Home Video

I remember the first time I heard her voice on one of our home videos after she died.

Tears instantly clouded my eyes. It felt like she was in the room.  As if I could reach out and touch her at any moment, only to realize her death was a bad dream.

Her laugh echoed through the speakers and my heart sank into my chest.

I thought seeing and hearing her again would bring me joy. But right then, in that moment—I felt a pain I couldn’t put into words.

It’s that kind of pain that leaves you breathless and aching from limb to limb. There is no other sensation like it in the world. Either way, I wish human beings didn’t have to experience it.

As her figure moved across the screen like a vibrant ghost, I tried to find my breath again. I had never felt so much resentment towards technology before. It was a source of my pain instead of my comfort. How wrong society was yet again.

At any moment I was ready to walk across the room, unplug the video camera and throw it at the wall; watching with relief as it shattered into pieces. But I sat frozen on the couch, staring at my mother.

I was being taunted, or at least that’s what it began to feel like. Her voice, her face, her laugh was all too real. But I couldn’t touch her. I couldn’t even smell her scent. It’s such a tease when you realize grief doesn’t allow you to experience two of the five senses you truly need to heal. 

I wanted so badly to smell her Burt’s Bees lotion that she would rub on her hands during chemo.

I wanted to feel her arms wrapped around me.

I wanted her to be real again and not stuck in the screen of that home video.

I heard her say my name through the speakers. The world around me fell silent.

There is no greater intimacy to grief than hearing your name be spoken by a loved one that is no longer here with you.

My mom lost her battle with breast cancer when I was 13 years old.

I am now 24 and my heart still aches for her to be with me today. 

It is never easy to lose anyone. It doesn’t matter at what age or under what circumstances. Loss is exactly what it says it is, a loss. But right now, I want to address anyone who has experienced loss in any capacity. There are words I wish someone had said to me right after my mom died.I believe they hold a sense of comfort most of us are always pining for on our worst days. 

Your grief and pain are  worthy of being felt. Your heart won’t always ache the way it does when you stumble upon an old memory or handwritten note. Despite the days when you feel you can’t bare another breath; know that you are not alone and connect with a sense of purpose within your pain. Close your eyes and put your hand on your heart. Because that steady beat you feel against the palm of your hands is one powerful reason to keep going.

You get to live for those you have lost; wholeheartedly. 

After you lose someone, the keenness of your emotional senses are heightened. You love harder, you cry harder, you fall harder, you live harder. 

And you unwillingly witnessed life deteriorate, suddenly become temporary and undeniably vulnerable earlier than most. That in itself pulls you into a consciousness that many people struggle to connect with until moments before their last breath. 

Maybe one day I will be able to sit and watch a home video of my mother with a smile on my face and joy in my heart. But for now, I honor the pain I feel, walk over to the TV, and turn it off.

Kristen Gmerek