Yesterday was one of the most fantastic days I have had since being in Australia. For the first time, I felt elated by my home and my surroundings. In a sense, I finally found my feet beneath me and felt the sand, familiar. After a long walk with beautiful photos, my day was made that much more phenomenal by a kind, honest message from a great friend and colleague of mine that led me to reflect more on a meeting I had with my team earlier yesterday morning. In short, I threw all manner of work-related discussion out the window and I asked my team members to share with me their biggest dreams.
Reflecting on that meeting, I thought specifically of one member that had said above all else they wanted to be the best parent and spend more time with their family. I remembered that my near instant response to their dream was to comment on, “You never know how long you’ll have them.” Of course, I held myself from saying it as it would have appeared out of context and oddly negative at the time.
So in my own evening, I thought deeply about how losing my mother at such a young age deeply impacted how I perceive relationships overall. Just the same, it forever changed my priorities with others and altered my understanding of “urgency” in both positive and negative ways. Knowing too personally and far too deeply that all relationships end on Earth, and most often at a time that we least expect it, I have been blessed to not take advantage of the relationships I want to keep. Sometimes this has made me spend too much of my time or give too much of a priority to dropping everything for something as simple as a long night in front of the television.
Yesterday, I was in a place in my life where I was weighing out the benefits of spending time and allowing space in a relationship. Then, just as before, with absolutely no warning, my life was changed once again as I suddenly felt the great weight of my phone in my hands in that sickening moment that I realized I had missed several calls and texts about the health of my step mother, Sylvia.
My parents were on a cruise, celebrating a near month together floating across the Atlantic and through the Mediterranean, but their journey has come to an abrupt halt in Bracelona – where, just 18 hours ago my step mother was admitted into the hospital for what they believed was extreme dehydration, and instead, in this moment I sadly announce that she has left this Earth and is undoubtedly making fast friends with everyone on the other side. I have known Sylvia only a couple years less than I knew my own mother.
Some may argue that Sylvia and I didn’t like each other much. In part, that is true, but I want you to consider why. I didn’t have my own mom through trying teenage years. I had Sylvia. Like any 16, 17, 18 year old, the onset of my relationship with her was a constant back and forth between best friends and a typical teenage girl-to-mom relationship. As this is how we first came to know each other, our relationship has gone back and forth much the same ever since. But that does not mean that I do not remember those moments I both love and regretted deeply; those moments where Sylvia and I shared such classic mother-daughter moments that I almost resented them for having to share them with someone other than my mom. Yet, they are still moments I will never forget. They are still mother-daughter moments that I can’t even imagine having with anyone else.
I will remember a time where I had been staying with her and my dad very briefly in Texas so I could complete a summer math course and my dad and I had a fight. I remember how she stuck up for me so staunchly, so personally, that she refused to speak to my dad for days afterward. She genuinely came to my rescue – something that fondly reminded me of my own mother in a way that always made Sylvia and I deeply understand each other as women who fought together, always.
I remember sitting across from her, having lunch. It was just the two of us. Starring at my sandwich, I asked her a very deep, pained question about the realities of love and who it is you come to love for the rest of your life. I asked her about her relationship with my dad and if that was exactly what I should be looking for. With that, a great change was fueled in my life as we giggled like school girls, planning and pining over a wedding proposal that she encouraged and I have absolutely no regrets from even if that ended up not being the choice I made for myself at that time in my life. What was more important is how we shared that moment – one of those mother-daughter days I had only truly shared with my mom for one brief afternoon before my time with her was missed.
Last, but not least, I remember meeting Sylvia. I had just moved to Utah where she lived at the time. I met her on her third date with my dad. We went on a double date to La Frontara and to see The Singles Ward in theaters. For the months following, before she moved to Texas to be with my father, my dad regularly had me take her to lunch or dinner as well as deliver her flowers. Knowing this woman would forever change my dad in a way that would be exciting and positive, I fully obliged.
She lived an amazing, full life. My only regret is that my poor father has to experience this scenario again, so soon and that I have no way of being so instantly by his side.
My heart is everywhere right now – trying to fill the gaps of time. Thank you for your charisma and your willingness to always try harder, Sylvia.
Thank you for your love of movies and our long nights of television.
Thank you for being my friend when I insisted I didn’t need a mom, and my mom when I insisted I had no friends.
Thank you for getting me through my teen years, and perhaps even more so, getting my dad through my teens.
In each of us, you have instilled a greater sense of perspective and unconditional love. You have reduced our sense of needing to earn each other’s love and taught us that there is nothing more worth giving in this life. May you RIP.