Alexis Bourque-Lally stops by the front porch for an installment of our Summer Blogs segment. Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy this poignant memoir about her mother.
“Honor Thy Mother”
“Love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark. To have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever. “
On the morning of November 22nd in 2015, I woke up early. Earlier than I had my entire life, without someone having woken me up. I showered, got dressed, and did my make-up, even though I knew that it would smear off anyways once I began crying. I did it because I knew it is what my mom would have done. She was strong like that. I sat down with a pen and a paper and stared at it for around two hours to write down what I would share with everyone at the funeral. Nothing. How could I still have nothing to say? It was in that moment that a ping from my phone let me know that I had a message. “Oh great, more condolences and stupid words from people who have not a clue what I feel,” I said to myself as I rolled my eyes. I opened the Facebook messenger app to see a message from a cousin of mine, Sonya. As I opened the message and began to read, tears came to my eyes.
“Alexis, I have been following the family page and your page, and I now know about the difficult decision that had to be made. I can’t imagine how difficult this is for you. You may be numb now, so I hesitated to reach out to you just yet. But for now, let me just say: I know we don’t know each other well, and when I was close with your mom, you weren’t born yet. I won’t search for the “right” things to say about her. What I will say is this: I have noticed for quite some time that among our family, you are special. You have a deeper understanding of love and of the world than most, especially for your age. I don’t have to know the relationship you had with your mom to know how proud she must have been to have you as a daughter. I am the mother of a daughter, and I know the special bond that moms and daughters share. I know the love of a mother, and now that you are a mother, I know you understand it too.”
In that moment, I felt peace. Instead of feeling numb and pushing the pain back like I had been doing for the last week, I let it flood me. Thankfully Brandon and my son were still asleep. I cried, screamed, and cursed everyone, God included. But when I was done, I realized something. My mother was still with me. She is a part of who I am. I am like her in the way my eyes shine green when the sunlight hits them, in the way that I nurture and love my own children. I am like her in the way that I write when I am sad and sing at the top of my lungs when I am happy. She taught me how to make sure my smile always reaches my ears, because there is never a reason to frown so much, and how to always keep my faith in God, even if I do not understand him. In that moment, I realized that my grief was never going away. It was a part of who I am now. I realized that instead of fighting it or letting it consume me, I could let it coexist within me.
My mother was an alcoholic since she was 15 years old, if the stories told about her childhood prove to be true. She was not a bad mother, nor was she a bad person. She raised her kids and raised them well. We’ve all turned out just fine, never suffering neglect or abuse, and are all relatively successful. But, being an alcoholic from the time you are 15 until you are 44 will have some long-term health effects. My mother suffered from a disease known as cirrhosis of the liver. Her cirrhosis was amplified by Hepatitis, which was contracted from a contaminated wound-vac she had received after having a surgery on a perforated ulcer. Combine that with the lack of coordination a person has when they are intoxicated and there are a multitude of things that can go wrong. She fell down a lot, suffering two broken hips, which often left her bed-ridden. Since she stayed in bed a lot when her health was not what it should be, bed sores would break out all over her body. In the end, it wasn’t her cirrhosis, her hepatitis, or a nasty fall that caused her organs to shut down, leaving her in a coma on life support. It was MRSA, a staph infection on steroids that she contracted through one of her bed sores, that took my mother from this earth.
I still have days where I am mad at the entire world, especially people who can call their mother. I am still sad that my mom missed so many events just in the two short years she has been gone. Some days, I still do not want to leave my bed, much less my house. When I feel this way, I close my eyes and I see her face smiling at me. It serves as a reminder that my grief is not who I am. It is a part of me, but it is not me, and it never has to be me. Instead, I lift my head, smile a little bigger, and chase my dreams. I laugh when I am happy, I cry when I am sad, and I honor my mother by trying my best to be a better me every single day.
That is the mark she has left on me.