The trouble is, you think you have time

When my father died in 2003 at the age of 102½, I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. I was even less ready when my 92-year-old mother died a year after my son did. If you are close to one or both of your parents, I’m not sure you’re ever ready to be without them. And the younger you are, the more you long for their advice, guidance and support. Just because our parents are supposed to die before us doesn’t make the loss any easier.

an old black and white image of Margo as a baby being held by her father as she rests her head on his shoulder

When we’re little, we think of our parents as immortal, all knowing, people who can protect us and help us understand the outside world. As young adults, we get busy with our own lives. We want our parents to be available when we need them, but we think we have plenty of time to hear their stories, learn from them, spend time with them. And if we’re at a stage of life when we’re pulling away from our parents or at odds with them, their death can leave us feeling guilty about words we wish we hadn’t said and conversations we never had.

Until our parents die, we have never known life without them, and the reality of the loss is hard to come to terms with. For years, we may find ourselves like the heroine of Anna Quindlen’s novel One True Thing, standing with the phone in our hand, ready to make a call and “only then remembering that the woman I need to speak to has been dead for nearly a decade.”

At Salt Water, you can connect with others who have lost one or both parents at a variety of different ages. Understand how they cope with the yearning to have one or both parents back. Discover how their parent’s death changed them and their lives. Find out what they do to keep their parents’ wisdom and love alive as they move forward and learn to make a life without them.

Some of our favorite pieces on parental loss:

  • Unforgettable: A Son, A Mother and the Lessons of a Lifetime – Scott Simon’s funny, poignant tribute to his spirited, gutsy, loving mother
  • Notes on Grief – “For the rest of my life, I will live with my hands outstretched for things that are no longer there.” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s gorgeous tribute to her recently deceased father.
  • The Long Goodbye – “Nothing prepared me for the loss of my mother. Even knowing she would die did not prepare me. A mother, after all, is your entry into the world. She is the shell in which you divide and become a life. Waking up in a world without her is like waking up in a world without sky: unimaginable.” Meghan O’Rourke
  • Negative Space – “They say all the cells in your body regenerate every seven years. When I turned twenty, my father had been dead for eight. So if the theory is true, no cell in my body had ever been on the planet at the same time as him. I’d changed, cell by cell, into a person he never knew.” Lily Dancyger
  • Bettyville – “I will never stop remembering my mother’s strength, her struggle to remember words, to hang onto the world … I will see her walking haltingly, in the dark, doing her best to find her way.” George Hodgman
  • The Burning Light of Two Stars – Laura Davis’ memoir examines the enduring bond between a mother and daughter and whether it’s possible to reconcile with a parent who has betrayed you.
  • LossWhat does it mean to lose someone? To answer this timeless question, Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi draws on the devastating losses of his mother, father and beloved dog to craft a moving memoir about death and grief.
  • The Rules of Inheritance – Claire Bidwell Smith’s haunting memoir about losing both her parents by the time she turns twenty-five years old
  • “Four Days” – Stefanie Turner’s beautiful article about meeting the man of her dreams four days after her mother died and how she built a new life with her mother at the center of it
  • Remembering Lorna Colbert – Stephen Colbert’s moving tribute to his late mother
  • “‘Now You Are An Orphan.’ I was 59” — No matter how old we are, we are never ready to lose our parents
  • “My Father’s Everyday Heirlooms” — even the most ordinary of items can hold powerful memories of our deceased loved one
  • “I Hope This Grief Stays With Me “– Andrew Garfield honors his mom and shares how his art helps sew up his wounds (the part about grief begins at 4:15)
  • The Beautiful Awful – artist Alyssa Monks’ TEDx Indiana University talk about her mother and their time together before she died and how the loss inspired her painting
  • Anderson Cooper Interviews Stephen Colbert On Grief And Loss — “You become a different person. I was personally shattered and then you kind of re-form yourself in this quiet grieving world that was created in the house.”
  • La Demencia – In 2011, photographer Rich Beckermeyer’s mother, Cindy, brought her parents from their Texas home to Michigan to care for them as they faced the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Shortly thereafter, Rich began capturing his grandparents in a series of stunning black and white images in what turned into a seven year project from 2011-17. Rich also documented the daily struggle involved with being a caregiver by photographing his mother, Cindy.

We invite you to become part of our community. Share your story, ask a question, make a comment. We’d love to hear from you.

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