Mother and Child

Submitted into Contest #206 in response to: Write about someone facing their greatest fear.... view prompt


Creative Nonfiction Sad

I saw her gently laid to rest on one of the hottest days in June that year. The year she would’ve turned 59. An orchestra of locusts and their songs filling the cloudless southern sky.

I imagined it was a farewell to her, that they were wishing her all the best and letting me know she was okay. She always loved the Summer season the most.  

Scanning everyone’s faces, I noticed parts of their expressions missing now. As if, she took pieces of them with her. Tears rolled out of their swollen eyes and down their red tissue battered cheeks.

Even though I had lost many before her, the little girl inside could not accept that this was really happening.  

What will I do now that I can’t call and get that old recipe from her? Who will I run to when the world is against me?

Who will accept me with open arms no matter how many times I stray? Where will I find the same kind of warmth in a hug now? 

None of the words the preacher was speaking made any sounds coming out of his mouth. I couldn’t hear the comfort I so desperately needed from him. Am I being punished?

I thought I felt people touching my shoulders and whispering in my ears, but I never felt them or heard them. I sat there in body, but my spirit didn’t seem to be there.

It was in that wooden box with the satin lining. With her. It was weeping deafeningly, but no one could hear it but me. 

These emotions were foreign to me. I didn’t want to be touched. I didn’t want to be talked to. I didn’t want to be comforted. But at the same time, I did.

No one would be able to make me feel better except her, and she was gone now. And she was never coming back. 

It seemed odd to me that a person’s life, no matter the age, can be wrapped up and packed away in just a matter of a couple hours on a hot day in June. This frustrated me and left me feeling hollow inside with an emptiness that I knew could never be filled.  

We had drifted apart on and off over the past thirty years of our lives. We hadn't spoke for the last three. I never understood how much my resentment towards her had hurt her until she was gone.

And that a lot of the choices she made in and about her life had nothing to do with me at all. I couldn’t forgive her. I judged her. I hated her. I loved her. I missed her.

So many thoughts assaulted my mind and soul while sitting there staring at that wooden box with my Mother inside. 

While growing up I was always afraid I would end up being like her. Even as a small child I don’t remember being really close to her. She moved away when I was ten and left everything behind. Including me.

I never understood her. I thought since I chose not to go with her, she would maybe stay. She didn’t. 

She was impulsive. She could be cold. She was hurtful because she was broken. 

My young mind couldn’t even comprehend what she was going through at that time, so I instinctively thought it was all because of me. I internalized all of that for so many years.

Not that I could do anything about it at such a young age, but I didn’t know where else to put my anger and pain other than onto her. And I kept piling it on her for the next thirty years.  

That is something I can never take back. Something I will always and forever be sorry for. The guilt and the regret hung on me under the punishing Sun, like a heavy coat that I would never be able to take off.

I deserved it, I thought. The forgiveness that I kept from her, was now the forgiveness from her that I would never receive.  

I realized in my mess of thoughts, that there was a lot more to her than I ever gave her enough credit for. She was also kind. She was generous. She was compassionate. She was funny. She was genuine. She was the glue that held our dysfunctional family together. 

I stood there focused on the hole in the ground, dark and wanting underneath her as the rest of the family shuffled towards their vehicles. I felt numb, but I couldn’t leave her. Not this time.

Now my fear was not of becoming her, it was being without her. 

As the chairs were folded and the awning taken down, I stood motionless in the uncut sharp grass, my back soaked with sweat from the 100-degree day.

The men from the funeral home asked me if I wanted to leave. I didn’t answer. I only shook my head lazily from side to side. I felt like a shadow, unfeeling and black. But inside, my heart would receive a break unlike any other before. One that would never heal to make me whole again. 

When the flowers started to be taken off the top of her eternal bed, that’s when it started to really sink in. The arguments we had came flooding back to my mind, a movie reel of sorts that I couldn’t control or stop.

Then the good moments we had shared came flooding in, as well. I understood in that instant, that was it. That was all. There would be no more laughter and no more tears between she and I. It destroyed me to think about it that way, but that’s the way it was. 

The funeral director bowed his head to me and turned to the casket lowering device. He put his hand on the lever, and with a low hum, my Mother was lowered into the Earth and into a concrete vault.

I stared, tears rushing down my face and unable to catch my breath. I focused hard to control my breathing and mouthed “See you later, Momma. I am so sorry.” 

The machine stopped and was dismantled. The funeral director’s assistant put it in the back of the big black suburban, along with the AstroTurf grass that he folded meticulously.

I walked clumsily to the edge of the giant rectangular chasm. Looking down, my thoughts went to my children. And how one day, unknowing to me or them, they would be looking down on me too.  

Time is a deceiver. It will excite you with happiness in an instant and give you unpromised hope of forgiveness in the next moment. It will seduce you into putting things off until another day, but it doesn’t care about what plans you may have.

It doesn’t care about your relationships, no matter how good or bad you may think they are. It doesn’t care about what you’re going to do tomorrow or next week.

When we are born into this world, we will begin to die. The sand starts to fall in that unmovable hourglass we call Life. You can’t pause it. You can’t go back. You can’t go forward.  

The funeral director came over and shook my hand, nodded his head, and slowly turned to walk away. It all felt so informal now. So real. I tossed a purple flower on top of the lid, wiped my eyes and stepped back.

