Editor’s note: In the lead up to Mother’s Day, we want to honour all the mums in our lives, including those who are no longer with us. Mother’s Day can be a difficult time for people who have lost their mums - including our Contributing Editor Ben.
Ben’s mum passed away when they were just eight years old. This letter has been 20 years coming, and we’re honoured to publish it.
Happy Mother’s Day, Ben’s mom. Rest in peace.
It’s been 20 years since we last saw each other. A lot has changed since then. I’m a bit taller, for one. A bit hairier, too. I’ve even learned to speak a few languages, and like you, my favourite colour is pink now too.
A lot about me hasn’t changed, though. I still love Indiana Jones, Star Wars and swimming. That scar from when I broke my arm flying down the stairs in a laundry basket is still just as visible as it was when the doctor took the stitches out. I also hate to say it, but I still don’t like broccoli, or most vegetables (I do eat salads now, though). And I still have that mole.
It’s hard to imagine, but in just a few years I’ll be as old as you were when you passed on. It’s been quite the journey. With each new destination I find myself in, I know that you’ve always been with me in spirit, every step of the way on a path that I know, one day, will lead to us meeting face-to-face again.
I’ve come close to meeting you again a few times. I thought I’d see you soon as I was lying on a makeshift hospital bed in North Korea. I came pretty close in Iceland and a few other times in cars, too.
There’s also something else I should let you know. Remember those world atlases that I used to read all the time? Or Grandma and Grandpa’s encyclopedias from the 1960s that I’d be constantly borrowing, and how I was so obsessed with faraway places like New Zealand? Well, guess what: I live here now. Pretty cool, right?
I don’t know why I’ve never written much about you before. After all, I do write for a living, and have written about almost every other topic that you can imagine, from astronauts and polio to a southern New Zealand delicacy called cheese rolls. But I did dedicate my speech to you when I spoke at my high school graduation; believe it or not, it made Dad cry.
I guess what I’m saying here is a lot of time has passed since you left. But it still sometimes feels like I last saw you just yesterday.
It hasn’t been easy without you. For a while, I was pretty frustrated. I think, having just turned eight years old, I was too young to be able to process my feelings, to understand that you wouldn’t be coming back, even though you kept telling me to prepare for your departure. Now that I’m older, I realise I’ve been running away from my feelings ever since.
But no more.
I miss you, Mom. I miss the great times we had together, like riding the train and going to see the tigers at the zoo, petting the goats and llamas on warm summer days at the Washington County Fair, or reading Brer Rabbit and The Hobbit together at night. The last time I was at Pizza Schmizza, I’m pretty sure I even saw a MOM pizza with mushrooms, olives and mozzarella on the menu.
You may not be around anymore to teach me right from wrong, but in everything I do, I try to honour you through my actions. After all, I owe you my literal existence. And if I can continue on this journey with just one one-hundredth of the kindness, selflessness, strength and grace that you had when you were ill, then I will consider that to be my proudest achievement. Of all the people I’ve met in my life, you are still the person who inspires me the most. And you always will be.
There’s something more. Something I wanted to say the last night I saw you, and something that has haunted me every day for the last 20 years.
I love you, Mom.
I always have. And I always will.