Listening to a recent episode of Satellite Sisters, I learned that Hope Edelman had published a new book and that the Sisters were going to interview her. Of course, I immediately reserved The Possibility of Everything at the library, even though I have 20 other library books checked out and waiting. (Our public library is great – I almost never have to buy books anymore – and I can usually get even popular books within a fairly short period of time. This leaves my poor Kindle sitting idle – if only I could borrow books on it!) I listened to the podcast interview with Hope earlier this week, and then since the book was already available, I bumped it to the top of my reading list and jumped right in.
Hope’s book, Motherless Daughters, was a book that I fundamentally related to – she had lost a mother to cancer in her teens, I had lost a mother to cancer at 20. As the only surviving female of my immediate family, the stories of many other women who had lost their mothers at a young age made me feel that finally somebody understood what had happened to me.
There is something about the way Hope describes her experiences and emotions that has always resonated with me. I’m halfway through the book, and a couple of passages jump out to me so far:
Faith. There’s that word again. It is good to have faith. I don’t doubt this is true. I just don’t know what it would feel like. When someone instructs me to “have faith,” I automatically think, Surely, you must be kidding. When you lose a parent young, you lose the illusion that a higher power is watching out for you. I long ago stopped believing that “things always work out for the best” or “everything happens for a reason.” I don’t have time for such platitudes. I’m too busy trying to ensure that whatever form of security I’ve managed to create for myself won’t be taken away again.
Of course, I had already abandoned any sense of faith in my teens, after growing up in an ultra-conservative and hypocritical Methodist church. But, certainly seeing my mom suffer and die in such an inexplicable way (Ovarian Cancer,) and at such a young age (48), did nothing to restore it.
In a subsequent chapter, Hope talks about her journaling – she describes herself as “more of a binge chronicler” than a disciplined everyday writer. This is what struck me though:
My journal exists for the most utilitarian purposes possible: to record the funny things Maya says; to jot down ideas for future essays; or to describe dreams in which I come across my mother at a convalescent home and discover that her death has been a twenty-year cover-up.
I have that dream every few years too. Except that in mine, I discover that my mom is living a normal life somewhere else, maybe just across the state. When I confront her, she seems unconcerned; she doesn’t wonder what I’ve been up to or want to reunite. She seems content to have been living in that other place all this time. In the dream, I am mildly disturbed by this, but nothing like I would be in real life. And I wake up thinking, is this a symbol, or is this a glimpse? If she exists elsewhere, and is unconcerned with me, this means I am not the center of the universe. But isn’t this what we would want for those we’ve loved and let go — for them to be unmolested by our ultimately insignificant and transient dramas? If they exist outside of this world should they not have their own lives, their own new purpose?
It’s thoughts like these that keep me drawn to Hope’s books. I’m going to stay up too late, again, reading the second half.