The Lost Grandmother

About a month ago a very close friend of mine lost her mother. Theirs had not always been the best of relationships, and she always told me she’d envied the relationship I’d had with my mother. Last week I received this letter from my friend in an email, and she has given me permission to share it to show that even a badly broken relationship can be healed, as long as both parties are willing to work towards it.

This is an excerpt from her story that has been included in my book, “Memories in a Daughter’s Heart,”  due to be published by the end of November.

“Dear Children, I wanted to write a little bit about your grandmother who passed away.

As you know she was my true mother, and the mother of Ken, Craig, and Elaine. She was blessed with four children. She lost custody of my brothers and me when I was five years old, and Elaine had short terms in foster care.

Through the years, and with Grandpa’s multiple marriages and long term relationships, you met a few “mom’s” who were actually stepmothers. You called them “grandma.”

My real mother loved her children; however she had multiple emotional problems that made mothering too challenging and overwhelming for her. She suffered, among other things, from mental illness, narcolepsy, and manic depression which actually required shock therapy several times in her life.

Back in the 1950’s, mental illness was not fully understood, and most people were not equipped to deal with a young mother who was so depressed she was unable to properly care for her babies and young children. We went hungry; our diapers were often unchanged; and the house was usually completely unkempt or not cleaned.

Unfortunately my dad did not have the patience or understanding to help my mother or cope with her problems. She became addicted to prescription medications, specifically amphetamines and barbiturates. When our dog had puppies, they were named after the drugs. Isn’t it weird that I remember that?

My father was not easy to be married to; he had a very harsh side, and was cruel to my mother. He must have taken her to a doctor for her to have gotten those medications, and tried to get her help, but she needed much more than that.

My brother Ken, being the oldest, remembers the most of it, and the traumatic childhood experience left scars on all of us as well as a sense of fragmentation.

My parents divorced when I was about 5 years old, right after my kindergarten year. My dad was awarded custody of us. At first we were able to see my mother, but not very often. After one of our visits to see her, something bad must have transpired, because after that visit I did not see my mother for 9 years until I turned 15.

My mother did finally marry again to a nice man named Tom, and they had my sister Elaine.

Through either my dad’s own doing, or whether on advice from an attorney or psychiatrist, he stopped allowing visitations with my mother. To my knowledge this was not done through any legal channels or court order.

I sneaked around to try and communicate with her, and when I was in high school, I had her send her letters to a friend’s address.

Growing up, I never heard a good word ever spoken about my real mother. I grew up afraid I would be like this person who was spoken about so negatively. I tried to overcome it all and prove my stepmother wrong.

grandmotherWhen I turned 18, I could openly begin communication and establish a relationship with my mother, and finally get to know my sister.

Many years went by where we only talked by phone or through letters, but not many personal visits, as I didn’t have finances for such travel. Though we didn’t see each other often, we became better and better acquainted; while we didn’t have the “normal” mother-daughter relationship, but we had a love for each other.

When my father died seven years ago, I had to sort through all of his papers. My dad had saved everything. Among those papers were letters from my mother to us; beautiful, eloquently written letters that were never given to us. If we had been given our letters, we would have known our mother loved us; that we weren’t abandoned, like we’d been told. I truly believe it would have made a big difference in our growing up to have had that security and knowledge. Why he kept them, I do not know.

There was even a letter from my mother’s mother to my father begging him to not take the children away from her. In that time period, that was how people handled these situations, and they believed it was best to sever all ties.

Yes, my mother was flawed, and did not have the easiest personality to live with. She could be difficult and self-centered; she certainly had had a hard life, and had to do many things to survive and sometimes made the wrong choices.

When Elaine called me and told me the medical team that had been caring for her had said nothing more could be done, and were recommending palliative care for her; I was compelled to go there to be with her. My mother and I had come a long way in building our relationship, and I wanted to say goodbye to her, and be there for Elaine, too. Your dad encouraged me to go. So I went. And I’m so glad I did.

Alone in my mom’s room holding vigil, I had a compelling moment; I needed to forgive my mother. I laid my hands on her forehead, and said, “Mother, I forgive you, and I love you.”

My mother passed away the next morning; I will always believe she was waiting for me, and waiting to hear those words.

I called Ken and let him know that our mother had passed away. Regardless of their broken relationship, I wanted him to know. The next day he called me and said, “I’m not a praying man, but I said a prayer for her that, “I hope she is in a better place, and I forgive her.”

