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15 Years of Not Having a Mother

Dear Mom,

Today marks 15 years since you’ve been gone. I’m devastated by that number. I can hardly bear to think about how many millions of times my cells have recycled since I last saw you. Can hardly bear to conceive of all the ways I’ve changed and grown since you knew me, your daughter.

When you last saw me I was only 18 years old, and I was a mess. Barely into my freshman year of college in Vermont with a shaved head and a nose ring, a false sense of bravado and a whole lot of confusion about who I thought I was.

All these years and years later I’m sitting at the dining room table of my little house in Santa Monica. I am 33 years old. I am a wife and a mother. I am pregnant with my second child. I am on the cusp of being a published author.

And I am crying because I can’t believe I have made it all these years without you.

My own daughter is two and a half now, and I can’t fathom what it would be like for her to lose me. I am the center of her universe. Every game she plays, every story she imagines, every situation she considers, revolves around a child and its mother. A stark and constant reminder of why it has been so hard to have you absent in my life all these years.

Mom, I don’t know where you are. I’ve been searching for you more than ever before though. Can you see me? Will we meet again? These are questions I toy with over and over, in the early morning hours as I lay awake, unable to fall asleep after Vera has been up. I know that I believe in our irrepressible connection more than ever before. I know that nothing could ever truly separate me from my daughter. Not years. Not physical distance. Not silence or confusion or pain or anything, anything this earth might put in our way.

I know that you know me, 15 years later, jobs and moves and boyfriends and marriages and births and books later, you still know me. Just as I will always know her. She is of me, as I am of you. Nothing, no matter how bleak, will ever change that.

This I know.

But knowing that doesn’t stop the pain. It doesn’t stop me from digging little half moons into my palms with my fingernails right now. Doesn’t stop the tears from spilling over. Doesn’t stop the slight pause behind everything I do.

Know too that I wouldn’t have it any other way, and that I know you wouldn’t either.

I miss you so much, mom. I wish you were here. I wish you were here for me to crawl into and that you could take care of me again like I was a little girl. So much time has passed without you and I’ve worked so, so hard to keep it together. To become a woman and do things with my life. But sometimes none of it seems to mean anything because you aren’t here to see it.

I feel sadder than usual today, mom. Sometimes these anniversaries aren’t so hard. Other times they’re like this. They’re a day when all I want is you. Just you. To come back to me.

I get so tired of trying so hard. Tired of being this girl without a mother. And some part of me never stops believing that it won’t always be this way.

Your only daughter,
Claire

30 Comments

  1. My daughter sent me the link to your blog and I’m so glad she did. When you speak of wanting to be taken care of again, you must remember that nothing can separate you and your mom while you still hold that sacred relationship in your heart. You do your mom a great honor with your words. What better tribute from a daughter than the one you’ve given. She would be so proud! Thank you for sharing.

    Comment by Lori on January 24, 2012 at 1:39 pm

  2. Beautiful post. I discovered your blog a few years ago as I struggled to make sense why my own mother was gone way too soon. I have been a “motherless daughter” for 21 years and miss her terribly. She never really got to know me as an adult and I often wonder how I would have turned out if she was still around. I am so looking forward to reading your book and have placed my pre-order! Best of luck to you as you embark on yet another wonder chapter of your life!

    Comment by Karen on January 24, 2012 at 3:10 pm

  3. Love you, darling Claire….:)

    Comment by Francesca on January 24, 2012 at 3:40 pm

  4. Oh Claire, I can’t even imagine what this anniversary means to you, but I feel it through your words and I look at that picture — of someone I never even knew — and it’s hard even for me to believe she’s no longer here. I agree with your other commenters about how much you honor her — and yourself — with your writing.

    Comment by Lisa Lilienthal on January 24, 2012 at 3:45 pm

  5. My heart breaks a bit reading your words, so beautifully written. I’ll hold them with me and keep you in my thoughts. Sending love and compassion from Boston.

