I watched a program on HBO a few weekends ago titled, “700 Sundays.” The show was performed as a one man production and the actor was Billy Crystal. The premise of the show was 700 Sundays of his life from childhood until his age now. Many portions of his production were comedic, as one might expect knowing Billy Crystal’s work. Yet, some were quite poignant. When Crystal spoke of his memories of both his father’s death, when Crystal was 15 years old, and his mother’s strokes and death, when Crystal was 53, I was truly touched. One statement he shared really stirred my heart, Crystal said he was 53 years old and he was an orphan.
Finally, I thought, someone understands.
Last summer my mother died. My father died in 2001, so the passing of my mother was the death of my only surviving parent. My first thought as I felt the aching hollow in my chest was, now I am an orphan. I know this may sound strange to those who have one or both of their parents still in their lives. But it doesn’t seem to matter how old one is; when an individual loses the final parent living, no matter the age, one feels orphaned.
Suddenly, there is no one to know you from the moment you came into the earth. Yes, there may be brothers or sisters who were already born when you were born, but they don’t “know” you as a mother or father does. You weren't created by their love, they didn’t feel you move inside them or know that you wouldn’t be a part of this world without their intervention. Most importantly, you don’t owe them for your sole existence. You may love your siblings wholeheartedly but you will never be loved again unconditionally simply because you were their creation, their child.
Will being an orphan define my existence for the rest of my life? Probably. Can being an orphan provide me with new possibilities? Most certainly. I think of it as a regretful freedom. It is definitely not a gift, but I can choose to only look at the negative and the loss I have experienced, or I can focus on the freedom from responsibility that I have been given. I am fully aware that had I not been blessed with such amazing, and loving parents I would not be feeling their loss as deeply. Yet another reason to be thankful for them.
Any day I would rather still have my parents by my side, but I must be grateful for the fact they are no longer suffering from their afflictions; and selfishly that I am not having to watch them do so. Now I must use the experiences that I have had and move forward. My hope is that I may become a stronger person and parent for my own children, and that I will from now on focus on the future, without forgetting the past.