I have dreaded this weekend for a while now.
Mother’s Day and Mom’s birthday. The first without her.
This year, Mother’s Day and Mom’s birthday fall on the same day. This happens every so often. I can hear her saying, “Remember, I’ll take two cards–one for Mother’s Day and one for my birthday.” I would laugh and say, “Sure thing, Mom. Two cards.”
Part of me wants to go out and buy two cards, because, that’s what we did.
Part of me can’t bear the thought of looking at a Mother’s Day card.
For those of you who didn’t know, my siblings and I gave eulogies for our mom at her funeral service. I’ve been trying to think of something to share, especially for those who are grieving a mom; whether that is because they are no longer with you, or you wish for a better relationship, or for those who are missing a child this Mother’s Day–I see all of that, and I hold you in my heart because I know that hurt. I know that pain. And I want you to know you are not alone.
So, this weekend, I reflect on October 28, when I read these words and said “goodbye for now” to my mother. I miss her voice, her laugh, and her questions about the kids, Sam, and school. I miss picking up the phone to call her.
I am not sure how I spoke these words, but I did.
My mother was one of a kind. To know her was to love her. She adored her husband of fifty-five years, she loved her three children fiercely, and she claimed never had a favorite. Her grandchildren were her pride and joy.
When the great-grandchildren started arriving, she kept pictures in her purse for several years. She was proud to show anyone and everyone pictures of her family.
My mother had a pretty good sense of humor. If you knew her, you know she did not particularly care for animals. She probably only loved a few dogs in her lifetime, and that was because they belonged to family members. She didn’t want dogs in the house because they might be dirty. She absolutely hated cats, and if she visited with anyone who had one, she would shriek, ask them to put them away and keep watch to see if they would get out of a room to find her.
Mom took care of all of us kids before she sometimes took care of herself. She made sure she we had what we needed, clean tennis shoes and all, as well as our keys, wallets, purses, backpacks, and glasses. She took me on numerous baton trips with hotel stays and lots of snacks. One summer at the Illinois State Fair, she even told me to stop sweating so much because I was in my uniform, and it was a very hot day, she didn’t want me to ruin it and she didn’t want to try and clean it.
My mom also had the best husband. She often told us kids and our friends how handsome he was in high school and how much she loved going on dates with him. He would later tell us that she despised Peter Sellars, but never said a word while dating. Over the past two years, I watched my parents put their lives on hold. Gone were the days of packing up for a weekend road trip, a softball tournament, or a visit to see grandkids. Those days were replaced with doctor’s appointments, ER visits, rehab facilities, and a new way of life. My dad even traded his beloved Ford for his beloved, so he could get her where she needed to be comfortable.
The past few weeks I’ve watched my dad take care of my mom—often before taking care of himself. I know what true love is and I have witnessed what it means, firsthand, to be a caregiver. They had a love like no other.
There were summer trips to basketball camps, family vacations, and trips to see grandkids. When my sister lived in northern Illinois, we stopped at a grocery store to get items for dinner. My mom was so proud to be visiting, she told the checkout clerk that she wasn’t from around here, but her oldest daughter was—and then went into detail about what they did and how many kids she had. It was like mom never met a stranger.
When my brother graduated with his master’s degree it was a day after the May 8th storm. Mom and Dad, much like everyone in our area, had little to no power or water. She would tell people she had to be there, even though she got ready in the dark, she was probably worried about her hair, what it looked like, and how much hairspray she had, they made it to McKendree.
Mom loved people. She liked to go out to eat, often she would say, “Let’s grab a bite,” and she liked to shop. She took numerous shopping trips, most of them involving tears and laughter, and food. She even won a $1,000 shopping spree to Watson’s, a store that was in Carbondale. She had a plethora of shoes and purses, most of which matched many outfits.
When I started graduate school, she was worried if I had made friends or met new people. A few of them were lucky enough to meet her. When I played basketball at Logan, she hosted many of my teammates over so they could get a home-cooked meal. She was a mom on the road, a dance grandma, not quite like the women in Dance Moms, but she spent many nights and weekends at a dance with her granddaughters for competitions or recitals.
Psalm 34:18 says the Lord is near to those who have broken hearts. Many of us have a broken heart today. The Lord was with Mom, always. In the past few years, when her health declined, she did not get out and go a lot. She struggled with that as she always liked to be near and with people, but today, I think she would love and appreciate each person who showed up today.
Matthew 5:4 says Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
I take comfort in knowing my mom is no longer suffering. I hope she’s running on the streets of gold, and I hope she is hugging so many family members and friends who have gone before her.
I believe music can heal wounds, and broken hearts, and save us at some of the most devastating times of our life. These words from the song Most of All by Brandi Carlile have been on repeat in my heart and head for many, many months.
“I haven’t heard my mother’s voice in a while. But her words are always falling out my mouth. My mind and spirit are at odds sometimes, and they fight like the North and the South.
I still care enough to bear the weight. Of the heaviness to which my heart is tethered. She taught me how to be strong and say goodbye, and that love is forever.
But most of all, she taught me how to fight, how to move across the line, between the wrong and the right, and when I’m turned out in the darkness, and the pushing comes to shove, to remember what comes back when you give away your love.”
Mom’s words have been falling out of our mouths, when it was time to leave, she would always tell us, “Love you, see you, bye.”
Put in a good word for us mom, love you, see you, bye for now.