Sometimes a single experience or event can completely alter the outcome of your life. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I had experience as a child that unquestionably completely changed my life. Thirty years ago today my mother committed suicide. I was just shy of turning 12 years old and my world was turned upside down.
My recollections of the specifics of July 15, 1986 are somewhat vague, but I do remember that it was a usual summer day. I remember riding my bike home from the local public swimming pool, along with my sister and cousin, only to arrive to my father who had an extremely somber look on his face. I didn’t know what was wrong, but I could tell it was something critical. Holding back his emotions the best he could, my father explained to us what had happened and we all broke down crying. The last thing I remember of that day is that I decided to take a long walk alone in the woods. The emotions that went through my head included sadness, fear, anger, and remorse. I had so many questions, many of which will never be answered.
For many years my mother’s death split my family apart and the slightest mention of my mother and her death started everyone crying. For me, the topic was taboo. I didn’t like to talk about it. Members of my family tried to point fingers and blame someone for what happened. There was a lot of anger and bitterness. Mainly though, everyone was very sad and the grieving period lasted a long time. My mother was an important part of her family, particularly when she was growing up. She was the oldest of five children and often served as a “second mother” and role model to her siblings. I remember her being thoughtful, loving, witty, and extremely intelligent. She was also a wonderful cook!
Growing up, I don’t think too many people outside of my family knew about what had happened. If they did, it wasn’t really brought up. In the 80’s, things were not as open as they are today. I sometimes felt that people would judge me if they knew what had happened, so I didn’t speak of it. I kept so much inside. I was never offered any type of counseling after this traumatic event and essentially coped with things on my own. As an adolescent, this was an extremely difficult task. In fact, the trauma disturbed me for a very long time and made an impact on the choices I made and how I dealt with different situations. After attending my very first counseling session just last November, I realized what a huge mistake I had been making by not seeing someone much earlier. I was carrying a huge amount of weight on my shoulders for nearly 30 years! I previously thought to myself that I would be a weak person if I sought out help. The truth is that everyone has moments when they are down however we shouldn’t be afraid to admit it and seek help from others, if necessary.
In my last blog post I discussed my internal mental drive to attempt to rise to “the top” of my profession. It may seem a bit strange, but I owe a majority of my professional drive to the loss of my mother. From the time she died, I vowed that I would be different. I asserted that I would be successful and overcome the odds that were then placed against me. (I didn’t as many of the musical opportunities growing up that my fellow colleagues had.)
In high school I worked to keep up my grades while holding a part time job and participating in some extra curricular activities like the Mentor Mannheim Orchestra. I practiced (not enough), and really wanted to take private lessons, which I did start when I was nearly 14. My father supported me, but there wasn’t really too much of a demand to hold high academic standards or be successful in school. I just made sure I was going to school, being prepared, doing my homework, etc. because I wanted to. I was never a straight A student, but did what I had to do. When I made up my mind to pursue music, again my father supported me, but the reality of actually making it happen was up to me.
“Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient.”
― Steve Maraboli, from “
The loss of my mother has stirred many emotions and caused lots of different behaviors over the years. I experienced anger, frustration, anxiety, fear, loneliness, shame, resentment, and depression. However, on the positive side, I feel that I have been able to make the best out of the cards I have been dealt. I was forced to be more courageous, outgoing, dedicated, caring, and, most of all, grateful for what I have. I am extremely appreciative of the experiences I have been afforded.
“Gratitude is the single most important ingredient to living a successful and fulfilled life.”
I often wonder how much different would my life be if my mother were alive. How would I have turned out? Who would I be? Would I have a family? What would I be doing? My guess is that if my mother were alive, I would not have made the same life for myself. So, in many ways, I owe my mother more than I realize. While I wish that she were here today, (particularly to see my amazing boys!) I am thankful for my life. I’m always looking forward to the future, because best is still yet to come!
“It’s your reaction to adversity, not the adversity itself that determines how your life’s story will develop” – Dieter F. Achtdorf
In closing, I would just like to say that it is crucial to cherish the time you have with your loved ones. Quality time can’t be taken for granted because our time is limited. There are never guarantees. Always make relationships with family and friends your first priority. And if life throws you for a loop and things aren’t right, talk to a friend or seek counseling as soon as possible. Don’t be afraid to discuss your feelings and definitely don’t hold your feelings inside.
“Life is so ironic. It takes sadness to know happiness, noise to appreciate silence, and absence to value presence.”
RIP, Mom, and thank you.