Bittersweet Milestones

As a motherless daughter, rites of passage have always been bittersweet and sometimes downright painful. After many years of health issues, my mother passed away when I was 25. There have been too many times in my life that I have missed out, left feeling empty. I miss her every day but it’s so much worse when life’s milestones are celebrated.

Society dictates life’s milestones but I think we all have an image in our minds of how life is supposed to be. You know those rites of passage, like going away to college, graduation, getting married, and having children just to name a few. When we don’t get to experience them the way we imagined, it feels like we’re being robbed of that dream.

The first rite of passage I missed out on; While other 2O somethings were away at college and having fun, I was taking care of my aging parents. So I went to our local college while living at home. When my mother got sick, I was her caregiver. My early 20’s were spent taking my mother to doctor appointments, dialysis and trying to keep her out of the hospital yet hospitalizations were frequent. When Graduation day came, my mother was in the hospital so I didn’t cross the stage to receive my diploma like the other graduates. No pictures of handshaking or cap and gown.

Both of my parents passed away within 4 years. When I got married, I went through the motions not knowing what to do, missing my parent’s guidance. While other women were shopping for wedding dresses with their mothers, I went alone. It was too painful to bear having anyone else there. Literally sick over missing my parents, no father or mother of the bride, no father to give me away. My older brother walked me down the aisle. It was painful for both of us. We never imagined they wouldn’t be there for that milestone.

The birth of my son was bittersweet. I missed the motherly advice and my son has missed out on doting grandparents. Even on the happiest occasions, there’s always something missing. My way of coping was to bury it deep so no one can see my pain. After all, these are supposed to be happy times.

Rites of passage reached are our accomplishments but without people to share them with they’re empty. Don’t take for granted your rites of passage or those sharing in it. It’s not just the accomplishment, it’s the loved ones with you. So don’t wait to tell someone you love them. Nothing in life is guaranteed to any of us. Seize the moment. Forward motion is what I strive for whether it’s bittersweet or not!

Michele Palermo

Michele is a retired registered nurse who spent 15 years in Emergency Medicine. That's where she learned there's a fragility to life. Diagnosed with lupus, after going through a divorce, taught her to be a survivor instead of a victim. With her career shortened by illness she turned to books. She fell in love with the written word as a young child. To her, words convey emotion. Her new passion is writing. As an aspiring author, she hopes to inspire others on this roller coaster called life.

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