On the seventh anniversary of my mother’s death, my sister and I will be together. Our father passed away 17 years ago this upcoming Thanksgiving but it was our mother’s death, ten years later, that had a far more impact on the two of us.  

I remember the day she died, feeling shell-shocked, unwilling to accept what the nurse was telling us. 

“Your mother had a massive stroke during the night and we have kept her on life support until you got here.” She says, while holding our hands.

Before the nurse unplugged the machines, we said our final goodbyes to our mother. 

Although the rest of the day and the weeks that followed were all a blur, I still vividly remember sitting in my mother’s home, shortly after she died, and saying to my sister, “We are orphans now.”

I know it may seem strange, to those who have not lost both of their parents, to be in your 40s and 50s and saying you are orphaned. Naturally people think of young child when they think of an orphan. It is true that as we age we are no longer financially dependent on our parents but that does not mean we still don't need them.

I thought of my tiny nucleus family without my parents, feeling completely alone in the world. Although my sister and I have always been close (well maybe a few years in our childhood we were not so nice to each other), the thought of no longer having the emotional support of my parents was really scary to me. For me, being in my 40s made no difference on the sense of abandonment I felt now that both of my parents were gone. I realize how fortunate I am to have cherished memories of both of my parents but my heart still breaks that I have so few photos of them with me.

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Although my parent’s and my relationship changed as I started to relate to their life experiences when I got married, became a parent myself, and was on a career path, deep down I was still their daughter. 

My parents were my stability growing up. They were my emotional rock that I know I took for granted. No matter how old I became or where I lived I knew they were always there for me. I miss their unconditional love, the love that only parents can give their children. I miss being able to bounce ideas and thoughts off them. I miss sharing memories and receiving advice from them. It is almost heartbreakingly comical how my sister and my memory of our childhood are so different. I miss them breaking up my sister and my disagreements. We often say, “I wish mom was around. She would tell you I am right!”

I think of my own children and when they will loose both of their parents. I am comforted to know that there will be a lot more digital images of them with both of their parents than what I have of mine. I chuckle at the thought of them googling my name and the surprises they might find. I hope, due to technology, they will feel a stronger connection with me after my death. Revisiting my own sense of loss has motivated me into making a video for each of my children, including a montage of photos chronicling their life and a heart felt message from both their father and me. I know with my own experience I must not wait too long to do this because you never know when ... well you know.


Audrey van Petegem is an independent blogger that has been published on a variety of online magazine and blogs such as, Huffington Post, BlogHer, Elephant Journal and Midlife Boulevard. She describes herself as a book reviewer, midlifer and ponderer. As a baby boomer, she will be the first to tell you the good, the bad and the ugly about this stage of life. Follow her on Twitter @Audreyvp.