“a date on the calendar only has power over you if you let it.“
my husband’s gentle but emphatic encouragement shows his characteristic wisdom. i’m not sure exactly why another anniversary of life without my mother has me so out of sorts, because it’s really no different than any other day, but for some reason the milestone can effectively cast a cloud over my entire week. i think it is because the date is not just another reminder of her; this day–this week–two years ago is practically the only unhappy memory i have of her.
because almost all reminders of my mom evoke wistful smiles or all-out grins.
even the ones that reduce me to a blubbering mess. i went to see the movie Brave a few weeks ago, by myself. it’s a good thing the theater was nearly empty, because i would have certainly disturbed any moviegoers nearby. the story centers around the relationship between a mother and daughter, and theirs was so similar to the closeness i shared with my mom that i was overwhelmed by the intensity of my emotions and cried through most of it. sobbed, really.
but the tears were intermingled with laughs and warm feelings as i recognized myself reflected in the heroine every time she said “mo-om!”
when the mother character found herself in a position of needing to rely on her daughter for knowledge crucial to her survival, the familiar mother-daughter dynamic that was portrayed on the screen was a bittersweet reminder my last of our last years together.
while the movie wrecked me and temporarily sharpened the “missing her” pangs, it did so in a way that brought to mind sweet memories and filled me with gratitude for the amazing relationship i had with my mother. in the movie, the girl had to be brave, but in my life, it was my mother who exemplified this trait.
“Trust in ultimate victory gives ultimate courage…Real courage embraces twin realities of current difficulty and ultimate
triumph.” – Max Lucado, Fearless, Ch. 13
my mom displayed unfaltering courage in the face of difficulty, and it inspires me to do the same. her awe of Jesus fueled her courage and positively impacted so many people. i know i have a long way to go before i can truly emulate her like i want to. to truly be brave.
*the image above was created by the talented traci martin (charcoal drawing from a photo) for a project of the Visual Arts Ministry at CCC. my mother wrote Exodus 15:26 on a beam in the unfinished new site of her church and traci’s mom captured the photo. traci titled the piece “As Awe of Jesus Expands, Fears of Life Diminsh.“
you are a selfish, selfish person. i hear my thoughts as if they are being hissed in my ears. how can you let your frustrations rob the joy from beautiful new beginnings?
i stare at myself in the mirror and play the mind-game again. what if? suppose it happens tomorrow? what then? i squeeze my eyes shut in imagination and try to decipher my swirling emotions. fear? not quite. nervousness? only a little. excitement? dread? joy? sorrow? perhaps all of the above.
the part of my heart that throbs with the chronic dull pain wants no part it—the inevitable wringer of heart-wrenching grief traps that would surely lie in wait if we were to take that step. that piece of me would much rather decline the invitation for constant glaring reminders that someone is missing. woefully, unjustly absent.
then the sensible side of my spirit speaks up again in that unkind, berating tone. you can’t allow your disappointment over a trashed first draft to prevent you from writing an awesome second one. this is about building your family with your husband, not your lost moments with your mom.
but it’s about both. because a large part of me is convinced that as soon as i start preparing for kids of my own without being able to share it with my mother, that this shaky daily survival that i’ve established will be rocked again. i worry that i won’t be able to maintain the normal-ish, mostly happy existence that i’ve settled into over the past eighteen months. the very thought is enough to make me want to avoid the possibility altogether.
i thought the bliss from the birth of my precious, precious niece would help prove my pessimistic side wrong. and it did. kinda. but the thought of walking through that experience personally, and not just alongside my sister, still leaves me a little broken inside.
i still hope for new beginnings. i still dream of building a legacy with lee, and passing down the legacy handed to me. and i still believe my God will sustain me with the inexplicable joy amidst the sorrow that only He is capable of—in the same way he has always delivered before.
