My Loss: In Memory of My Mom

Why does loss change us? Up to this point, on Facebook and on my website, I have shared expert interviews and other stories of loss and resilience. Today I would like to share mine.

I think back exactly 29 years ago, even to the minute of me writing this column, when as a 14 year old young man, I was riding home to see my mom for the last time. I remember each kur-thuh the train made as the wheels below me traveled 500 miles until I reached the train stop, where my older siblings picked me up to bring me home to say goodbye.

Two weeks before, my grandparents were visiting our home in Washington state to comfort my Mom dying from cancer’s toll, but my Grandma ended up experiencing a heart attack. It was too much stress on them and us, and so they decided to go back, and my dad decided I would go back with them to help however I could. My Mom had a tender voice, but when she found out I was leaving, she screamed “No, No, No!” They are words that echo in my mind even today.

Waiting for some miraculous way to get home, I stayed with my grandparents those two weeks, and got a phone call from a sibling saying “Mom said she wanted to go home.” Home, of course, was heaven, and that prompted a quick boarding onto a train. It was the last night I would see her.

For me, as awful as it may sound, the loss was more than losing my mother. I had lost someone who believed in me, expected great things from me, and was there for everything I did. I also lost my faith in God for years, because I had been taught that if I just lived “right,” my Mom would be healed. (She was actually healed from cancer years before, but it had returned with a vengeance). The world was no longer just, fair, or predictable.

After she died, things (believe it or not) actually got worse, but because of the people and relationships sharing details of those experience may cause, I have not been specific. I can say that for years, I was afraid my only meal would be the one I got at school, and that somehow, someone invited me to help at the high school cafeteria so that I could afford paying for that meal. Was it the endless days of bringing in pennies and nickels for lunch that prompted someone to ask me to work there?  Or seeing me frequently buying a can of soda because I didn’t have enough coins to pay for lunch?

Let’s be real for a moment here. Very few people like to talk about loss, and even fewer like to hear about it. It makes us uncomfortable. But what if our very experiences with loss and pain help increase our potential, and help others reach theirs? Would that not give our pain and loss a sense of purpose? Despite the intense sadness I still feel at times over that loss, as well as some other experiences with challenges today, I know I am a more compassionate person, a more creative person, and someone who believes “compassion” is a verb.

To be clear, the book I’m writing is not “all about me.” I am actually a very private person, but to honor my Mom’s life, memory, and more importantly, her example of helping others, I am sharing a part of my story with the hope it helps that one person who needs it.

Comments

  1. Joshua Beach says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Jerry. As a young man, I wish I would have been trained to be a better part of my friends’ support systems. We teach kids a lot of things, but how to support each other through loss isn’t a priority. That doesn’t improve as we get older, either.

    Loss is an uncomfortable topic, and I wish we could knock down some of those walls to make it more acceptable to talk about. What ends up happening is that people don’t know what to say. So even though this message comes 29 years later, I am truly sorry for your loss.

    • Dr Jerry L Cook says:

      Thanks Josh! I completely agree—we often do not know what to say to others who experience loss. I’ve been on the other side of the fence, wondering what to say, more times than I’d like to admit. On a lighter note, I think I saw on your FB that you went to the World Cup. That is really incredible. Things have come a long way since “Dirty Soccer” in 5th and 6th grades!

  2. Alice Ludwig says:

    Thank you for sharing Jerry. I can’t imagine what you went through at that particular time in your life. I will say I have to agree that you are a compassionate person. Whether through this experience or many, I appreciate the person you are and your example.
    I found after taking a death and dying class, along with loss and grief, I am more open to speaking and listening in these areas. I’ve had wonderful opportunities to help a few people who have lost their family members and friends. I am currently helping one particular friend cope with the loss of her husband not only by listening, but also sharing the gospel. She is not a religious person; however, she is understanding and feeling better knowing their is a place beyond earth where are loved ones go. Situations like this helps me to open up more when it comes to knowing what to say, or not.

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