The power of speaking those words of forgiveness cannot be adequately expressed with my words.

I am sorry you could not have known her as your grandmother, and become more acquainted. My mother always asked about all of you; she was interested in your lives’ and cared very much about you. All of your pictures were in her room. She was proud of each of you.

I fortunately learned to embrace the good things about my mother these last few years, and learned not to dwell on her shortcomings. After all, we all have them. I am so thankful I was able to do that and finally enjoy a good relationship with her in these last years. We had so many fun, memorable days together, and I wouldn’t have traded any of them.

My beautiful children, there is always something good, and very much to be thankful for.”

Nothing more needs to be said after this, except, “It’s never too late.” Thank you my dear friend, for writing this to your children, and thank you for sharing it so that perhaps someone else may be able to salvage such a relationship before it’s too late.

I Didn’t Get to Say Goodbye

“Everyone hug your parents and tell them you love them. My heart was shattered into a million pieces tonight. Not sure how I’ll ever be whole again! I just want to wake up from this horrible nightmare.”

Words from another daughter who lost her mother totally unexpectedly. Without warning.

It’s never easy. Even when we’re expecting it, it’s terribly hard.

When it’s unexpected, it’s even harder. And when it’s your last surviving parent, that’s far worse. Because you’ve joined the adult orphan society, and you hadn’t even requested membership.

In the past eight months I’ve had two friends who lost their mothers unexpectedly. One actually found her mother dead when she went to pick her up for church. The other received the news just yesterday from one of her mom’s friends who’d found her at home on the floor, after not being able to reach her for a day or so.

The unexpected death of a parent, especially a mother, is traumatic. A thousand thoughts go thru your mind at the same time. What you should’ve done, how you should’ve been there and stopped it (which you couldn’t have), wondering how you’ll get thru the next hour, the next few days. The rest of your life….

You want to call her and talk to her, hear her voice again. You want to hug her again, and feel her hugging you back. And you want to wake up tomorrow morning and find out it was all a horrible dream. In fact, when you wake up the next morning, for just a few seconds you’ve forgotten, and everything’s fine.

Then you remember it isn’t fine. And won’t be again for quite a long time. The darkness comes over you, overwhelms you, and there’s no relief. You don’t know where to turn to make it better, because you can’t.

But you need your time to grieve. Time to be inconsolably sad. Time to take out all of the memories in your heart and your head and replay them. Because they’re suddenly all you have left of her. There’s an empty feeling of despair you can’t stop, and don’t think will ever go away.

But it will.

You will gradually, slowly, recover. Everyone recovers in their own time. In their own way. There’s no formula for it. There’s no way to stop the pain, because with loving someone that deeply, there comes that deep pain of loss.

We daughters experience it so strongly when our mothers leave us, whether expected or not. We were part of them, living inside of them, for nine months. And when they leave us, a part of us goes with them.

To my friend, I can only offer my heartfelt sorrow as I hear your sobs, your cries, your heartache. I can offer you a shoulder to cry on, and an ear to listen to your grief. I can offer my own stories of survival after that first devastating news sinks in.

I can offer my prayers and I can assure you that you will survive. Even though you don’t think you will right now.

“Weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

But my friend, the night is long, and the morning seems to take forever to get here. The night in this case lasts far longer than the 8-10 hours we’re used to. It can last for months.

But when that morning finally starts to appear, with that first hint of pinkish light, you slowly begin to heal. Your tears have all been caught and saved, and the Lord begins to pour then back over you as a refreshing shower of his grace and love. A renewal you need so badly.

My friend, I can’t make it better, or easier. But I can assure you that one day you will once again be ok. It just doesn’t seem like it right now.

Ten Years Later

It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years. So much has happened since I got that phone call from my mother that Wednesday night ten years ago. Little did I know what that one phone call would mean; what events would be triggered. And how all our lives would be changing forever.

Sure, it was to be expected eventually, but to me eventually didn’t mean then. It meant a time somewhere in the future, or so I thought.

But the future comes at unexpected moments. Tomorrow is today’s future, just like today is yesterday’s future. And on it goes.

Sometimes it feels like just a few weeks ago. Sometimes I still feel like I can pick up the phone and call her. And sometimes I don’t think about it. That is, until I happen to see a photo that reminds me of that other part of our life, back in the past.

