We hear so many wonderful Tribe Stories from women all over the world and do our best to capture and bring them to you. They are a path to connection and feeling seen, heard, and felt by others. While we love the recorded stories we are able to share on the Tribe Talk podcast, the written stories are equally powerful. Especially when the words and story are coming from the heart of the author herself.
I was so fortunate to meet Constance Anne. She is an ageless beauty with an undeniable presence that speaks with an honesty that only a life-well-lived and loved can support. When she learned that we collect Tribe Stories, she said, “I have one for you.” And now, in her words, we have it to share with you.
Is that you?
It was such an unexpected surprise seeing mom today. It literally took my breath. Hers too it seemed. We gazed at each other… taking in the moment, a mixed sense of wonderment and disbelief reflected in our faces. It has been a little over 12 years since I last saw her, the last time I ever expected to see her, and yet … here she was, looking at me… staring at me. Her hair, wisps of silver-grey, wildly dancing among the dark waves and soft curls; her eyes, bright… enveloped in gentle folds and creases, reflective of the passing of time; fine laugh lines giving the appearance of a shy smile… her face, freckled from the sun.
I guess it was the dress she was wearing that had caught my attention… had me suddenly see her as I turned around. It was the familiarity of it; a princess cut, collared, turquoise in color… it was not unlike her self-styled work uniform. Mom was a nurse, a ‘Sister. She worked for years running a small, on-site clinic at one of the big manufacturing companies in South Africa. I think she liked that particular dress style, not only for its simplicity but because it gave shape to her slightly larger size. Mom had always been pleasantly plump… ‘more of me to love’ she would say, each time she gathered me in for a hug. But she was never entirely comfortable with her weight; her love of food, desserts in particular… a constant nemesis. It would seem the sweetness and lure of sugar has become my nemesis too… gone are the days where my youth and active metabolism wage war on everything and anything I choose to eat.
Mom, is that you? Where did you come from? What are you doing here? I reached out… our fingers touched briefly, and in that moment reality regained order. The glass was cold, hard, the room small, the lighting soft. I blinked… the mind reconfigured. I was in the dressing room of a favorite clothing store; the particular dress being tried on, the fall of the fabric, the way it looked, the way it fit my burgeoning, aging body, its color, and its style perhaps the trigger. It was me… I was looking in a mirror at a reflection of myself… but it was mom who stood before me. How did this happen? How could this be. I’m my mother’s daughter… not my mother! Where did time go … how is this possible? A collision of emotions welled; disappointment, regret, sadness… not so much in the sense that the likeness I saw was that of mom, but rather that is was only a likeness, and in fact not her… only me growing older. In that singular moment of realization, incongruent feelings of warmth and joy enveloped too; perhaps the comfort of her seeming presence, a realization that she was not gone from this world entirely; I carried her within me… everyday… and the older I got, the more visible that essence of her materialized.
A hint of jubilance
My mother passed away May 13, 2005. She was a beautiful woman, inside and out… her nature, gentle and kind… her presentation of self, shy. She had wisdom beyond her years, her time even. I long for her stories, her 20 page letters sharing news of life in Africa; family goings-on, dad’s funny escapades, commentary on the ever-changing political landscape… her perceptive, unfiltered, perspective on life. I miss the unconditional love bestowed, the careful counsel imparted; even in her strictest lessons taught, she was always an inspiration to me. My mother was not perfect by any means, but she was and remains my most significant touchstone, my ultimate measure of a genuinely good person. I am today the age mom was the year I left South Africa… she gave shape to my character and flight to my dreams… and for that I will forever be grateful. I loved her deeply, I miss her terribly, still.
The dress being tried, while pretty, was not well suited for me. Not yet anyway. I carefully placed it back on its hanger, gathered my things and left the change room, glancing back at the mirror as I stepped out. She was gone… her image replaced with a likeness more like my own… hair pulled back, no makeup, a little tired looking perhaps, but eyes still bright… with a hint of jubilance.
The first day of the rest of my life
Jubilance, because today was the last day of my radiation treatment. Finding a new outfit to wear for a celebratory date with my darling husband is how I found myself to be in that dressing room. Since my initial diagnosis, and as I have traveled the road to recovery, I have received amazing support; from him, from my family and several close and dear friends… they have been my strength, my stamina. I must admit though, there have been times during the last several weeks that I have withdrawn… shut life out, isolated myself and my mind to a quiet space, a place to reflect and to process the wild assortment of emotions that at times have overwhelmed. It has been in these quiet moments that I most longed for my mom.
My mind turned wistful as I left the store; perhaps she knew, perhaps it is why she came to me today… to celebrate with me as I step into the future… to let me see that she too has been by my side on this journey and will, in her way, always be with me… and to remind me, that despite the ups and downs of life, growing older is better than the alternative.
Today, October 13, 2017, was the last day of my radiation treatment for breast cancer… and the first day of the rest of my life. It is a day I will long remember. Not only for the journey just completed, but because today, as it so happens, is also Mom’s birthday. If still with us, she would be celebrating 91 years of age.
Happy Birthday, Mom!
Thank you, Constance Anne, for your story of the power our tribe of women has in our lives. If you would like to help support breast cancer research and awareness, Constance Anne shared that her local Susan G. Komen affiliate was incredibly supportive in her journey. You can donate to Komen, or find your local affiliate at https://ww5.komen.org/Affiliates.aspx
Do you have Tribe Stories to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Tribe Stories” in the subject line.