I have often said that there are life events that truly change the core of who you are…that rock you so completely that, although your outer shell may look and sound the same, your insides have been changed forver. For me, unanticipated complete and total single motherhood is certainly one of those life events. The further I get away from those days of being single and pregnant, and from being a solo parent to a newborn – the more the ache of those days dulls. But it isn’t gone.
I mean, come on, the shape shifting that molds your life in your most defining moments come with aches and pains, and then ideally on the other side you are rewarded with joy and perspective…but the memory of the aches and pains is still there.
I had dinner with a close friend tonight. A former colleague who sat next to me for years at the office I used to occupy, someone who I came to love in my years in news. She’d overhear conversations I had on the phone and would tactfully offer her words of support or advice. After having Ellie, she honestly told me my belly would go back to 80% of what it looked like before, “close, but not exactly the same”. She told me that all Moms worry about what I am worrying about, but also acknowledged how helpful it was to have a rock in her husband. She told me I would figure it out. She rubbed my back in the bathroom at the office when I was so upset about the turns my life had taken, and helped me stand up for myself when it was most important. She bought me lunch simply to get me away from my desk and the emails and the decisions and the stress. She knew me before…and she knew me after…that life changing moment.
And when I saw her tonight she reminded me, as only she could, how incredibly far Ellie and I had come…and how important it was to not go backward. How important it was to recognize the work I had done on my life to get us to where we are, and how important my plans for our future really are. And as she was saying all of this, I felt all of the emotions that came with that point in my life and then breathed a sigh of relief that I wasn’t still there.
I’ve said to close friends, that before I had Ellie, I felt life on a scale of 1 -10. I got life. I was a news producer and saw much of life’s horrors and tragedies second hand. But then I had Ellie and I started actually feeling other’s pain…I would see a stressed out mom and would give her a knowing smile and a pat on the arm, while saying, “Oh I get it…” I would hear about a parent losing a child and I couldn’t help but cry. When Super Storm Sandy hit the East Coast, the thought of parent’s worrying about how to get access to heat for their families made me sick to my stomach. Because I knew what it was to truly love someone, my heart felt like it was blown wide open. Everything I felt was so much more real.
For some reason, I thought that we are all given approximately one life changing moment, and the birth of my daughter was mine.
And for this thought, I am such a fool.
As I mentioned in my previous blog, my grandfather passed away a couple weeks ago. He was 95-years-old and spent the last year dealing with all the issues that come with old age. But he was such an amazing energy. Just a solid human being. Prior to his death, I certainly walked through the idea of his inevitable passing, and I thought I had come to embrace that this is how all of our lives will end.
However, instead of his passing just being a fact of life, my grandfather’s death has instead been for me, another life changing event.
I am finally caught up on all of my email and work that went undone while he was in his final days, and I feel like I am back to my routine – but the way I see the world has just…changed entirely. I am not longer afraid or grossed out by death. Instead I am humbled and awestruck by the whole process of passing on, on the same level that I was totally blown away when I heard my daughter’s heartbeat for the first time. My grandfather passed away surrounded by those that he loved the most, just moments after my sister and I told him that we would all take care of my grandmother, and that the entire family would be together for dinner that evening. There is no doubt in my mind that he waited to pass until he felt at peace – which is powerful and awe inspiring in itself. Being so incredibly close to death was raw – I see him in my head, in those last moments, and it breaks my heart. I can’t think of many other times that I have felt such unadulterated love, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he felt the love in the room…the pure, unfiltered love that I honestly wish would could all feel all of the time.
That moment…his death…changed me just as profoundly as Ellie’s life did.
If before Ellie was like feeling life on a scale of 1-10 and after Ellie is like feeling life on a scale of 1-100, then the only way I can explain it is…before my grandfather’s passing my life was not totally in focus, and now I feel like it is crystal clear. I went from 20/100 vision, to 20/20 vision. I am finally able to see my priorities without a blur, and I can see where I want our lives to go – even if I struggle with the logistics of how to get there.
I have to be totally honest, if 5 years ago, someone told me that I would miss sitting around my grandfather’s deathbed, I would have thought that they were absolutely insane. But low and behold, I miss the intense family time we all spent in those days and the ones that followed, because, well…in those moments I realized that family and love is more important than anything else in this world.
I know that the intensity of this epiphany will dull, just like the growing pains of becoming a solo mom have dulled – but I also know that I am changed forever because of the experience. And as sad as I am that I can’t hug my grandfather one last time, that I can’t kiss him on the forehead, or hear him say, “Heeeeeeyyyyy” in the way that only he could…I can only pray that wherever he is, he is able to see the profound impact he had on my life and everyone else’s that he touched. Now…I don’t only feel the love that more intensely, I am clear on how important that love actually is.