There will always be reminders, and moments I wish we could recapture. And I really wish I could tell Mom all about our lives now; the things she missed:

Our daughter Ashley’s college graduation.

The excitement of Ashley and Chris’ engagement, of planning their wedding and shopping for wedding gowns, and I believe Mom would have joined us on that shopping trip.

Sitting beside me, holding my hand, crying together, as Ben proudly walked our daughter down the aisle on her wedding day.
The excitement of Ashley and Chris announcing their pregnancy to us; with my first reaction being, of course, “I have to call my mother!” But there are no telephones in Heaven.

The fun and excitement of Ashley’s baby shower, and how proud my mother would have been to be the expectant great-grandmother!
Words cannot express how much I wish she could’ve shared the wonder and amazement as Ben and I saw our beautiful granddaughter for the first time, and how I briefly imagined I saw my own mother’s eyes looking back at me as I looked at baby Rachel for the first time.

And I so wish I could share my feelings with my mother about being a grandmother, because she always told me one day I’d understand.

We still ride through my hometown on our way to my favorite beach, but unfortunately we don’t go there nearly as often as we used to.

I still look at the house on the left on that road going into town, the house where I used to live, and wish it were still ours, even though I know we did the right thing by selling it. It doesn’t look the same, of course, and I’m sure it’s been remodeled on the inside as well. I prefer to keep my memories of it as it was. It wouldn’t be right to go through it now; it would be too painful.

One thing I don’t do very often is visit the gravesite. I don’t feel the urgency to do so. My memories live on in photographs and other rooms in my heart; the cemetery is not a place where our memories will ever live. It is not the place where my parents are now.

I also don’t regularly put flowers or wreaths on the grave anymore. That first year after we lost her, we did that regularly. And we’d talk to her, tell her how much we missed her. But it didn’t feel right. She wasn’t there to enjoy the flowers or hear us talk to her. We’d given her flowers for lots of occasions over the years, and she’d always told us flowers died, and not to waste our money on them. And trust me, I heard her in my mind telling me that each time I brought flowers to that grave!

We still honor her memory at Christmas by hanging her “Grandmom” stocking filled with the red silk roses she loved so much. This year there will be another stocking beside that one, one with the name “Rachel” on it, and my mother’s legacy will continue.

Yes, it’s been ten years. A long ten years. But I can honestly tell you, even though you may think you will never recover from your loved one’s death, you will. You will not forget them, and your heart will heal.

But you will always miss them, and remember them.

Remembering

Today marks the fifteenth anniversary of the day the world stood still. The day all of our lives were changed, at least for awhile. Some have already forgotten. Some remembered for a few years, and then as America rebuilt, their memories faded. Some even foolishly decided that it was all a publicity stunt and that it never happened.

But many will never forget. They can’t. They were there. Or loved ones were. They lost friends and family. Their lives will never be the same again.

I remember where I was when it all happened. How I found out. How I felt.

I remember that morning so clearly. Like many of us, I had just gotten to work, had just settled in with my coffee. Then I heard all the voices, the far-from-normal raised voices that are so atypical of offices on a Tuesday morning.

Like millions of others I stood in our break room, coffee in hand as it got cold, as I watched the events unfolding before our eyes. We didn’t know at that time what really had happened. It was all speculation. But we knew it was horrible.

Terrorism wasn’t a common word fifteen years ago. But one thing I remember clearly as we watched on that television screen was one of our employees coming in the kitchen, as the announcers spoke of a second plane hitting the other building, and hinted at the possibility the attack had been planned.

That employee spoke a name, in disgust. Bin Laden. We didn’t realize how right he was at the time, but in my heart, I knew as soon as he said it.

One man, so filled with hate. One man had set out to destroy our country.

He didn’t destroy our country. But he destroyed lives that can never be rebuilt. And that is what I choose to remember today. Those that gave their lives not because they were serving their country, but because they were carrying out their activities of a normal work day, and most likely already thinking about what they were going to do when that work day ended. They had left home that morning, kissing their loved ones…husbands, wives, children…good bye and never knew it was their last morning.

