I Miss My Momma

My mother was born on August 22, 1931.  She was my beautiful, love-illuminating mother for almost 58 years until her death last year.  She spent her life loving and laughing and playing and working and bringing joy to everyone who knew her.  As many of you know, she spent the last year of her life stumbling around in the rubble of her collapsing brain before she found her way home to our great God.

The time I spent walking with my mother towards the end of her life was the most difficult time of my life.  When she died, I was sad to my essence. Every cell in my body mourned her. I was also relieved that she had finally escaped that half-world where everything she knew was disintegrating around her.

When she died, I had to look for a new way to live.  Learning how to grow towards my joy after keeping vigil at the edge of her darkness for over a year has been difficult.  For the most part, I’ve done pretty well.  I think that is largely due to the huge amount of anticipatory grief I processed during my mother’s illness.  Still, there is so much I am missing in this world without my mother.

The hardest part of mourning for me has been my fear that I would never remember my happy times with my mother when she was as she was in what I refer to as her “real life.”  Yes, my brain could remember those warm, loving, joyful, funny memories.  I could even point towards times during her illness that brought me deep peace, love, and happiness.  The scary part was that it was only my brain that could remember.  My heart couldn’t seem to connect with those times anymore.  I could tell those memories to someone else, but it always felt like I was talking about something I read or about someone else’s memories.  I couldn’t feel those happy moments anymore.  Before my mother’s illness, I could deftly enter my brain’s library and find a richly beautifully shelved memory.  I could re-live that moment and actually feel all the same feelings again.  After my mom’s stroke, all the happy memories seemed to be cloaked with the heavy, uncomfortable, dark sadness.  I couldn’t struggle my way out from under that cloak and refeel the happiness.

The hospice grief counselor assured me that the time would come when I would be able to connect with those jewels of joy again.  I was skeptical, but it turns out she was correct.  It happened for the first time a couple of weeks ago.  I was in my car backing out of the garage.  Max was waving good-bye to me.  He made some funny, exaggerated motions with his hands and, immediately, I was brought back to a time when I was a teenager.  My mother came into my bedroom to wake me. She began singing:

The Lord told Noah to build him an ark-y, ark-y.

The Lord told Noah to build him an ark-y, ark-y.

He made it of hickory barky, barky… children of the Lord.

So, rise and shine and give God your glory, glory.

Rise and shine and give God your glory, glory.

Rise and shine and give God your glory, glory.  Children of the Lord!”

She sang at the top of her lungs and her performance came complete with jazz hands, which is why Max’s motion triggered the memory.  I physically felt my mood soar.  I began to giggle.  I know my whole face beamed.

That wasn’t my last “re-feeling” moment. They are coming back to me spontaneously, like beautiful little surprises. I think my mother is sending them from Heaven.

I was thinking about how much I enjoyed teaching leadership classes when I was working.  I remembered the year I won my employer’s highest award for training.  I was going to Washington DC to accept the award and participate in a videoconference about teaching techniques.  I asked my mother if she wanted to go, even though I knew she probably wasn’t physically up to the trip.  She asked if all the other award winners would have guests with them because she “would crawl there on her knees before she would let me be the only one there alone.”   She had my back, every day in every way.

I saw something the other day that mentioned how many weekends were left before Christmas and remembered my mother’s intense adoration of all things holiday. I could feel her contagious excitement in the pit of my stomach.  I was watching “Countdown to Christmas” on QVC the other day and I kept wanting to text her when I saw something cute.

That’s the thing, though.  I am thrilled to find these joy jewels coming back to me.  I love being able to relive the emotions.  I feel love. I feel pride. I feel fulfillment.  I feel silliness.  I feel nurtured.  I feel mothered.  On the other hand, just as suddenly as these waves of warm, joyful, happy feelings crest, they crash down on the reality that there will be no new moments like those to remember.

I am happy that my mother is living a new, joyful, eternal life in Heaven.  I am happy that she is waiting there to share it with me when my turn comes.  I am also happy that my heart is now receiving glimpses of all the good she lavished on me in our life together.  I know she is no longer with me in my world, but she will always be with me in my life.

Yes, these heart memories and the wistfulness that follows them remind me that I have a hole in my heart that will always be empty.  Still, I’d rather feel that hole in my heart than not feel my heart at all.

What are some of your favorite memories of a lost loved one? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a joyful day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

A Beam Of Love

In the wee hours of the morning on September 2, my mother found her way out of this life.  After over a year of struggling on her path towards the next life, she fell asleep.  When she awoke, I am sure she found herself in God’s dwelling place instead of in the nursing home.

All my mother’s life, she lived joyously and richly. She squeezed every drop of enjoyment and meaning out of every day.  She was almost always happy.  It wasn’t that her life was always wonderful or exciting or fun.  It wasn’t even that she had a particularly exotic or interesting life.  Most people would say that her life was pretty conventional. She was a daughter and a sister and an aunt and a wife and a career woman and a mother and a friend.   What made her so special was not so much what her life was, but how she lived it.

My mother had a gift for satisfaction.  She collected fulfillment and meaning in her every action, even the most mundane experiences. When we were out driving somewhere and got off course, she’d often say, “I never get lost; I just have adventures.”  I think that pretty much summed up how she approached life, way beyond just how she approached a road trip. Wherever she was going in life and whatever she did, she was determined to find happiness and pleasure in the process.

She was the kind of person who attracted other people. She was an interesting and interested person.  She was curious about all kinds of things and embraced opportunities to learn.  She relished good, meaty conversations.  She was an excellent listener. She knew how to make people feel safe.  She heard what you said and what you didn’t say.  She heard what was underneath your words.  I don’t believe there was ever anyone who knew her who did not love her.  She constantly sowed love and harvested relationships as she rollicked through her day-to-day existence.  She valued those relationships and nurtured them.  Even in the nursing home in her very compromised state, she radiated a kindness and joy that attracted people.

On the other hand, she followed her own heart in living her own life.  She did what she believed was right and followed the paths that brought her happiness. She used to say that she liked herself and she liked her own company.  She had a busy mind that was always tooling away happily, creating thought and considering possibilities.  I used to say she was her own occupational therapist because she could figure out alternate ways to do almost everything when her mobility started to desert her.   She owned a home computer before most people did and, even in her eighties, she embraced new technology that added interest to her life.

She had courage of conviction.  She walked her life with God as her guide.  She held firm in her convictions and relied on her relationship with God to support her in her journey. She believed in prayer.  She believed in miracles.

She loved God.  She loved life. She loved other people.  She loved herself.  In short, she was a joyful beam of love, illuminating and warming everyone with whom she came in contact.

Now this beam of love has faded into the next life, leaving this life darker and colder and considerably less sparkling.  The thought of going on with my journey without her physically by my side seems unconscionable.  Considering all the memories we shared, all the things she taught me, and all the gifts she gave me, it is inaccurate to say I will ever be traveling through this life without her.  All that she was is embedded in me and will be with me forever. I want to honor all she was and all that made her beam by carrying on her legacy of loving, joyful living.

It seems that now I will have to grow towards the joy on my own, without her walking in tandem with me. I don’t know yet how I am going to do that.  It helps to know that she has found the greatest Joy of all.

Thanks to all of you for your support as I have walked this difficult path with my mother.  Thanks, in particular, to my friends Louisa and Odete, who encouraged me to write this tribute to my mom.  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a joyful day!

Terri 🙂

Special programming announcement:  I’ll be off the grid next week, but will be back with new content on October 4.