I picked up the phone while I was getting ready to head to the hotel where the conference was going to take place that day. I had just arrived from Mexico City a few hours early. I answered the call and this time there was something different. There was an unfamiliar silence in his voice that I didn’t recognize. My mom had been in the hospital a couple other times in the past, but nothing life threatening. As I was listening to my dad I felt a sharp unexplainable sensation inside me. It felt as if someone had pulled so hard that the umbilical cord between a mother and a newborn baby had been torn apart from each other. In the deepest of my gut I started to feel an emptiness as if part of my intestines had been taken away.
It’s been five months since that day. There is still something within me that left the same day my mother also passed away. The day my mother left is also the day a new version of me came to exist. There is definitely a before and after since that day.
There were many things that I could never understand or agree with my mother. We didn’t have the best relationship and I wish growing up things had been different. Along my life I have had to make very hard decisions and one of them was to leave in order to heal and pave my own way. I know I can’t go back in time and do things different but I do wish I would have insisted more with my mom. I wish we could have had conversations that would have helped let go of the shield that I built between us.
One of the many lessons I learned after she left is that we both tried our best. I learned that in twenty nine years there were many great moments between us. I also understood that she deeply loved me and that I loved her too. Since that day I realized that we shared a lot of memories together. We both went through a lot and even if I didn’t agree or couldn’t understand her most of the times I was always a good daughter and I know she was proud of me.
The day she left I got to know her in a very different way. I learned so many things from her that there is no way I could have understood them before. The night of her funeral, as I was leaning over her coffin admiring every part of her face I became more feminist. I could see a lot of composure and calmness in her skin. That same night I have no doubt that before her body and soul separated she made sure that I got to discover another version of myself. I know that her only mission that night was to prepare me for the rest of my life. She knew that from now on I was going to face life alone and I needed a lot of preparation as well as tools. It was as if we both had finally given each other the opportunity to have that long conversation. That night I finally came to understand the real impact of my dad in her life. The thirty years of marriage with him were enough to turn off her joy, her beauty, her laughter and her desire to live.
I got to understand that she was loved by many people and she also gave so much love back to those surrounding her. I understood that she deserved to be in peace and finally rest away from him. A few years ago I had to leave in order to rebuild my life and I knew it had to be away from them. I could never understand why she never left my dad. Why did she allow him to control her life and keep her away from everybody? I could never understand why she let him take over her joy?
I grew up in a very patriarchal structure. One where feelings and emotions had to be kept within ourselves. I learned to be quiet and just obey rules without questioning. I was taught to follow specific tasks in my house such as serving, cooking and cleaning. I was raised in a house where it was normal to be afraid of the man of the house. The way my dad raised me was by never showing his feelings in front of others because that meant putting himself in a vulnerable situation. As the head of the family that was not permitted. My mother had many miscarriages and the fact that she wasn’t able to give my dad more children just made her feel worthless. She normalized many actions. I think my mother did believe she was less of a woman because she couldn’t give my dad that son. It got to the point where she allowed my dad’s behaviour to be acceptable and normalized. My mother felt that she deserved everything my dad did to her. My dad did hurt us a lot through his actions and words.
As I stood next to my mom’s coffin before burying her I understood that it wasn’t about me rather about her. I had to make sure I let her know that it was okay to leave. That nothing in her life was her fault and that she didn’t deserve everything that happened to her. I wanted her to know that she had raised a strong woman that was going to be okay. My dad was sobbing over her, screaming that his life was going to be over without her. I felt a lot of anger because again he was only thinking about him and not about her. He was thinking about his miserable life without her because she was the one that sustained him. As she was being placed in the grave part of me was calm because she was now going to be free. Her soul was not going to be in pain anymore. She was going to finally be herself again.
A few days ago I was unsure about my participation in the Women’s march. I have been going through my own feminist process. I had been avoiding it because there are many wounds that I didn’t want to uncover. I was already fighting against deportation, forced return, family separation, exile and ongoing human rights violations that I didn’t want to add another struggle to my life. This year during the march I realized that I wasn’t only protesting for myself, for my friends or for other women. I was protesting for many women that have disappeared, that have been tortured and killed. I was also there for the many women that had to stay in their houses. Most importantly I came to understand that I was protesting for my mom.I was there screaming on behalf of her silence. There have been many times where I have also wanted to lit fire, to break into buildings and destroy monuments. I hate that my mom had to go through those thirty years of silence. She didn’t deserve it and now it is too late. I hate that I was also a victim. I hate that for a long time I blamed myself for many things that weren’t my fault. As I marched along thousands of other women I felt safe, I felt strong and accompanied by them.
It hasn’t been easy for me to write about my mom. It hasn’t been easy to share about it either. It is an ongoing process. I knew this day could happen, I had heard it from others that had already lost their mothers but there is nothing that can prepare you for it. Letting go of our mothers is a painful milestone that we each have to face. It’s a new stage in our adult life that truly transforms us.
In loving memory of my mom. Siempre voy a estar agradecida contigo, por tus enseñanzas de vida y por tu amor incondicional. Estoy orgullosa de ser tu hija. Disfruta plenamente tu libertad. Hasta pronto mamá.
Photo by: Jill Anderson