Two weeks have flown by quickly in San Francisco. Between new hire bootcamp, new hire bootcamp homework, 1:1 meetings, team meetings, lunch meetings, and family/friend/colleague get-togethers after work, there’s been very little leisurely time for me to plop myself on my bed and decompress, to think about everything that I’m trying to learn and what all this is going to mean.
On Friday early afternoon, I set aside 45 minutes to catch up with one of my counterparts on my team. What was originally supposed to be a meet-and-greet and work discussion ended up being something I wasn’t quite expecting. Life outside of work had been quite excruciating for her in the last year, and she told me she was dealing with a lot of family baggage… mainly because her mother had suddenly passed away last year (about a month and a half before her wedding), and she was handling all the inheritances and legal aspects of death now. It was an emotional chat, and she was especially upset because Mother’s Day was coming up today, and it made her really miss her mom and the great friendship they had.
“I just feel angry,” she said. “I don’t even know what I’m angry at… maybe the world? I get so pissed when people actually try to say that life is fair. It isn’t. It isn’t at all.” She reflected on the devastation of her mom’s decline and death, how hard it was for her to get through her wedding day, though it was beautiful and memorable, knowing that her mom was supposed to be there. I felt myself aching as she described all of this. Her mom even helped her pick out her wedding dress and went to most of her fittings.
So this became a segway into a discussion about whether life is fair or it (it fuckin’ is not at all), what death actually means, what death means to us who are still living, and how we keep going despite losing those so close to us. It’s one of the rawest discussions I’ve had in 45 minutes with someone I literally just met in my whole life. At her request, we even talked about Ed, and I shared with her general details about him and his passing. And because I’m a crappy colleague, I made her cry even more sharing this.
My colleague apologized for prying, but I told her what I tell anyone who wants to know more about Ed and his life; I actually am very comfortable discussing it (well, I still get knots and choke up, but I end up spitting it all out in the end) and want to discuss it with whomever wants to listen and truly understand. My qualm is whether others actually want to know and understand. So I never get upset or feel taken aback when people ask. When I hesitate, it’s really because I don’t know if people truly want to know or are hoping I will just say my brother died in a freak car accident or a drug overdose or something that sounds more “normal” given his young age. And she said she felt the same and was angry so many times when people she thought would care or at least ask never asked, or never even asked her how she was feeling or doing. This resonated so much with me.
The second thing this makes me think about is my own mom. I was tearing up when she told me about how her mom passed, and how she literally just missed her only child’s wedding day by a month and a half. I don’t even know how I would have gone through my wedding if the same thing had happened to me. I could feel hurt in my own body. My mom, like every mom in every child’s life, drives me crazy to no end. She worries way too much about me and about everything that doesn’t even need worrying. I even tell my mom this all the time: sometimes I feel like she searches for new things to worry about to constantly be in a state of worrying about me. She obsesses over trivial things that I think shouldn’t have so much attention or care. She distrusts everyone and thinks they are out to get her and me. She also insists on feeding me until I could potentially gain 100 pounds and doesn’t understand when I tell her I’m too full to eat anymore (“but you barely ate anything!” even after I have already eaten a full plate of food…). But that’s my mom. She does it all out of love, even though sometimes her level of love and compassion make me want to rip all my hair out, shake her, and yell, “please STOP!!”
“Dads are important, and I love my dad, but my mom… that’s different,” my colleague said between tears. “My mom was like my everything, and I hate to say this, but yeah, I do love my mom more. Maybe all daughters do — who knows. And sometimes I don’t know what I’m supposed to do without her. I just love her so much.”
That’s like me and my mom. And for a second, the fear I had from when I was only four years old came over me again — the awareness that inevitably one day, my mom would no longer be on this earth with me anymore, just as my colleague’s mom had passed and left her. One day, she’ll no longer continue to try stuffing food down my throat. She won’t be here to pack fresh fruit and Chinese zongzi into my carry-on luggage. She won’t call me and ask whether I’ve had enough sleep or eaten dinner yet. One day, I will feel the loneliness that all of us feel when one has lost the human being who gave birth to and physically brought her into this world.
That thought is absolutely terrifying to me.