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  • Writer's pictureIngrid Ollquist

My Favorite Parent Died




The guilt I have writing this kind of consumes me, but I can’t escape the truth — grief doesn’t let you lie. I want to start off by saying that I came from two adoring parents, both who understand and represent the term “unconditional love”, but my natural connection to my mother was and is undeniable.


I don’t really like the term favorite, because I don’t think it encompasses the nuances and strife one goes through to get the title favorite, it almost is a word that makes the world see things in rose tinged glasses. My mother and I’s relationship was everything, but rose tinged. There was nothing delusional about it — it was raw, real, true and solid. This is what makes her my favorite parent. I was able to express myself exactly as I was — unchanged. That messy form that was and is me, was not easy to parent. In comes the conflict in my relationships with my Dad— Dad liked to form, instruct, and his ultimate goal was ease. This is not conducive to a growing individual who just wants to express as an individual — I learned quickly and fell in line to this narrative because he was the enforcer and disciplinary of the family cohort. My mom also fell in line to this narrative, because my dads sense of ease was more important than our sense of individuality, oh and it saved her from fighting in an unwinnable war. Sometimes we shrink in order to survive. When things were in a state of disease — you would know in his red colored face and thin stern lip's — he wasn’t much of a yeller, he didn't need to be because his expression of anger was enough to instill fear in our minds.


My mother was a stay at home mom, so when it was just us, expression and individuality evolved — it was finally seen. In these glimpses we had real conversations and formed friendships with each other. My dad firmly believed that you shouldn’t be friends with your kids — this isn’t his fault that's his parents fault.


I put all my cookies in a jar, so to speak, when leaning on a parent. I chose my mom through and through and I found comfort in just knowing my dad was there and always “in my corner” as he always lovingly tells me. I didn’t need him to be an active participant, I just needed him in my corner in life. So, when my mother was diagnosed with MS, I quickly came to realize that one thing was delusional about our relationship : her immortality.


Now, I will start off by saying MS is not necessarily a death sentence, many people can live full lives with it, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case with my mom. She started declining pretty quickly and fast forward a few years from diagnosis she was wheel chair bound — quickly moving towards the status of quadriplegic. How in the fuck was I supposed to live without my mom, MY FAVORITE PARENT. My Dad is in my corner, that’s his role. My mom is my teammate, my coach, my guide, my best friend, my heart — she knows me and accepts me in this form. I need her — she can’t be going down this way.

Oh, but she was. After we got the final notice, as I would like to call it, from the doctors that there was nothing we could do about the progression of this condition, we were forced into this icky space of acceptance — we definitely weren’t dining with acceptance more like riding on the same train as it. We see it, we acknowledge it, but we aren't a fan of them eating a tuna sub in an enclosed space, its gross and unwanted. Okay to be honest that was a little hard for me to write because I love tuna salad, but I know the tuna sub analogy is more of a shared sentiment to the general populous. Also, I was bullied for eating tuna sandwiches in middle school, so this validates that theory — it’s science.


Coming to terms with a parents death is hard even when they have no diagnosis that would hasten their death. But there is something immeasurably hard when you are catapulted into the space where you are forced to carry that knowledge — presently. Witnessing my mother physically degrade before my eyes is not a hell I wish for anyone, but I will admit it came with many gifts — some that I am only now just finding. This condition is awful, but it gave us time that not many people get when facing death. We were able slowly embrace that we didn’t have the time we once thought we had, so making the most of it was the only option. The finality forced us to open up about our deepest fears, our truest beliefs, the views we held about our existence here on earth, but it also allowed for levity and simple moments of joy and laughter to seep back in. I was able to bring love back into the mundane tasks like brushing her hair and watching lovingly how her curly frizzy hair beautifully fought each bristle, at times stopping the brush dead in it’s tracks requiring us to reroute. We labored her death together for years. Long goodbyes are extremely difficult when you are in them, but I look back in reverence for the opportunity.


The hardest reality is that I wouldn’t have wanted my dad to die first, he wasn’t meant to. He needed his time here to step out of his corner and become an active player in the game that is my life. My mom showed me in an incredibly graceful way that death was okay. It was natural and certain. She invited my curiosity and fear around it all while she was exploring it herself. She showed me the beauty in dying. She showed me that amidst the utter devastation, joy and love prevails. It takes courage and immense strength to actively teach and parent your children in your dying experience. If she wasn’t the parent that died first, I wouldn’t know the things I now know. I wouldn’t have been exposed to the gifts that I know cherish and hold dear. I wouldn’t be who I am now, still a mess, but a wise and healing mess.


I now only realize that my mom was always supposed to be the favorite because she was undeniably extraordinary, a light that couldn’t help but diminish my fathers — he didn’t have a fighting chance. There was nothing wrong with him, and by dad standards he truly is an amazing father. Unwavering and supportive, even if he doesn’t always agree. A cheerleader to us always, especially in their divorce and in her death. If he matched with anyone else on this earth I don’t think I would have had a favorite — deep down I know he saw this in her as well.

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