    Comment by Annie on January 24, 2012 at 4:48 pm

  6. No matter how long you have been a motherless daughter, it really never gets better. Sometimes you forget. Sometimes it is harder. I am at 38 years and could have really used her this year, but I am probably a stronger person because of it.

    Comment by sarah on January 24, 2012 at 8:11 pm

  7. My heart breaks reading this and I admit I teared up big time!! ((hugs)) to you on this day and know that she is with you always through everything you do.

    Comment by Vanessa on January 24, 2012 at 9:41 pm

  8. I think you’re right she knows.
    Many hugs to you, dear girl.

    Comment by Carroll on January 25, 2012 at 12:07 am

  9. Such beautiful and sad words.With tears in my eyes I am thinking of you Claire. Love to you on this difficult day.

    Comment by Wendy on January 25, 2012 at 9:36 am

  10. You word it just as it feels, and in this moment my heart is with you.

    Comment by Lyssa on January 25, 2012 at 1:49 pm

  11. Thank you so much for writing this piece. Monday will be the first Anniverisary of my Mom’s Passing and this said it all for me. Be in Peace, Claire, you are a special person, but most importantly a wonderful daughter. You Mom would be so, so proud.

    Think you you today.

    Comment by Jan on January 26, 2012 at 6:07 am

  12. Aw, glad it spoke to you Jan. I’m sorry about your mom.

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on January 26, 2012 at 9:42 am

  13. Thanks, Lyssa. I know you know how it feels.

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on January 26, 2012 at 9:43 am

  14. Thanks so much, Wendy!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on January 26, 2012 at 9:43 am

  15. Thanks, Carroll!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on January 26, 2012 at 9:43 am

  16. Aw, thanks Vanessa! My heart was breaking writing it!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on January 26, 2012 at 9:44 am

  17. Sarah, you’re right about being a stronger person. I’m amazed when I think about who I am because of this loss.

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on January 26, 2012 at 9:44 am

  18. Thank you so much, Annie!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on January 26, 2012 at 9:47 am

  19. Oh, thanks Lisa! That’s so nice of you to say.

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on January 26, 2012 at 9:47 am

  20. Love you too, Fran!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on January 26, 2012 at 9:47 am

  21. Oh thanks, Karen. Yes, the motherless daughters club. Who would we be now if our mothers were still around? I can hardly fathom. I’m sorry about your mom, Karen.

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on January 26, 2012 at 9:49 am

  22. Thank you, Lori! Good things to remember.

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on January 26, 2012 at 9:49 am

  23. Claire — what a moving tribute to your mother. Thank you for posting it.

    I am wondering if you know about the letter from John Steinbeck to his son (URL below). It is clearly about romantic love, but I think some of the sentiments apply universally to any loving relationship. I especially thought of the closing words as I was reading your post: “And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens — The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.”

    Your mother’s love endures even after losing her, because it is good.

    Thanks for the beauty of your blog.

    Here’s the URL to the Steinbeck letter. (Sorry–I don’t know how to make a live link…)
    http://www.howaboutwe.com/date-report/2334-john-steinbeck-on-love-don-t-worry-about-losing-if-it-s-right-it-happens#

    Comment by Kirsten on January 27, 2012 at 2:05 pm

  24. This was a beautiful blog post. I can’t imagine losing my mother, but if I did, I hope I’d have the grace and the guts to write something like this.

    Comment by Lauren on January 27, 2012 at 5:52 pm

  25. Thanks for saying so, Lauren!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on January 28, 2012 at 7:33 am

  26. Wow, Kirsten, thank you for sharing this letter. What an amazing collection of words and sentences. I loved this. Thank you.

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on January 28, 2012 at 7:34 am

  27. Just gorgeous.

    Comment by Rita Arens on February 21, 2012 at 9:03 am

  28. Thank you, Rita!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on February 23, 2012 at 2:47 pm

  29. Claire, I know every word in this letter, thank you for sharing.

    Comment by Angela on June 2, 2012 at 6:09 pm

  30. You’re welcome, Angela! Glad it resonated!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on June 3, 2012 at 10:36 am

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