Last week, I received a late-night text message from one of my best friends, Taylor. Taylor is a spitfire with coils of black hair that fall to her shoulders all happy-bouncy like, which is also a fantastic way to describe her personality.
Typically, her texts contain some silly GIF, a throwback picture, or maybe some Snapchat shenanigans of her and the kiddos sporting doggy ears. She’s always good for a laugh like that.
So when I saw her name ping my phone, I smiled and quickly picked it up. Only, I wasn’t prepared for the message I saw, and it came as a sucker punch to my heart.
“Mom died suddenly this evening of a massive heart attack. My brother and I are making arrangements. The funeral will be this weekend. Please come if you can.”
I stared at those words for a few minutes, trying to form a reply that was something more comforting than “I am so sorry.”
But that was exactly what I ended up sending, because when someone loses their own mother, what the hell else is there to say?
“Of course I’ll be there.”
This was a woman who sat next to my own mother in the stands at high school football games. She had that same curly hair, and always — I mean always — had a button of her daughter’s band portrait affixed to her shirt.
I remembered Taylor and I, lined up before taking the field, stealing glances at our mothers, who waved fantatically from their aluminum seats.
“That’s my girl!” her mother would scream.
“Go get ’em, baby!” my mom would echo.
Just as they had been doing every day since our lives began. And even though we rolled our eyes beneath the brims of our hats, they never quit.
Because isn’t that what a mother does?
When you take your first steps. Speak your first words. Bring home your first A on a history quiz. A mother is there. Always cheering, always proud.
She’s your one-woman fan club, your cheerleader. The only person in the world who can hear the owl screech of a sixth-grade band concert and boast, “That’s my baby! She’s going places!”
But just like that, overnight, Taylor’s best friend in the world — her safety net — was ripped out from under her.
I went to the funeral and hugged my friend tight. Several hundred people came to express their condolences, but in the sea of well-wishers, I watched as Taylor stood frozen by the lemonade, eyes shifting blankly around the room, like a child lost in an amusement park.
I imagine that’s exactly how she felt.
It’s times like these when I remember my own mom won’t be here forever, and the idea plain terrifies me.
Even though I call my mother every day, send pictures, and visit often, I know that when the time comes, I’ll feel as lost and broken as my sweet friend.
Can you ever be ready to say goodbye to your mother? I don’t think so.
Because that’s saying goodbye to so much more than a person.
That’s saying goodbye to from-scratch chicken noodle soup. To those light-up haunted houses she put on her window sill every Halloween. To the softness of her hands tickling your arm until you fell asleep. To the sound of her voice answering the phone at the end of a terrible day — and the comfort that no matter what you did to deserve it, she’s on your side.
That’s saying goodbye to the feeling that you’re still a child, deep down inside, and the security that your mother is still on this earth to hold you when you need that sort of comfort.
Even as a grown woman, married and raising two children of my own, there is a childlike heart within me that lives for the love and adoration of my mother. And that child shakes at the thought of losing her mommy.
And the thing is, she raised me well. I am doing this life thing, this adult thing, this mom thing. I can cook a Thanksgiving turkey and pull together some chicken noodle soup in a bind. So it’s not that I really need her anymore…
But then again, I do.
I do, and I always will.
After the service, I approached Taylor, who was busy picking apart the Styrofoam edges of her cup of pink lemonade.
“This hurts so bad,” she sniffed, wiping mascara from beneath her eyes. “Do you remember how Mom used to yell at me from the bleachers? How I used to act so embarrassed? I wish I hadn’t…”
“It’s just, I wish I had been more appreciative and told her I loved her more and…”
“Your mom loved it. She loved all of it.”
Taylor nodded. A curly headed boy let go of her leg and reached his arms up to be held. As she scooped her son up in her arms, she smiled.
“You’re right,” she said, and kissed her son’s moppy little head.
I burst out the double doors of that funeral home like I was busting out of jail. I pulled out my phone and spoke directly to Siri.
My call went straight to voicemail, so I fired off a text.
“Hey Mama. Just checkin in. Love you.”
I waited for a minute and considered calling one more time when my phone lit up with her response.
“I love you too, baby.”
I held the phone close to my heart and ugly cried in that parking lot. Because the idea of losing my mama is pretty much impossible. I can’t let my mind go there. My heart hurt for Taylor, it hurt for myself, it just freaking hurt.
I wanted my mama. And today I have her. And I’m more grateful than ever because now I’m acutely aware of how fast things can change.
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