His whispers are louder than my hissing thoughts: “there is no way your hurt or dismay can rob the joy from the beautiful new beginnings I bring.”
this post is a response to a challenge by jeff goins to write something dangerous, to share something scary. just write.
photo by haleigh russell
dread is often—i would even venture to say usually—much worse than the actual cringe-worthy event. i should know that by now. but it doesn’t stop me from letting apprehension build with the approach of something i would rather avoid, deny, ignore.
i don’t know what was most offensive about this unwelcome milestone – the fact that time has had the audacity to keep marching on, or that i now have a marker to make me feel woefully lagging on where i’m “supposed to be” emotionally by this point. the pain is still fresh, the shock still wearing off, yet my excuse for emotional episodes can no longer be an acceptable “my mom died last year.”
although unintentional, i’d established a self-imposed statute of limitations on my grief. in my mind, once we were on the other side of the year mark, the expectations on my feelings, actions, and reactions would be different…even though i honestly don’t feel much different.
while i’m certain not one of my family or friends would ever place a time constraint on my healing process, i feared that people wouldn’t understand. as if the general consensus after a certain period of time is “the sorry window is closed on that.”
but when i woke this morning (the day after The Day), i felt considerably lighter. as i read God’s word, i felt Him reminding me that He has been, is, and will be my strength, comfort, and joy amidst the sorrow. i realized that while the longing for my mother is still just as strong as the first day without her, she would be proud of the way her family has spent this last year honoring her memory, glorifying The Healer, rejoicing in new beginnings, enjoying fun times, and leaning on each other.
missing my mom desperately is not a sign of weakness, because healing is not a matter of moving on from someone who will eternally be an intimate part of my life. it’s about moving forward, on purpose, fearlessly.
it’s amazing how surviving one of your worst fears, and and experiencing God’s provision though it, renders all other threats innocuous.
if i “grow up” to be just like my mom, then i will have achieved my only important and worthy life goal (because that encompasses all my spiritual, family, and character goals). i’m aiming for just a fraction of her faith, compassion, ambition, creativity, optimism, energy, and positive influence. those who knew her understand i’m not exaggerating.
my success in reflecting her in the big areas is yet to be seen. but i do know this: i AM my mother in all the little ways. this manifests itself in my life no less than a hundred times a day. from how i fold shirts to the way i make oatmeal to my explore-all-options approach to decision-making, i learned it all from my mom. i’m reminded of her all day long as i recognize her shadow across most of my habits, mannerisms, and methods.
sometimes you don’t realize the extent of someone’s signature on your life until his or her absence highlights it.
this was evident to me during a recent cleaning spree, and i shared this with my family:
“so i’m cleaning out my closet (again) and half my clothes are there because of mom… girls’ shopping trips, gifts for no occasion, thumbs up replies to photo texts… the woman had style, and i could hardly make a purchase without her approval.
but it’s hard to give up a worn-out shirt when it reminds me of us giggling in the dressing room while i played runway model and she hung up discarded blouses. and then there are the pieces i can’t bear to part with for no other reason than the fact that mom felt so strongly that i needed a certain staple in my wardrobe. i’m staring at a pretty linen skirt that i have never worn, knowing i should pass it along to someone who will put it to good use, but i can hear her telling me how every girl should have one in her closet. after all, momma always knew best.
seriously, she knew what she was talking about; disregard her advice at your own peril.
reminiscing made the process a little more tedious, but in the end i was grinning at my thrift pile, thinking of the zillions of golden nuggets she passed along – beyond fashion advice – that helped me be prepared, avoid messes, make the most of stuff, and enjoy life.”
the linen skirt might still have to go.
although i’ve not been consistent over the past few months about recording and sharing my purposeful resolutions as i’d intended, i’m still determined to be intentional about growing through the pain. i’m pleased to report that i’ve followed through on my first commitment, and have written quite a few cards for the tiniest of occasions. it’s been a joyful exercise in taking nothing for granted that i plan to continue.
around the new year i pledged my second moving-forward resolution, and after tripping over a few landmines figuring this one out, i’m ready to share it: I WILL REDEFINE TRADITION.
in my subconscious mind, special traditions have been classified in part by the activities that are “the same” each time. my family loves celebrations, and many of our beloved traditions were championed by my mom. on the heels of our first holiday season without her, i knew that i needed to adjust my perspective on “the same” if i were going to truly celebrate without bitterness.
in doing so, i realized that it’s not the same situation that makes a tradition, it’s the same spirit.
we prepare birthday breakfasts in bed in the spirit of serving, we read the Christmas story from the Bible in the spirit of praise, we arrange elaborate Easter egg hunts in the spirit of silliness and play, and each cherished family tradition reflects a spirit of gratitude. and if she’s not there to play her role in the activity, then we must figure out how to continue the tradition in a different way with the same spirit.
i’ll have plenty of opportunity to practice this on purpose, because it seems the calendar is a gauntlet of sentimental events. especially today, the day we celebrate our mothers. so today i honor the moms i miss* as well as the many mothers in my life who inspire and encourage with their self-sacrificing love.