your family.
So it never took long to come to it and to have to tell people that both of my parents had passed away. For the most part I would say ‘yes, it was tough losing them both and losing them so young’ and when people asked me how did I carry on; I would say I had to. But I never really spoke in great detail about who they were and what they were like as people and as parents.
However when I became a mom a lot of that changed. We named our daughter after my mother — Joan — and because it is not that common anymore, whenever anyone asked me about Joan’s name it gave me the opportunity to talk about the woman she is named after.
And this has been so lovely for me. Whenever Joan is being hilarious and goofy I get to tell a story about how my mom was silly and made jokes all the time and how she was the favourite mom amongst my friends because she would just have fun with us.
I get to say things like: “See that dimple in Joan’s chin, Mom had the exact same one.” Whenever Joan is tormenting me with her stubbornness I get flashbacks of my mom looking up high into my dad’s eyes with that look that said: “I’m not budging on this.” My daughter’s determination, kindness, sympathy she shows to others and gentleness all came from Joan senior.
Another wonderful, but fairly complex, thing that has happened since becoming a mother myself is I can now fully see and appreciate my mother’s point of view. Sadly because we lost her when we were in the throes of teenage angst and mis-understanding, coupled with the two of us being very (very) similar, it meant there were a lot of frustrating and hurtful moments for both of us.
But I honestly feel now that if she were still alive we would have made a terrific grandmother-daughter-granddaughter team. I would be able to tell her I now understand where she was coming from as a mother.
I understand her challenges and her rewards. I know first-hand how tough it is to reason with a very verbal and strong-willed little girl and importantly I now fully appreciate how you just lose your temper every once in a while.
I know that pride when your child learns new things or you see them being so kind to another person. I know now the all-encompassing warmth you feel when you hold them in your arms, the absolute high you get sharing a laugh with your daughter and the buzz you get when you play a mutual joke on Dad.
Everyday I wish I could share things with her and tell her about Joan losing a tooth or passing her swim class. I wish she was at school plays and on pitch sides. I wish Joan could open birthday presents from her and hug her.
I think about all these ‘missed moments’ but I also get great comfort in knowing that I would have been able to turn to her no matter what and she would have done anything for us. And most importantly I know with absolute certainty she would have loved her namesake more than anything in the world.