By: Shahnaz Radjy
I Miss Her More Now
“I miss her when I can’t remember what works best on insect bites, and when nobody else cares how rude the receptionist at the doctor’s office was to me. Whether she actually would have flown in to act as baby nurse or mailed me cotton balls and calamine lotion if she were alive isn’t really the issue. It’s the fact that I can’t ask her for these things that makes me miss her all over again.”
Eleven years on, there are days when my mother’s absence melts into the background of everything she taught us, and gave us, and inspired us to be. I can feel she is always with me, a part of me.
On other days, that falls so far short of enough that I struggle to find the words to explain it. I don’t want to be her legacy. Instead, I want to have my mother by my side, full of laughter and wisdom and advice – whether good or bad.
What’s in a Dream
Recently, I dreamt of her. I was angry because she had just gotten back from a trip earlier that day and had moved some of my things. Sitting down for lunch, I was fuming – berating her for having tidied up. I did so as I dug into the healthy yet taste bud delighting meal she had lovingly put together. It was one of my favourites: lightly breaded white fish with freshly squeezed lemon juice, white Basmati rice, and butter-fried green beans with onions.
In my dreamlike state, something from my consciousness broke through my anger, and I remember that I meant to ask her about how she felt when she was pregnant with me. It was information I never thought to ask when she was living, and now sorely wish I had – just another item on my list of regrets. But this was a regret so intense that it crossed from the waking world into my dreams.
I imagined her telling me about amniocentesis and her fear for me as the needle entered her belly as I wouldn’t stay still even in the womb.
What’s in my Real Life?
In my real life, I don’t know anything about her pregnancy with me, except that I was born two months early, despite her carefully obeying the doctor’s orders and embracing bedrest, yet I’ve created a vision of her that are figments of my imagination.
The dream begins to fade. No matter what I do, I cannot stay and ask her more questions. I cannot tell her about my fears about my own excitement. I can’t tell her she is soon to be a grandmother.
Instead, I wake up in my bed, sobbing.
A Paradox of Life: Happiness, Anger, Grief, and Wishful Thinking
I am currently living in rural Portugal, married to an incredible man. The seasons dictate our days along with a never-ending to-do list as we’re renovating an old farm into an ecotourism project, for future guests looking to get away from it all.
I like merging old and new traditions, like growing a vegetable garden as most Portuguese do, but basing mine on permaculture principles. It is, without question, my dream life.
Now that I’m preparing to give birth for the first time, every single consult and medical exam in this unfamiliar health system delivered in a foreign language has me wishing, beyond the laws of physics and logic, that my mother could be here with me. I long for her to be at least on the other side of the phone, if not here in person.
My mother and I had a wonderful if imperfect, relationship. We loved each other, and we showed it to one another frequently. Inexplicably, despite us being on such good terms, every time I dream of my mother, the situation is anchored around something insignificant that makes me angry at her. We’re running late, and it’s her fault. I cannot find my riding boots or am furious because she dared polish them for me.
Even when my subconscious is screaming at me to love her and cherish every second in her presence, even if it’s nothing but a dream, I revert to my much younger self who thought tantrums were an acceptable way to communicate and get what I want. My anger feels alive and makes me lash out.
Love Beyond the Anger
Now that I am pregnant with my first child, I wish I knew how to move beyond that vestige of anger more than ever. Having regrets and wishing I had had more time with my mother is one thing, but how can I be at peace with losing her too soon so that I don’t continue losing her every time I dream of her and fail to appreciate that gift from my subconscious?
It isn’t just about me anymore, either. I want to move beyond being a tantrum and anger filled child in my dreams to the version of myself who can talk to her mother and get her advice about motherhood – even if it is an echo of my subconscious.
As a selfish bonus, I could tell my mother how much I love her and miss her, and that her absence is now a gaping hole I can feel almost physically.
Insights in Hindsight
I am only starting to understand the generally accepted fact that people take for granted – that unconditional love mothers usually have for their children.
Perhaps that is just human nature, but when I think back, I see it. My mother’s unconditional love, spilling into everything she did.
All the perfect meals, light and healthy and full of what we enjoyed or the quick calls from payphones all over the world when she traveled for work, even when she didn’t have enough loose change to say more than “Hi! Miss you. Don’t have much change; it will cut-“
Every postcard, note, car chase through town to be with us, shuttling us to our activities between work commitments, thoughtful little presents.
She wasn’t perfect, and yet she was.
In My Vulnerability is Her Strength
Eleven years on, embarking on this new great adventure, I find myself surrounded by love and overwhelmed by grief. I did not expect that.
I do not know how this will play out, but I can only hope that the vulnerability I feel will somehow open me up to courage and strength.
As I grow into my role as a mother and embrace the fact that though she is absent, everything I do is interwoven with the essence of the one who brought me into this world.
Shahnaz is an adventurer, foodie, bookworm, and horse-lover. She is a freelance writer based in Portugal as well as the co-founder of an eco-tourism project. Alumni of the World Economic Forum and the University of Pennsylvania. Shahnaz has lived in Geneva/Switzerland, Philadelphia/USA, La Paz/Bolivia, and New York/USA.
She and her husband traveled the world working on farms to hone their skills, and since 2017 have been in Portugal. They bought an old farm in 2018, and are turning their biggest dream into an unforgettable farm / nature / disconnect-to-reconnect experience they would love to share with you.