See You Tomorrow

Mama

Exactly one year ago today, I hugged my sweet Mama for the last time.  I still remember holding on tight to her and not wanting to let go, scared and uncertain of how exactly I was supposed to do that.  I soon came to realize that it’s not until the physical body is gone that you truly begin to hold onto the soul.  At that moment, when there is nothing left to grasp onto, the best part of a loved one’s soul holds tight to you instead and helps guide you through the most difficult moments of your life.  It is at that time that you begin to feel the magnitude of love that has ebbed and flowed between the two of you.

There is not a day that passes that I do not think of Mama all the time.  Her face is at the forefront of my mind as I rise and her words of wisdom comfort me at night as I try to wind down from the challenges of the day.  She is in the stories that I share with friends and the advice that I offer to my students.  Her words lift from my tongue without realization until the thought pops into my mind that it is exactly something she would say.  When I’m feeling sad, thoughts of her kindness comfort me.  When I’m feeling angry, memories of her strength and perseverance enter my mind.  When I’m feeling happy, recollection of her laughter envelopes my heart.

She is with me today just as much as she was all the years before.  I cannot hug her tightly in my arms; but, I can feel her arms wrapped around my heart.  I cannot share in conversation with her; but, I can sense her words of comfort daily.  I cannot taste her food, ask her a question, or comfort her when she cries.  But there is one thing for certain I can experience…..each time my chimes ring….which tends to be often these days….it sure feels like her voice rising just above all the other angels on high to sing a song of happiness and support.

One of the things that stands out so strongly in my memory of Mama in her final days is how positively she acknowledged her final visits with friends and family.  Instead of saying goodbye each time someone came to visit her during that final week, Mama tended to say, “See you tomorrow.”  It remains as one of my most cherished memories of her final days.  I love that goodbye was not an option for her, but instead a simple statement reminding us all that we will enjoy a loving reunion somewhere later on down the line, was.

Miss U!  Love U!  Mean it, my sweet Mama!!

 “See you tomorrow!!”

Mama and me

 

 

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Mama’s Smile

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It was exactly one year ago today that I boarded a plane back to my sweet Mama to hug her, full of certainty that all would be okay.  Truth be told, somewhere beneath the conscious state of life there lied a hazy cloud of fear and a true clarity that if hope could be suffocated I would have certainly accomplished that with how tightly I was holding onto it.  That was the longest three hours of my life.  It’s strange how the body is what is oftentimes associated with restlessness when confined to a small space; but, the mind can be just as restless when equally as limited.  What I discovered that day is that it is also possible for the heart to take up so much room in your chest that it becomes fitful as well.

In all honesty, my memory of the day is much more like a snapshot of events displayed in a photo album.  I often wonder if in order for the mind to hold onto important experiences during stressful times, it must reduce the impact of information to snapshots instead because the full documentary would be way too much to relive.  I liken the day to a viewing with the old View Master from my childhood.  I’m able to peer through the eye piece, clicking through each picture, but not recalling all of the little information in between each slide…..wiping a tear from behind the sunglasses shading my swollen eyes….hugging my sister at the airport….walking into the hospital….seeing my aunt and cousin approach in the hallway…the look of concern on my twin’s face…my brother holding hands with his lovely fiance…my Dad’s comforting embrace…my aunt’s beautiful blue eyes filled with worry…….Mama’s smile………Mama’s laugh………Mama’s strength…….Mama……..

The whole day is sealed in my memory this way, which is so out of the ordinary for me.  My mind typically runs a reel of recollection, not simple snapshots.  I can only guess that my mind, heart, and body have decided to work together to ensure I’m still standing throughout the constant highs and lows of reliving these days.

It does stand that some information is too close to the heart to even place down on paper.  It’s as if it’s secured in a special spot that is only allowed access by those that experienced it together.  I know the struggles my family is having during this time and find comfort in the notion that they truly understand every single snapshot that invades each of our hearts and minds during this recurrence of emotions and feelings of such great sadness.  I also know that Mama is with me.  I can feel the warmth of her presence and see her smile at the forefront of my mind.  I will make it through this day….and tomorrow as well…and so on.  My promise to myself is to let the tears flow when they come and the laughter bubble up as each snapshot clicks into clear view reminding me of the amazing mother that I was so very lucky to call my Mama.

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The Sound

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The events of a year ago are flooding back in as if they’ve been out to sea for a while and have decided to return for a visit.  I remember very vividly hanging up the phone with Mom and being profoundly affected by the change in her voice.  The effects of her last radiation treatment had left her with slurred speech and this hit me like a ton of bricks.  It was the beginning of a loss so great it shatters one’s soul.  I remember crying at the thought of never again hearing the sound of my mother as I’d known it all of my life.  It devastated me and fueled me into an all out search for anything that had Mama’s voice on it.  I can remember replaying messages in hopes of rediscovering it.  One night, as I sat idle in my car under a blanket of foggy night sky, I called my brother and confessed my concern of never hearing my sweet Mama’s voice again and how selfish I felt for even wishing to.  I knew I should be focused on comforting and supporting her as opposed to fulfilling my own self-centered wishes.  I couldn’t help it though.  Just once I longed to hear the sound of her unaltered tone.

Somewhere in all the sadness and longing, I realized what the alternative would be and soon embraced a new hope that all would be okay and her eloquent dialogue would return.  My aunt reassured me that there was a good chance that the effects would lessen as time marched on.  The exhilaration of knowing this was almost too much to contain.  I called Mama at various times in the day to listen to the differences.  It was evident that morning was always a bit better and as fatigue set in; the evenings were more of a strain.  One morning in particular she was very clear and glimpses of her former quick witted tongue were evident.  I look back on that phone conversation in particular and realize it was just a few days later that I boarded the plane to return to her.  We are approaching that day now.  I know this is why I am faced with sleepless nights and an increasingly aching heart.

