I was 13 years old when my mother told us that she had metastatic breast cancer. While I was growing breasts, her breast was the very thing that was killing her. My mom looked cancer straight in the eye and never backed down. She taught us how to laugh even under the scariest of circumstances. She passed away at the age of 47. I was 19.
Several years after my mom passed away, I read Hope Edelman’s book Motherless Daughters. In many ways, it changed the direction of my life. I heard that Hope was speaking in NYC and I decided to attend the event. I walked in and was stunned to see hundreds of women. The venue was packed, standing room only. Hope spoke beautifully. I felt as though the room was filled with bobble heads, every woman nodding dramatically throughout the presentation. At the end of the presentation, microphones were placed in the aisles for women to ask questions. I could not believe what I was hearing. A woman in her 70’s, had recently lost her 90-something year old mom. The woman was sobbing and I was thinking “No, no, no, no, you don’t get to cry like that. You had your mom for over 70 years.” Another woman, also in her 70’s, stepped up next. Through heavy tears, she spoke about how her mother passed away when this woman was in her early 20’s. I thought “Oh my goodness. Is this what is in store for me? 50 years later, will I still be sobbing like that?” I was overwhelmed with emotion. After the event, I sat on the curb and attempted to process what I had just experienced.
On this curb, on West 86th Street in Manhattan, I had a tremendous epiphany, and here it is: No matter what age a woman loses her mom, it feels traumatic. It is a most significant loss that will impact the rest of our journeys, for the remainder of our days. It’s 28 years later and for the most part, memories of my mom are comforting and bring me joy. But every once in a while, the pain of this loss is so raw, it is as if I am experiencing her death all over again.
My mom lived with cancer with tremendous love, integrity, humor, courage, and faith. February 29th, 1984, my mom finished her battle with cancer, and in my eyes, she won.
Shera Dubitsky, Surviving Daughter