Written by Lesley Chacha
Grief is a funny feeling; you can never control it. It comes and leaves when it wants to. All you can do is muster the courage to withstand it. But grief isn’t something to be simply tolerated until it leaves. You have to lay yourself bare, fully immerse yourself in the process if you want to come out at the end of it just a little bit whole.
“She loved novels. She loved reading.”
“She always wanted to cook.”
“You were named after one of her closest friends.”
“She had great taste in music. You take that from her.”
“You look just like her. You are a perfect photocopy of her.”
“You have her heart.”
Everyone always told me stories about my mum. Stories that at times I wish I never knew, stories that were just that, mere stories. Not painful or sad memories. Can I even call them memories when I had no part in making them? At least with memories, I could choose to focus on happier ones. What am I supposed to do with stories?
At the same time, I cherish the little tidbits being offered now and then, but the fact that I never got to know her pains me. How can I say I miss her when I have no memories of her? How can I say I love her when I never got to know her? At times, I wish they would stop telling me those stories because it just reminds me of the experiences I lack. It is a painful reminder that I will never get to experience them because she is no longer here. They say I have to keep her memory alive, but what memory?
All I have to do is accept that she is gone, and that life is for the living. And I try, I try to brave through each day, and not get stuck in the past. In a past that I have no idea existed. I get to live off scraps from other people’s stories. Because six-year-olds don’t remember anything.
“You have her laugh.”
“She was an empath, just like you.”
“She loved baking.”
“She loved showing you off to her friends.”
“She would’ve been proud of you.”
What if she isn’t? What if she wouldn’t have been? What of me? Would I be proud of her? I have so many questions that I will never get the answers to. Not until I die and hope to meet her somewhere.
See, losing a mother at such a young age has its toll on the unfortunate child. Social skills? Out the window. Love? Both expressing and receiving it? A hassle at best. The child grows to be resentful towards the world, and more often than not, seeks validation from others to fill in the void her mother left. To say she’ll need courage to navigate her life would be an understatement.
I felt robbed, and for a while, I had all this pent-up anger towards the world. Towards death in particular. At first, death scared me, but recently, I began welcoming the thought of death. Of getting to see my mother again. Of getting to make afterlife memories with her, of seeing her smile and comparing it with mine. I yearn to hear her say, “I am proud of you.” Hearing her say that to my ghost face, I imagine, will be so much better than me having to tell myself that. Of just talking about books with her, and her favourite artists, not just being told ‘she liked this, she liked that’. I want her to tell me herself.
But I am slowly gaining the courage to pick myself up after breaking down. Breaking down not because of a cheating partner, or work issues, but rather after seeing a son hugged by his mother after school. I didn’t get to have that. Or knowing that I’ll never say “I love you mum”, or “Mum, look what I made today”, or “Mum, how was your day?”.
I have learnt, and I feel like I’m still learning, to accept that she is gone and to live with it. I’m also mustering the willpower to look at a happy mother and daughter and not be jealous of what they have. I am trying to have the spine not to lock myself in my room and cry every time I think of her. It hurts, it has always hurt, and probably will always hurt, but I will always strive to grow around the pain. And maybe one day, stop being selfish and visit her friends and enjoy their shared memory – as much as I lost a mother, somebody lost a best friend in her. Someone lost a sister in her too.
I'm getting stronger day by day from the thought that if she were here, we’d be great friends. That if she were here, we’d have fun cooking together. That we’d exchange novels every month and form our book club. I’m clinging onto hope of a non-existent future, but better that than thinking of all the things she has missed. I’m building up the nerve to move on with my life without her. I’m not there yet, but I will be. Regardless of what the world throws in my way.
“You would have loved her.”
Yes, I know. Yes. I would have. I hope one day I get to.
Lesley Chacha is a young writer who believes in seeing the world through the old-school lens – words written on paper. In as much as we see the beauty of life, the art of writing unlocks new levels of grandeur. Some of Lesley's previous works can be found on his website.