The grave diggers stood by, dressed in their navy-blue maintenance uniforms. When I had backed out of the way, they came to do their part. 

I noticed they were exceptionally gentle with their movements. They never spoke and kept their heads down the whole time. The only sounds in the air were the still singing locusts and the growl of the little tractor engine.

The sound of the first amount of dirt raining down in that hole was overwhelming. It felt like someone knocked the air out of me. Part of me wanted to leave, but my feet wouldn’t let me move.  

I stayed until the last of the Earth was spread. I stood there despondent and lost. I still didn’t want to leave her, but my children and niece were waiting in the car.

I squatted down, and straightened up the cheap little metal grave marker and touched it gently, as if it were her. I dusted off my dress upon standing and headed towards the car. 

None of us spoke. The music playing was music that I had laboriously downloaded since the day she passed. Songs that made me recount those memories of her seemed to be all I had left. The tears continued to fall.

My fogged-up mind just kept going back to the last time I saw her and not knowing it was the last time. If only I had known, I thought. 

We never get to do know, do we?

Those last exchanges with loved ones or friends, who are here and then are gone, will come back to you as an assault on all the senses you possess.

Not everyone gets to say good-bye when they leave this world, and that’s a hard pill to swallow when death comes so suddenly.  

That was the fear I didn’t want for my children, of not saying good-bye, to holding onto regret. But these are things that are out of our control.

My fears of death, loneliness, losing a parent, and the guilt of past hurts were fears I didn’t even know I really had until that hot day in June. 

I felt my Mother near me for a very long time after she passed. I talked to her. I cried to her. In still moments, I would smell her perfume. This started to bring me the comfort I was longing for.

To know she wasn’t completely gone and forgotten. She had just moved on and not disappeared. I lost myself for a while in this state.  

I reflected on years gone by and the differences between how my Mother did things with me and how I had done things with my children. The differences were dramatic but reassuring in a sense.

I have been there for them since birth. I never left them behind as children. I had been a constant in their lives. They were my whole world.

I had done things differently. Did I do them right? Probably not, but I did them differently and I did my best. She did the best she could, as well.

I also noticed a lot of the things I didn’t want to be, were. I could be impulsive. I could be cold. I could be hurtful because I was broken. The more I thought about that, the more I started to sink into myself. The fear had come to pass. I was her.  

I was also some of the good parts too. I was kind. I was generous. I was compassionate. I could be funny. I was genuine. There she was again. 

It took my Mother leaving all those years ago, when I was a child, to know I would never leave my children. If I had any, they would know the love I had for them. The love I often craved from my Mother.

It took my Mother leaving this Earth to forgive her for the childhood she wasn’t around for. There are things in this life we wish we could change or wish we could take back and do all over again.  

I know from the bottom of my heart that my Mother felt that way before she passed. Because we all feel that way at times. For mothers, as being one, I feel it’s particularly hard because we only want what is truly best for our children.

But I finally accepted that sometimes, in some cases, that sometimes leaving is the only option some of us have to do that. 

On those heavy-hearted days when she is on my mind and I long to see her face again, I just have to look at my reflection.

There she is. Her same eyes with a glint of mischievousness. Her same smile with its soft approachable light.

I am a lot like my Mother, inside and out, and I am so very glad for that now. What I used to fear, I cherish and embrace now. Thank you, Mom.

Thank you for giving the beautiful and broken pieces of yourself to me so that I could always remember you and always see you. Until we meet again. As you used to always say, "See you later."

"That feeling of "I want my Mom." Has no age limit, time limit, or distance limit."


July 14, 2023 23:02

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Stephen Hansen
03:37 Jul 20, 2023

Thank you for your story Shannon. Your themes, family ties and saying goodbye are so universal. I fled my family at 18 wanting to live my life my way, on my terms. Funny thing is, now that I have arrived where they were, it seems like all I can see is them in me. At 87 I tell them I love them every chance I get. “Time is a deceiver” Stephen


Shannon C.
14:02 Jul 20, 2023

Thank you Stephen. It is bittersweet and so welcoming now.


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Kevin Logue
08:04 Jul 16, 2023

Really good Shannon. The emotions around the grave are so strong I feel that your tapping into something personal which only adds strength. The reflection on how we push away when teens only to become a better version of them is a perfect image of life, all brought to life by death. We can only try to be better than what we were shown, and parents can still teach through there mistakes. Your descriptions were very atmospheric, really well done. I did notice a potential typo - "..will come back you as an assault.." fell like it's an on or...


Shannon C.
14:48 Jul 16, 2023

Thank you for reading my story, Kevin. I fixed the typo.😉 It was a tough one to write because of the emotion. It was a bit cathartic to write it all down. Some things heal faster when brought out in the open. That's my hope with this.....thank you again for your kind words.


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Unknown User
23:22 Aug 10, 2023

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Shannon C.
20:16 Aug 11, 2023

Thank you for reading it.......this one was very tough, and I cried the whole time. It was only five years ago. It was very cathartic as well and very much needed. Isn't it amazing how the feelings we can't express in so many ways, just seem to fall out onto paper or onto a screen? I am so sorry for your losses and witnessing them. Heartbreaking for you. Thank you for the quote :) so very very true.


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