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There are many stupid things that people have said (and continue to say) to me after Mama died… things like “everything happens for a reason,” “God never gives us more than we can handle” (for a full-fledged rant on this one, click here), and “Now your mama is your guardian angel.” There’s one in particular, though, that actually has proven to be appropriate…  “something good will come of this.”  This one’s especially hard to hear when your hurt and loss is still so open and raw. Something good coming from this gaping hole that used to be me? Um, I don’t think so.

But now, two years later, I find myself thinking that amazingly enough, a few of those platitude-spewing people were right on the money.

Here’s the thing. I do NOT think that God took my mother for a reason. I don’t think that God took my mother at all. Cancer took my mother. But when things go awry (as is always the case with cancer), positive changes can result eventually. EVENTUALLY, not immediately. It took me two years + two weeks to even see this small glimmer.

The glimmer is this — losing my mother has allowed me to become a person that I wouldn’t have been otherwise.

During a conversation with my sister last night (our first in months), she said, “Mama made us alike.”

And she’s right. Mama did. It wasn’t like she forced us, or insisted… no, not at all. It’s just that my mother’s presence was so strong, so passionate, that we adjusted to allow for the huge force that she was. She gave us a moral value system and a sense of home. But what she DIDN’T give us was options. We, mostly Jennifer & I, parroted so many of her views and her perceptions, and we really, truly THOUGHT they were our views and perceptions.

This is not to say that my mother was a dictator or overbearing or a bad mom. She was the polar opposite. What I’m talking about is common among many mothers & daughters I know. She teaches you how to keep a tidy house. She teaches you to wash your hair and shave your legs. She teaches you what’s right and wrong. And her own perceptions & ideas get all mixed up in that, so that you become, in a sense, a mirror of her. How many times have we thought or said some version of this thought: “My mama’s way is the right way”? I think that’s why many women find their mother-in-laws oppressive… because they’re NOT our mother. When we hit college, we branch out on some topics like politics, religion, or we might even date someone our mothers don’t approve of just to assert our independence. But underneath, the voice of our mothers are still there, throwing in their $0.2 on every single decision.

Then my mother died, and I had to learn how to be a separate identity. It’s something I would have never, ever chosen, but it wasn’t optional. Is this separate identity an altogether new creation? Or is it a version of myself that was always inside, and I just had no reason or inclination to let her come to the surface? Probably a combination of the two.

My separate identity has pierced ears.

She never goes home to Townville. Why? Because she doesn’t want to.  Mama’s not there, so why bother?

She learns cooking, and sewing, and countless other household tasks from the internet because there’s no mother here to teach her the “right” way to do it.

She has joined a church, which she would not have done if her mother was still here, and she is becoming more and more active with that church & its people.

She doesn’t go shopping anymore because her shopping buddy isn’t here, and she doesn’t even miss it (the shopping, not the buddy).

She is more independent, and becoming more so everyday.

Validation from family is no longer a necessary step in her decision-making process.

She now understands the concept of grace, and knows that following the rules of legalism actually has no impact on her spiritual outcome — thus the meaning of grace.

My separate identity is also more cynical, less compassionate, and more out-spoken.

She’s smarter than the old Sarah, and I respect her more because she had to go through hell to get here.

I no longer have the option of being my Mama’s little girl. I miss it every single day. I don’t think there will ever be a time that there’s not a lost little girl inside crying for her mother. But I’m finally – FINALLY – starting to see a glimmer of the good that’s happening because of this tragedy.