From the Left



Women's History Month: Love, Loss and the Everyday Women who Raised Me

Bonnie Jean Feldkamp on

Last week marked 40 years since my mom died. Grief works in curious ways and comes in waves long after a loved one has passed. It shows up in unexpected ways. This year, for me, it showed up in my son's face.

My son is seven years old, the same age I was when my mother died. It's common for people to struggle when they reach the same age their parents were at the time of death, and I surpassed that mark 15 years ago. When I was the same age as my mother, my daughter happened to be 7. It was a double dose of understanding, but I felt that wave more like I was standing in my mother's shoes -- the gravity of her short life and the urgency to live mine. I felt like every day was borrowed and because I was somehow lucky to live longer, I owed it to her to live my best life. That year was also the year I finalized my divorce. My life was waiting, and I did not see my ex-husband as part of what I envisioned.

This year is different. I am married to a man I love very much. He chases dreams with me. So, it was jarring when a month ago I sank into my couch and sobbed. I had no idea what had been lurking underneath, but it came shooting to the surface in a sudden realization while looking at my son. He is literally a dream come true. My little boy was born when I was 40, against all odds according to my doctors.

Think about a 7-year-old child. My son's whole life revolves around my care for him. Our morning walks. His packed lunches. Washing his hair in the bath. Reading at bedtime. Swimming at the YMCA. The meals he eats, excursions he takes and all my hugs for him on hard days.

I finally saw in his face what I must have felt when I looked at my mother. A love, fully anchored to where he comes from. A little human knowing he is loved and supported and trusting that his mom will always be there. This wrecked me in a way that I cannot fully articulate.

My grandmother once told me about staying with us for a few weeks after mom died. One day I bounded through the door after school shouting, "Mom, I'm home!" Then I stopped when I saw grandma and said, "Oh, I forgot." To feel so loved only to be sucked into the void death brings at 7 years old. How did I claw myself out of that abyss? I know I did not do it alone.


My mom was a foster mom. Before she died, we always had foster sisters in the house. Mom died in a car accident on the way to pick up a foster child.

After mom died, my dad remarried. I love my stepmother very much. It's not a love that came easily in my adolescence. As anyone in a blended family will tell you, that bond takes time. But one thing I understand more clearly as an adult is that my mom gave her life to caring for children torn from their biological moms for myriad reasons. She would have wanted the same for me. For someone to comfort me, to mother me, after such an incredible loss. One of the most honest ways I can honor my mother's life and love is to be open to the love that is offered. Not only from my stepmother but all the women in my life who have shown up for me. Many women have 'mothered' me over the years through their mentorship, friendship and solidarity. I am so grateful.

As we begin women's history month, I want to recognize the everyday women in my life who show up for me again and again. From my stepmom to my female colleagues, my sisters and aunts as well as my treasured friends. These matriarchs raised me, saved me and continue to lift me up every single day.


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