When my mother died a wise friend told me that there was a significance to the father of a family, and to the eldest son, but that there’s a very special significance to the oldest female. The matriarch. He said that when my mum died that this passed onto me, and that he saw me step into that role by the strength and confidence I held myself with at my mothers memorial. I’ve struggled with this. As soon as I heard the news of Debbie’s passing I hoped and prayed for new mother figures to enter my life. I got the opposite. Instead I watched as the other mothers I did have leave my life, and new feelings began to consume me. The desire to still have a strong family unit committed to living the crazy, eccentric life we set out to live. To protect my little sisters, encouraging them and helping them grow by trying to be to them a piece of the mother we lost. To fuel all the dreams I talked to my mum about doing whatever they may be. And finally, to not let Debbie’s death hold me back or plant the idea that pro-actively living your ideal life and traveling is “too dangerous”, as this would mean that she died in vain.
But does this mean that I am the matriarch? To me, grieving is not about strength and it’s not a competition. It’s not about how well you can hold yourself in public or how fast you can move on, just to then in private (sometimes years later) break down with a rage of emotion just as intense as the day you found out the news. It’s hard for me to think of taking up the title of matriarch when even if I one day have a new little family of my own, that position will always belong to my mother. I will always talk to her, and remember the memories we had together, trying to think of the words she would say to encourage me to keep going. I will always have dreams and nightmares about her living, dying, and then finally I will wake up and need to convince myself of this implausible truth that she is no longer alive. She will always be the biggest inspiration in my life, and the person I love the most. She will always be the Matriarch in my mind.
So how about this; the Matriarch is not a title passed onto one person alone but to a community of people. The alternative life my mother created and set an example of, her contagious laughter and joy for life’s vast possibilities, her permission that you can follow your dreams and bring others along for the ride. These are just some of the things that so many of us who had the privilege to meet my mum will let shine in our lives. We lost the leader and goddess of our global, nomadic tribe, but she stays alive through us.