Guest Post: Losing My Mom, Finding Myself

Christina with Kia and Lee, her parents, Los Angeles 1964

Christina with Kia and Lee, her parents, Los Angeles 1964

My mom died when I was 19. She fought a 10-year battle with breast cancer, refusing treatment, dying at home. The details are too awful to describe.

These are the things she never knew about me:

• I graduated from UC Berkeley
• I have a Master’s Degree from UCLA
• I have two amazing kids
• I married a wonderful guy
• I miss her every day. Every single day.

There was a lot she did know about me:

• I loved her and still do. Always will.
• I didn’t want her to die. I begged her not to die
• I’d make it without her. Somehow.
• I’d never forget her

I’m crying as I write this. My mom was my most important influence, my mentor and my biggest supporter.

After she died, my soul was broken. With determination and an aching heart, I kept going, one foot in front of the other, with the support of my dad and sister.

Today, I’m a mom whose greatest fear is that something will happen to me and I won’t be there for my kids. This is the legacy of losing my mom as a teenager. It’s not an abstract notion. It’s the reality I live with daily.

I honor my mom’s memory is ways that surprise me. I grew up in Topanga, CA, a stunning, rustic canyon outside of Los Angeles. A few days ago, my family moved to Coldwater Canyon, the hills above Los Angeles. I want to give my kids everything my mom gave me.

The most profound and moving example of a mother’s love I’ve ever heard is represented by a 2010 interview on National Public Radio, where Lonnie G. Bunch, director of the Smithsonian’s project to collect artifacts for the National Museum of African American Art And CultureSmithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, discusses unique items the public donates to the museum.

“Somebody brought a pillowcase that was embroidered. And it turned out to be a pillowcase that was embroidered by a woman who was enslaved, who was about to be sold the next day. So, she embroidered to her daughter saying, in this pillowcase you will find a dress, you will find some biscuits but what you’ll find is that it’s filled with my love. And though I may never see you again, always know how close you are to my heart.”

My mom, a strong African American woman, didn’t leave me with a real pillowcase filled with treasures. Instead, she left me with a metaphorical one filled with the life skills, the determination and the fortitude to make it in this world without her.

Christina Simon is the co-author of “Beyond The Brochure: An Insider’s Guide To Private Elementary Schools In Los Angeles.” She also writes the blog, www.beyondthebrochure.blogspot.com about applying to private elementary schools in Los Angeles and the ups and downs as life as a private school mom. Christina’s blog was just voted “Top 25 Parent Resources” by Circle Of Moms. She has written recent guest blog pieces for The Culture Mom, BlogHer Syndication, Mamapedia, The Mother Company, The Well Mom, Sane Moms, Eco Mom, Macaroni Kids, A Child Grows In Brooklyn, Power Of Moms, The Twin Coach and Diaries Of A Mixed (Up) Kid. Christina is a former vice president at Fleishman-Hillard, a global public relations firm. She has a 7-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter. Christina lives in Los Angeles with her husband and kids.

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  1. I saw Lonnie Bunch on Thursday at Stanford and he inspired my Mother’s Day post on my blog http://www.ebenezerray.com. I was searching for a photo of that pillowcase and came across your blog. What a treasure!

    Elaine Ray

  2. Heiddi, Cynthia and Maria, your comments mean the world to me. Thank you for your cyberhugs! I’m sending you my love and support. It’s so difficult, yet I know your moms would be proud of you, the same way I think my mom would be proud of me. And, they loved you. Stay strong.


  3. The death of my mother is still very fresh as she only died a year ago last month. As she lay dying I could not understand the identity crisis I would suffer after she died. I cover this in detail on my blog. I never understood how much my identity was entwined with hers and how much I defined myself by being her daughter. I still miss my mother every single day and with Mother’s Day around the corner this year it will be just as difficult as last year. I hope you continue to heal as I am trying to do, but I have been told that losing your mother is a wound that never completely heals. But, I know that she loved me and she is in a better place and that I will see her again one day. That sustains me for now. ((HUGS)).

  4. Beautiful post!!! Thanks so much for sharing.

  5. Hi Christina. I can so relate to this post. While I didn’t lose my mother as a teen ( I was 24 and still green) I was very much impacted by her passing. I didn’t want her to leave and asked her how I would live without her. It was the five minutes I had alone with her while she was sick. She told me that I just had to. And though I didn’t think I would be able to, I did. In her passing she also taught me about following my dreams. She died with unfulfilled dreams/goals. I didn’t want to be the same. The loss of a mother is beyond words and I get jealous every time I see someone with their mom or when I see a movie about mothers & daughters. I’m sending you a great big cyberhug mama. Remember that she’s watching over you and your family. She’s there always with you. And if you listen hard enough, you can hear her, too. 🙂


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