On This Day...

It was three years ago today that my mom lost her fight for her life.  There are days still that it seems like it has been so much longer than three years because she is not here with us any longer, and there are times when the images in my mind are so clear that it appears as if she should still be with us.

It saddens me in either way to know the pain with which she suffered in the end, and to know it was not very different from the pain which she suffered for so much of her life, both physically and, more so, emotionally.  Her physical sufferings with breast cancer and then hospitalizations in the years which followed from the radical treatments of irradiation she was administered back in 1970 were omnipresent in hers and our lives.  Doctors noted often that she was a true survivor and ultimately commented, in later years, that she was among the few who had survived so long with such radical treatments.  She had difficulty in conceiving and underwent surgeries to be able to have me.  She took copious amounts of estrogen in the form of DES prenatally to ensure fertility (and my more likely outcome as a feminine male).

Emotionally, life was difficult for her as she had been in an abusive first marriage, having bore my sister through that relation.  When that marriage ended, she remarried to my father but was scorned by my father's mother and relatives for having had a child from a previous marriage.  My father was in the middle of all of this, torn to pleasing his mother and torn by the love he held for his wife.  And my mom felt the brunt of the jeers and jabs from this.  For years, my sister used a different last name, that of her legal father, for she could not be adopted legally while he was alive.  In essence, my mother disappeared without a trace and no contact was ever established between my mother and sister with him ever again for fear of the physical violence and outcome which would have ensued.  And so I never knew my sister was not the offspring of my father and was never given a truly believable reason as to why she held a different last name until it was many decades later.  My sister swore that secrecy as well, not wanting to be dealt the ramifications of that information being made known.

My mother's marriage to my father was better than it was had been with her first husband.  My dad did love and care truly for my mom, but he also had a temper and became physically oppressive when provoked.  For that, my mother walked about on eggshells for the most part of her life, ensuring that all his needs, those of the house, the finances and of my own needs were met.  My sister, with a 13 year difference in ages, moved out by the time I was 5.  I was basically an only child from then on and stayed quietly in my world of play for many, many years for fear to provoke my father's anger.  Far be it for me to denounce my dad entirely for he was an excellent provider, a master of finance and of savings and a loyal husband who never wandered nor cheated.  My mother took these positives in light of what she did have in her previous marriage and balanced it out with the gift of her life, who she felt was me.

My mother and I used to take day trips together while my dad was at work.  Sometimes a bus or subway ride to go get pizza for lunch at a Papa Gino's, or a train ride to the seacoast resort town of Rockport to go get an ice cream.  These are all memories I shared with her and which will never be forgotten.  Still, today, I can not pass by a place where I spent a day, an hour or even a moment with her, and not remember, or to shed a tear.

I helped her at home with the cooking and baking.  I helped her to lay out patterns for dresses, chalking the fabric and cutting.  She let me learn how to sew those dresses on her sewing machine....those which I secretly wanted to wear but, at such an early age of 10 or 11, did not freely express to her.  She helped me with proof-reading all of my assignments for school and helped me type them up.  She encouraged me in school and in all my endeavors.  She showed interest in my widely varied hobbies and my travels.  She LIVED through me.  I was her window to what could have been in her own life but which she sacrificed to temper the often turbulent home world in which I grew up so that I may find peace in this world and to excel.  I never forgot this.  I would not be where I am today, sitting here typing this, had it not been for her.

I am so sad she is gone.  I can't even finish typing this without stopping for the emotion.  I deal with it, like I deal with everything I have always dealt with throughout my life growing up and when under stress.  I was the class clown from an early age, the jokester, the comedienne.  The more serious life became, the more I found escape into this comedic realm to hide within.  That outward shell has always tried to hide that which can be hurt within and for the most part it works, although not everyone may have known this or understood it of me.  My writings, when I am serious, often fly in the face of what the comedic and jovial Christen appears to be on the exterior.  Inside there is a world of difficult and dark memories all bundled up with the positive memories held with my mom.  The dark memories come back only when I allow that inner wall down.  I don't cry tears for the loss of my mom for her passing, I cry tears for the pain she had to endure in living the life she was handed and in her abilities to withstand that sacrifice of her own life, her own dreams, her own independence for the sake of me.  I only hope that I did make her as proud as she said I did, because she meant the world to me, and she often told me she felt the same.  I was the one who saw her take her last breath and to feel her pulse slowly fading to an empty stillness.  Collapsing to the floor in tears, my only thoughts were of her finally having some peace in her life and knowing that at least there had been some meaning to her life through what she shared deeply with me.   That gift will never be forgotten until I take my very own last breath, and then still, God willing, it will continue to carry it on eternally.


  1. I beautifully written and warm remembrance to the person whom helped to mold into a beautiful person in their own right.

  2. That is such a beautiful tribute Christen. A devoted mother's love is often colored with pain, and sorrow, and sacrifice, and joy. The entirety of the collage is a portrait of beauty wrapped in love. Not a plastic love, but one that endures and flourishes in her children. I am sorry for your loss and the pain of remembering the trials your brother endured. She endured them out of love fore others. As I consider my own loving mother, it brings peace to see her in the arms of the author of all Love.


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