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!!”
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.
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!
Today, as my body was pulled from its heavy dose of slumber, I seemed to instantly wake with pancakes on my mind. This is highly unusual for me. I typically wake with thoughts about Mom. I was saddened by the prospect that today may be the preface to that inevitable evolution in this process. At any rate, pancakes were on my mind and I could tell it was going to be one of those cravings that just wasn’t going to evaporate into thin air. Something concrete was required to help it dissipate.
Since I am not one to make pancakes very often, a cookbook was going to be necessary. As I browsed through my treasured collection of recipe filled bibles, I found that I instantly went to my most recent additions in hopes of stumbling upon a new favorite concoction. However, as I flipped through, peered at, and contemplated adjustments, it became clear that sometimes new isn’t best. Sometimes, the old, tried and true is ultimately what one needs. I finally reached in and carefully pulled out the very first cookbook I ever received. It is not one that I go to often now, typically opting for the newer, more en vogue cookbooks, but I had high hopes and few other options to rely upon.
As I laid it carefully on the counter, I found my fingers gently running over it and memories of Mama coming to me. Although the color was fading and the pages browned, spotted, wrinkled and torn, I felt certain what I was seeking was hidden inside. I took my time in savoring this moment as I knew exactly what I would see when I opened the cover page. In our family for years we have included an inscription in those cookbooks that we are offering to one another as gifts of celebration. I knew that I would find that and as my anticipation lingered just under my emotions, I opened the book and found myself staring at exactly what I feel was destined for me today, “Happy Cooking, Love Mom and Dad, Christmas 1986.” As I looked at the signatures, I realized that Dad had filled out the inscription. I’m not sure why this affected me so much, but I found myself absolutely loving the fact that both of them had touched this gift and left their own mark to linger.
So as I collected ingredients and supplies, measured amounts and blended to combine, I thought about how long it had actually been since I made traditional pancakes. I truly couldn’t even remember. It felt like old times. It felt like being home with Mom in the kitchen and it felt nostalgic; but most of all, it felt like the mending of a broken heart and it soon filled me with love and happy moments with Mama.
After receiving a call from Dad asking me to join him on his upcoming trip to Minneapolis, MN for a Shriners Convention, I really didn’t know what to expect. This was typically Mom’s adventure to take with him and then I might join them later to take in some of the sights of our glorious country on an extended little road trip. I can’t remember a time when Dad wasn’t a Shriner. I have to admit, I’ve been so impressed by how this organization works and what they stand for. I’ve developed and even higher respect for their dedication in ensuring that the Shriners Hospitals for Children are funded to provide for children and burn victims all over our nation, and even in Canada and Mexico as well. Everyone involved is so motivated and eager to serve. The camaraderie among the devoted members and their significant others is intoxicating. They only see each other once a year and yet it is very evident that the bond they share is strong and long lasting. So many words of comfort were extended and stories told of Mama’s impact on all of them. I could certainly feel the love they felt for her.
Last night, I was lucky enough to attend a dinner and share in their friendship. At one point, members of the group stood and spoke on various topics, mostly recognizing appreciation and hard work among the members. However, there is one man in particular that has stolen my heart. He has such a sweet demeanor and kind nature. This lovely man stood to speak the final words during this portion and focused solely on the absence of Mama and the sadness that lingered in the unspoken words floating within each of our hearts. I was taken aback and moved to say the least. His words expressed exactly how spirited, generous and loving Mama was and filled the empty air with her memory, bringing her back to us, if only just for a brief moment in time.
I’m so glad I decided to come along for the experience. To see Dad among people who truly respect his contributions and appreciate his friendship is heartwarming. I love knowing that he has such good friends. It’s been equally fulfilling to listen to words of kindness and comfort in regards to Mom. I feel like each time her name gets mentioned it’s like a little tap on the shoulder saying…”See…I’m still here.”
If you’d like to donate to the Shriners Hospitals for Children, I have included a direct link to their donation page. Thank you for your contribution!
Shriners Hospital for Children Donation
The silence in the morning is sometimes deafening. Where there was once the ring of a phone…there is now none. Idle chit chat with Mom is now just a memory. My mornings have always been hectic. I tend to thrive on getting up early and accomplishing quite a bit before the day ever truly begins. I remembered those early morning calls from Mama in the wee hours of morning today. She would oftentimes call out of the blue just to say hello, wish me luck with something I was doing, or fill me in on the gossip of a small town. I realized this morning just how quite my early hours are now. It’s not even as if she called every day; but, once that seemingly casual act is taken away, life is altered forever. I’ve recently become accustomed to playing music early in the mornings, sometimes even beginning much earlier than when I rise. Somewhere deep in the darkness of late last night, I think I just had a revelation as to why. Subconsciously, I think I realized just how quiet the silence of a voice can actually be.
This month has been an exceptionally difficult one. The constant reminder of Mother’s Day in my classroom has just added salt to the wound continuously. I think the fact that I realized early on that I would want to spend this particular Mother’s Day all alone, scared me just a bit. Not knowing truly what emotions it would evoke, I set my decision in stone. I wanted to sit alone in all the memories. I wanted to cry, laugh, and remember all of those moments that made Mama so special, without attempts to coast just above it and just make it through the day. So I gathered up the courage and developed an idea I thought would carry me through the day.
I had considered writing a post that highlighted all the best parts of what made Mama so unique. Then I realized I don’t want to rush this process. One of the things I love most about my Mama Memories is that they come to me just at the exact moment that they should. It is in that instance that I share them through written word. So although I could easily list all the wonderful things that encompassed her, I choose to peel back the layers gradually and through time, just as our lives naturally evolve over time.
Instead, I have filled the day with a balloon prayer, Broadway musicals, pajamas, popcorn, orange slices and a bit of snuggle time with my little, furry man. Mom’s love of Broadway Musicals is what ignited my brilliant plan. I know that there will be tears today; but, I also know that there will be laughs, happiness, and the comfort of memories that nestle close to the heart and fill it full of love.
So as I spend my day being the best mommy I can to my little guy, I will also spend time remembering the best Mama for me that I could have ever hoped to imagine and dream for!! I miss you, love you, mean it, Mama!! Happy Mother’s Day!