All alone in the moonlight
I can smile at the old days
I was beautiful then.
I remember the time I knew what happiness was
Let the memory live again.”
“Memory” from the Soundtrack of Cats
My cousin died of breast cancer over twenty years ago. But it is not her death that defines her; it is her life. She was a quiet, reserved person; someone all together different from me. But, as we were only nine months apart in age and alike in our interests and aspirations, we had a relationship that was wonderfully symbiotic . . . and irreplaceable.
My aunt sent me a picture of my brother, me, and of course, her when we were young. The image reminds me that, missing her still in ways I cannot even articulate, she left me, not with any tangible mementos I can cling to, but a sense of acceptance that allows me to see the world through other people’s eyes. It is a powerful gift; one I do not take lightly.
She became ill when my son was in high school. I remember that I traveled with her across the country in search of a cure. We went from conventional medicine to experimental treatments. We ventured into hospitals and clinics. We flew when she was still able and drove when she was too sick to get on a plane. The last trip we took together was to San Diego where, as a last resort, she subjected herself to a brutal regimen of herbal supplements and a rigorous diet under a Doctor’s supervision. She hoped for the miracle cure that surgery, bone marrow transplants, radiation, and chemotherapy had not provided. But it was not to be.
Her husband summoned me one spring day to come immediately. In what were her last words, she had asked for me. And I went. She was almost comatose by that time, but I knew she was still there. I brushed her hair and changed her gown. I stroked her cheek and told her I loved her. I whispered that it was time to let go; she had done all she could. And, I kissed her goodbye. She died as quietly as she had lived, and I was thankful that she was no longer in pain. But, oh, how I missed her . . . and miss her still.
It was during this time that my son, unbeknownst to me, began his own long journey of accepting himself as gay. I asked him once why it took so long for him to tell me. Had he been afraid of what I would say or do? Did he think I wouldn’t love him? But, he told me that, although he certainly had those concerns, he was more worried about me. My cousin’s death had so affected me that he didn’t want to add to my burden.
I regret that I was so wrapped up in my grief that I couldn’t be there for him. But now he tells me I need to let that go. We are past that. We have grown comfortable with who we are to each other. The past is behind us, and we move forward in what we hope is a healthy, positive, loving relationship.
But I am not past it. I want to retrace my steps. I want to return to when I “remember the time I knew what happiness was . . .” So, sometimes when I’m feeling particularly nostalgic, I allow myself a little side trip down memory lane to a simpler stage in my life; when the mistakes I have made, the regrets I carry, and the pain I feel didn’t exist. I don’t allow myself too much sadness however; it gets in the way of refocusing my life to where my cousin’s death and my son’s sexual orientation have led me. I try to accept others for who they are.
I don’t wish the agony I have experienced on those who are intolerant. But, I do wish that those who are so adamantly anti-gay find a place in their hearts to allow acceptance to grow. I know from my own experience that we get to shape our own memories only rarely, and that accepting others for who they are, without judgment or condemnation is one of those times.
In the end, we can choose to stand “all alone in the moonlight” or “understand what happiness is.” I wish them the peace that comes from saying, “Look a new day has begun.”
. . . And I’m just a mom who loves her son . . .
(Previously published in www.thequ.co)