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A Mother's Shame

Updated: Jan 10, 2020

Sometimes, I wish I could just disappear.

That I could curl up into a tight little ball, crawl to the center of the gaping hole in my chest, and let the darkness swallow me piece by piece.

I often long for death. People talk to me about hope, but hope is like a songbird I heard in a dream I had as a child. I can scarcely recall its tune. Death has become my hope. Ask any parent who has lost a child—death is not something they fear any longer. I will stay in this world for as long as I must to care for my two living children. I've made that pact with the Fates and I intend to keep it. But death is the only true relief in sight. When life feels like a run-on sentence, lost of meaning but continuing to tack on empty word after word after word, death is the punctuation that cannot come too soon.

I am ashamed of these desires. I am ashamed of my reason for having them. Shame grows in me like a cancer. It metastasizes, spreading like rot, begetting more of itself.

What kind of mother loses her child? What kind of mother sleeps soundly while in the room above her daughter's heart is stopping, her body is growing cold? What kind of mother stands at the door calling her child's name, unable to recognize that death has already come and gone, unable to process what she is witnessing—the breathless quiet, the shadows like bruises beneath her skin? What kind of mother cannot intuit a vitamin deficiency from a fatal heart condition?

No one wants me to blame myself. And I don't. Blame is for those who act with evil intentions. I loved her fiercely. I would have died a thousand horrible ways to save her. I would have ripped someone, anyone, limb from limb to keep her here. I stood over her body in the funeral home and kissed her between the eyes and told her truly, "It was not for lack of love, my sweet, but lack of understanding."

No, I do not blame myself.

But I feel responsible. As her mother, how could I not? Isn't it a mother's job to protect, to know? In these, I failed her. I failed myself.

And I am riddled with regret. I will carry countless "What ifs" to my grave. What if I had taken her to the doctor sooner? What if I had done more research? What if I had insisted on a specialist? What if I had listened harder? Acted sooner? Trusted less? They haunt me, the what ifs, like echoes that never stop reverberating.

And then, there is the shame. The festering, black-pitted corruption that is always threatening to take over. It is deep and dark and ugly, like something from a Lovecraft story. It has a will of its own, a mind of its own. It knows the worst of me. It is the worst of me.

These horrors spring like shadows in the retreating light of her life. They keep me company. They stand beside me in the grocery aisle. They whisper to me from my pillow. They ride with me on the interstate. They're always speaking. At my stillest, they move within me like parasites.

And so I long for death, for the great silence that will come when the Fates tire of me. I long for peace, for the motionless place where my heart can finally let go. I long for relief, for the void where even pain cannot find the strength to exist. If I have a hope, it is this: that I will be luckier in death than I have been in life, and that I will find her waiting in the moment after, in a place where there is no lack of love or understanding, in a place where shame cannot follow.

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