It’s always in hindsight that you realize you should embraced each moment as they come; because now, I wish I could hear anything associated with her, her laughter, her tears, her humor, and yes, even her slurred speech.  I would welcome any sound from her and hold tight to it with every ounce of my being knowing full well how precious each utterance is.

The most amazing thing is, right now in this very instance………I can hear my wind chimes ringing…..and you better believe I’m going to embrace it wholeheartedly!

The Yin and Yang of a Strong Woman

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Each morning I arise with a flood of Mama Memories.  It’s the strangest sensation.  No matter what is going on in my life that might otherwise take that momentous time slot, snapshots of Mama push their way to the forefront of my mind.  I think it must be because my body, just prior to that, is in its most relaxed state and allows for those things that should take precedence to come forth.  Sometimes they’re happy and sometimes they’re filled with sadness, regret, and loss; either way, they tend to bring tears.  So as the months have progressed, I have become accustomed to wet eyes at the beginning of each day, knowing that my body is most likely just trying to release a bit of stress.

Today, I’m remembering just how generous and strong Mama was.  I’m not sure if anyone outside of her family is truly aware of just how accurate these two words describe her.  I think people feel generosity in the moment that they are included within it, which I also believe to be completely normal.  But how wondrous would it be to have vision enough to witness the magnitude of which some people actually are.  Mom would be one of those that would be awe inspiring to witness.

I don’t know exactly when she started the practice of taking food to every single doctor’s appointment she went to.  My guess is it was around the time she started having her joints replaced due to Degenerative Arthritis or possibly after her month long stay in a hospital in Louisiana with her leg in traction; regardless of when, Mom was really good about acknowledging those that took care of her.  It was nothing out of the ordinary for her to whip up a batch of Ranch Crackers or sugar cookies as an offering of thanks to the office staff, nurses, and her beloved doctors.  I still marvel at her ability to sit in an appointment and come out with as much information about their lives as they did about her ailments.  Mom may have come in as a patient, but I guarantee, she left as an honorary family member. I also tend to believe that some of this showering of appreciation came from growing up with a father who was a doctor that exhibited the compassion, patience, and kindness of a saint.

Now, back to my initial thought; how amazing would it be to witness a timeline of those rare individuals that truly show generosity as second nature and not as a deliberate act in recognition of a specific moment or occasion?  Mom’s timeline would most definitely be far stretching, if not infinite.  If we could all see that much goodness in people, witnessing them at their finest, most delightful, and giving moments, would our impressions of them change?  Would we accept their flaws more willingly?  Would we aspire to know them more intimately and without reservation?  Mom was a master at this.  She could somehow recognize the best in those around her and become lifelong friends with them instantly.

Don’t get me wrong, she was also strong willed and if someone took advantage of her, that did not go unnoticed.  She did not waste time on sugar coating things.  She would simply express the obvious and then reevaluate her thinking in regards to that particular person or situation.  I loved this fire in her.  I respect the fact that she could be so soft and yet so solid as well.  I know that I carry this same fire within myself.  I know that when I feel wronged, I will allow my thoughts to be heard in a respectful and logical manner.  I’m not sure if Mom considered herself to be strong, but if I could say it to her today, I would!  I would thank her for showing me that a weak body causing weak moments in life does not equate a weak heart as so obviously and consistently she exhibited as the years of arthritis and cancer took over her strength of body.  She never let this fact overshadow her generosity and positive attitude towards life and its challenges.  If I could say it to her today, if I could tell her something I should have said years ago.  If I could have one more Mother’s Day with her, I would say, “I wanna’ be just like you when I grow up, Mom!”

 

Betsy’s Luminary

Luminaries

Friends come in all forms, past and present, young and old, same and different.  There is a song I remember vividly from my childhood that said, “Make new friends, but keep the old.  One is silver and the other gold.”  We used to sing it at our Campfire Girls outings.  I’ve never forgotten it and have whole heartedly believed it to be true my entire life.

I love my friends and find such comfort in their presence within my life.  There is one particular group of girlfriends that I refer to as my “Forever Friends.”  These are the girls that have been with me throughout my entire life, most of us meeting somewhere between the ages of 5 and 8.  We know the best and worst in each other.  We share in life’s ups and downs.  We are the ears that listen, the voice that soothes, and the heart that hopes and prays for the best for each of us.  We don’t get to see each other very often, but I know they are there because when life feels a little hard, they are the ones that reach out across thousands of miles to say, “No matter how far away you are you are still on my mind and in my heart.  I am here and always will be.”

Last night, as I was relaxing at home, I received a text from one of these Forever Friends.  Robin had just come back from a Relay for Life walk in my hometown area.  She was sending me pictures of the luminaries that are prevalent at these walks for charity put on for the American Cancer Society.  A couple of weeks ago she had contacted me to ask if it would be okay to light a luminary in memory of Mama.  I was both happy and overwhelmed  by the love being expressed.  There is truly something special in having lifelong friends who not only can relate to what you are going through, but can also reminiscence about life with Mama; after all, she did consider them as her own as well.

As I read her texts relaying the evening’s events and marveled at the photos of the beautiful luminaries, I found a sense of peace wash over me.  There are so many people who loved Mama and the fact that she is not forgotten is truly a blessing beyond compare.

Luminary