Today I am older than my mother. What does this mean? Did I win?
Next month it will be 25 years since she passed away. According to my calculations, she was 44 years and 137 days old. As our birthdays are about a month apart – mine is 6 March and hers is 5 April – that means I’ve outlasted her lifetime. I think. I think that’s what I’m trying to say.
When you are 19, a 44-year old person seems quite old. When you are 44, it doesn’t seem so old so much. Of course, I knew at the age of 19 that my mother’s death was very premature. Mum was already a pretty young mum compared to the mothers of most of my friends. And most of my friends’ mothers were still very much alive and kicking. Most of them still are now.
According to the literature about parental loss, overtaking the age of a dead parent is a fairly significant milestone for people, particularly if they lost them at a young age. You could say it’s something I’ve been working towards since Mum died.
I remember asking my brother a few years ago what it was like to overtake her in age and he agreed it was ‘a bit weird’.
I guess it’s a little more meaningful for me at the moment given that I have been told I have a terminal illness and the prospect of dying is something quite real in my future. But we’re all going to die some day. We don’t know when. I’m pretty sure Mum didn’t think she was about to die when she did. At least I’ve got time to prepare myself.
When I was initially diagnosed two years ago, I did wonder if this was it. Was there some weird symmetry to our lives that would mean that I might also check out at the age of 44? Maybe that’s all I get too? There’s nothing like feeling like you’re living on borrowed time (yes, eat all the desserts). I’ve out-survived her though. Does that mean I owe it to her to not waste another day, another hour? Have I just managed to reach a bonus level in the game of life?
What would Mum have done if she had been given more time? Even if it was just a few weeks, months or a year? That’s a question I’ve given a lot of thought to since I got the Stage 4 diagnosis last year. It definitely helped me make the decision to quit my job and relocate back to Queensland to be closer to family and friends.
I believe she would have wanted to spend as much time as she could with her family and friends. She would have hopefully stopped being a workaholic and stepped away from work. She would have wanted to travel and create great memories and life experiences. She would have finally, after years of depriving herself, over-indulged and not skipped dessert.
My mother’s death is an important part of my life and who I am as a person. In some ways it defines me and helps explain me. Given the significance of this, and the potential insight it can give you into who I am, I’ve split my feelings on this into three posts. Two more to come. Thank you in advance for my over-indulgence.