I spend my days pretending to be normal. I act as if the pain in my gut is not there and that I can go through my days with a lack of conscious effort just like every other mother. It is, however, a pretense. I am a sham, a shell, an empty vessel and an ocean of pain. I am struck through the heart.
I am the nightmare that mothers tease themselves with. I am the toothache that you suck on to see if it could possibly hurt more. I am the mother who remains a social aberration and so much an oddity that you cannot even give me a title.
My child is dead. She died of natural causes, her body beaten repeatedly by radiation and chemotherapy and side effects that reached out their ugly tentacles years later. My daughter Sara, like the Celtic warrior princess that she was, fought tooth and nail - never even considering for once that going gently into the night was an option.
Mothers hear of my loss and imagine my pain. They keen quietly and at night shiver with the horror of me. My loss is their darkest place. They will poke at it and then beat a hasty retreat because in examination lies the superstition of cause.
People think that I am brave and stoic but what I am is lost and crushed with the pain and grief that the loss of my best friend and beloved daughter has brought to my doorstep. People assign sainthood to my behaviour but they do not know that a sound or a smell can drop me to my knees without the solace of prayer and that continuing to wake up in the morning is the only saintliness I possess.
I carry stones in my pockets so that if an experience or a place strikes me as something she should have seen or felt I lay a pebble. These pebbles are the cairn that she should have had. It is her birthright and her hard won victory for so many years spent in battle as a warrior. Each pebble allows me to stand a little straighter. Each pebble allows me to acknowledge that my child is dead but her death was a proud and terrible end to a courageous fight.
People wonder how I can walk alone without my daughter. I can because I have no choice. I cannot be a coward in the face of all she managed to live through. The noblest death for a Celtic warrior was a death in battle. I will celebrate her life and death until I have to lay down my stones because, at the end of my life, the burden of my struggle has become too heavy.
I name myself.
If she is a warrior then I am a warrior mother.
For the YMC Voices of Motherhood 2015 contest, we asked mothers from all over Canada to submit their story based on the theme “Stages of Motherhood: Past, Present, or Future.”
We received over 100 thought provoking stories that made us laugh, cry, and nod our heads in agreement. Our judges had their work cut out for them to narrow it down to the Top 10.