I wanted to write an academic paper about International Women’s Day full of statistics about domestic violence, sexual assault and gender barriers.
Then I wanted to write out a long thank you honouring every Woman that has encouraged and supported me along my healing journey. I wanted to acknowledge all of the special Women I have met and their contributions to Society. I have met Women who have been firsts in their field. I have met Women that defy all odds. I have met Women who have overcome huge obstacles with grace and dignity. Every Woman that has ever served her Country is a Warrior, no matter the capacity in which they served, they are a Hero in my eyes.
Counselors, Doctors, friends and my Veteran family have aided me in so many ways and I am so very grateful for each and every one of them.
However on this International Women’s Day I want to honour my late Mother, Sue.
We had a tumultuous relationship. I was the firstborn. A daughter, with a brother following 11 months later. At 19 years old after already having her own traumatic past she set out raising the both of us with my father. They were wed 11 days after her 18th birthday in a small ceremony when she was already 4 months pregnant with me.
My Mom did the best she could with what she had. I could not see this for most of her life. She had a grade 8 education and was barely an adult when she was all of a sudden raising 2 children. She was the youngest of six children and her brothers and sisters treated her like a baby, even when she was older. They treated her like she couldn’t think for herself, like she didn’t know what was good or right for her. I always felt like my Mom was trying to make them proud but they wouldn’t see it. They only saw everything she did wrong. My Mom’s mom died when I was 10. I found out on my 10th birthday. She had died the night before. This was my Mom’s breaking point. She had been drinking more and more since my baby brother was born when I was 8 and the depression hit hard after Grandma was gone.
We lived with our other Gramma. My Dad’s mom. 5 people in a 2 bedroom apartment above her. I shared a room with my brothers until I was 16. I watched my Mom and how she treated me and I judged her. I blamed her. I hated her. I wanted to be anybody but her daughter. I was a self-absorbed teenager that wanted to be noticed in my family and could not see that my Mom had her own issues.
As an adult I can look back with hindsight and wish things were different but see them for what they really were.
My Mom was suppressed for years. She was not allowed to truly be herself. She was barely an adult when she met my father and had already been through things no young woman should ever have to go through (prostitution, incarceration). My Mom made choices, some turned out good, some turned out bad, just like me. She made the best of some pretty shitty situations and kept moving forward. I thought I was the reason she drank, the reason she was so unhappy and in turn I blamed her for my unhappiness and my issues.
My Mom and I finally started to have a good relationship and enjoy each other’s company. We finally started to understand each other and communicate when I realized it wasn’t her fault, she did the best she could. Truth is my Mom didn’t know how to be a Mom, just like I didn’t have a clue raising my Sons. Took me over 40 years to see my Mom for who she really was. An amazing beautiful Soul with a huge heart and stunning smile.
My Mom started over after 35 years of marriage. She got her own place and finally got to discover who she was and what she wanted in life. She had friends and traveled a bit. She had a family in AA, as she was sober for almost 26 years when she passed. She lost most of her sight due to diabetes and had painful laser surgery to correct it enough she could see things. She had terrible pain, used a scooter, had chronic lymphocytic leukemia, congestive heart failure, neuropathy, kidneys at 10%, broke her hip and had a mini-stroke but she kept going. She did the best she could every day. She kept journals and every newspaper clipping I was ever in.
I didn’t realize what a difference my Mom had made in people’s lives until her funeral. The people that showed up and told me how my Mother had made a difference in their life. I couldn’t see my Mom because I couldn’t see myself. I was so busy not wanting to be like her, blaming her and resenting her that I couldn’t see how truly amazing she was. When my mind was focused on the negative and my own trauma I only saw the bad. When I started to have the same issues with my Sons as I gave my Mom I suddenly realized that she was never to blame. As I got older and progressed on my healing journey I came to find that it doesn’t matter who broke you, or who is to blame, it is your responsibility to fix yourself. My Mom fixed herself and because she did that she was able to assist others on their journey. The Woman I never wanted to be now inspires me to be the Woman I choose to be today. She may be gone from this Earth but she still walks with me every day as I learn from the time we did spend together and the lessons I was too stubborn to learn because I was absorbed in my own trauma.
My Mom led by example. She fought til the very end and she left this world independent, courageous and brave. She proved she didn’t need anyone but herself and that she could make good decisions and she lived her own life her way.
My Mom is my hero, a real Angel and I am going to be the best me I can possibly be to honour her memory and to provide an example for my granddaughter.
Hurt people hurt people, healed people heal people. My Mom was living proof of this and my Mom made me. I am the Woman I am today because of her and I finally accept and love the Woman I was, am and choose to become.
Happy International Women’s Day to every Woman out there. May you find happiness,love and peace on your path to finding yourself.
In Memory of
Susan Ann (Harrison) McIlmoyle
April 25,1954- October 19, 2015