When Death Becomes Life: How My Mom’s Death Became Our Life
In honor of Pamela Jean Murphy Nessler – April 19, 1982
When someone dies we are taught to say goodbye, mourn, and move on. This has always confused me, how do you “move on” when someone has been such an integral part of your life. I prefer to think of moving forward.
My entire life I have tried to gather bits and pieces of information on my mother in hopes of learning who she was and what she was like as a person. Through my family and her friends I have been able to paint a picture of the person that she was and who she would be today. I smile when I hear of her adventures and I cry when I am told stories of her sorrows. I am especially touched when I find out that part of journeys were the same and even though we went through them at separate times in separate lives I feel a closeness to her that makes her feel alive for a moment in time.
I wasn’t always able to talk about my mom at my house. It wasn’t something that my stepmother encouraged and it was something that was hard for my father. It was a topic that was understood to be off limits although no one ever said it. When I was a child I didn’t understand why my dad didn’t want to talk about my mom but in aging has come wisdom and now I see that out of sight and out of mind somehow equates to less pain. I have come to learn that death and the loss of a loved one is a very personal experience and each person must deal with the event in his or her own way.
Not speaking about my mother’s death meant I also knew very little about her life and that truthfully I had never dealt with her death. When your mother dies at two years old everyone sort of assumes you don’t need to grieve. They also assume you have no memories. Neither one are true.
Personally, I have a few memories of my mother’s last days. They were of the days she was in hospice, they are splotchy at best but they are all I have. What I can say is that at two you see the world through rose-colored glasses so although my memories of her are of her in hospice and in the last days of her life they are not terrible memories. I remember the excitement of the ride to go see her after four months away, her holding me and saying goodbye, and people smiling as I climbed in her suitcase by her hospital bed to say good-bye, her new robe was light green, and I remember being sad she was going to be with Jesus and we had just been re-united. Across the board they are memories I treasure. How do I remember at the age of two? My family has always wondered but there were no cameras and as I said my mother’s death was something in my younger years we never discussed. I’ve always had a good memory; I consider it God’s gift as it has served me well.
At the age of twenty-two, I finally came to the point where I began to deal with my mom’s death. It took great friends, amazing family, fantastic wine, and time. By the age of twenty-six I was finally at a point where I was able to look at my mom’s death for what it really was and that was a catapult and not an anchor. Let me explain. A catapult propels and an anchor holds you back. All events in our lives have the ability to propel us or hold us back. In my opinion it is more common that we allow what we consider “positive” events to propel us, and “negative” events to anchor us.
I have pledged to find the positive in all situations whether or not I “feel like it” because when your mother loses her life to cancer at twenty-nine and passes four months after her diagnosis you realize that life truly is too short and wasting time is exactly that wasting time. Believe me its not always easy but it is always necessary. The day I began to see my mom’s life and death as a catapult was the day that “we” began to live.
For me I believe people only die if we allow them, while they physically die their spirit can live with us for as long as we allow it to live. For some allowing their loved ones spirit to live is too hard and is not something they can do and still live themselves and for others like me it allows them to truly live. Choosing to live for us both has enhanced my life in many areas.
My mother lost her life at the age of twenty-nine and that is where her journey alone on this earth ended. After dealing with my mother’s death at 26, I decided that I would live my life for my mother and since that day my mother has been my “why”. Her death is what drives me to educate the world about living a wellness lifestyle. My mother did all things considered “healthy”. She ate right, took vitamins, exercised, and was a peaceful fun loving person. But, my mother never had her nervous system assessed; she had never been checked by a chiropractor. My “why” is strong and it is my hope that her death allows others to live. I want to make sure that everyone is given the opportunity to live their life full out and that they and their loved ones are not cut short of all this life has to offer. In my heart, each person I educate takes a little piece of her spirit with them and through their life she too lives.
A small part of my mom’s journey is carried out through those I share my passion with but a huge part of her live through me and with me. At twenty-nine, the age when she passed, I decided that I would live the rest of her life for her. Each time I do something she wasn’t’ able to do, I do it for her, I do it for us. I commemorated this decision on April 19th, 2010 by running the Boston Marathon and re-qualifying with my best time. Since that day I have lived each day for us and that makes each day that much more special.
Death is hard and if we are not careful we anchor to the loss of a loved one and with their death a part of us dies. I have chosen to use my mother’s death as a catapult and have allowed her death to propel me into the life I was meant to live. I have taken it a step farther and have chosen to live for us both by sharing her spirit and story with the world. Through my mother’s death I have chosen to live and will continue to allow her spirit to live.
Love. Laugh. Adjust.
Dr. Martha Nessler, Innate Girl