People also boarded four planes that morning. Going on business trips. Visiting families and friends. Going on vacations or honeymoons. They had no idea what was coming. Until they were in the air and their planes were all hijacked. They knew then what was coming, and except for one plane, there was nothing they could do. Except to call loved ones on their cell phones and say a frightened and tearful goodbye. Pray. And wonder what a sure, fiery death would feel like.
And what eternity would be.

For many workers in the towers that morning, their workday started normally and ended abruptly, and they never knew what happened until they walked through the gates of heaven. They were the fortunate ones. They didn’t even know they were burned into oblivion in an instant.

They had no time to be afraid. Terrified. No time to cry out to anyone, including the Lord. They were incinerated.

Imagine the sheer terror, frozen fear, and feelings of total panic which must have been going through the minds of those still alive in the buildings. Put yourselves in their places. How would you have felt?

Racing to stairwells that were already filling with smoke, filling with other terrified people, running for their very lives and not knowing if they’d make it. Not knowing if they’d ever see their loved ones again.

Jumping out of windows, knowing they were only escaping one kind of death for another.

Making what they knew were final phone calls to loved ones and trying to express their feelings in a short thirty second message. Facing their final minutes of life on this earth, wondering what was next? What kind of pain? Wondering if they’d be mourned or forgotten? Knowing they’d never see their children grown and married, never see their unborn baby’s smile or hear its cry? Knowing they’d never have a chance to do all the things they’d planned for their future?

There were also many unknown heroes that day. Those who helped carry wheelchair bound coworkers down stairs when they could have left them behind and saved themselves. Those who helped coworkers down the stairs who just couldn’t walk anymore; who were too exhausted and scared. First responders who never hesitated to run into burning buildings, knowing the risks involved, but knowing they had to try. If they could only save one person…. Many of them perished as well. But they knew the risks and elected to do what they knew they had to do. Others came days later to volunteer to help the survivors, and many of them died years later from breathing the air that was filled with the ashes of the dead as well as the ashes from the burned buildings.

We’ve all heard the story about the heroic passengers on that plane which crashed in the field in Pennsylvania. They knew they were going to die as well, but chose to spend their last moments trying to prevent even more catastrophe by causing the plane to plunge into a field instead of a building. They sacrificed their lives, which were going to be ended anyway, and chose to do what they could to save others by preventing that plane from killing so many more.

As we remember what happened 15 years ago we must remember not only what happened to our country, but more importantly what happened to almost 3,000 individuals that day. And to their families. The lost husbands, wives, children, mothers, fathers, and friends. The weddings that never took place; babies that were never born; marriage proposals never made; books never written.

For those families not a day goes by that they do not feel their loss; that they do not remember the price innocent lives paid for another person’s hate.

On this anniversary of September 11, please remember not only what changed our country, but the families who will forever be hurting from that unprovoked attack. Our prayers can never take away your pain.

Please remember them.

Tomorrow Is Not Promised

It never has been. It never will be. Because we never know when God will call us home. And that is one call that we cannot refuse to answer. No matter who we are.

We cannot say, “Wait a minute, Lord, I haven’t finished this or that. Call me back tomorrow.”

We can’t refuse to answer that call and let Him leave a voicemail message we can return a day or so later when we’re not so busy.

We cannot say, “But I have to make things right with this or that person before I go. I just haven’t had time…”

We don’t even get the chance to say, “But Lord, why me, and why now? Life is so good, and I have so much more to enjoy here. I’m not ready. I need to wait awhile.”

When God calls us home, He means it. There’s no discussion. That is the one thing He tells us that He gives us no choice but to obey.

His commandments? Of course He wants us to obey them. How many of us obey them all, even though He told us to? I guarantee each of us has broken at least one, or more, in our lifetime. And probably will again before we’re called home.

And His commandment to love one another as He has loved us? That’s tough, and also one we’ve all broken. We have free will to do anything we want here on earth, and none of us can say we ALWAYS obey His word.

Not one of us.

But when He calls us home on that day and hour only He knows, then it’s over for us here on earth. We can’t come back and make things right with those we’ve hurt, or those who’ve hurt us.

And for those who are left behind, we also have to deal not only with our feelings of loss, but our own feelings of regret for things said and unsaid. For plans made and never followed through. For time we wanted to spend together, but never got around to it.

We’ve all heard the saying “live each day as if it’s our last one here on earth.” But do any of us ever do that? I know I certainly don’t. I’ll be the first to admit it.

Our last day could easily be today. We have no way of knowing.

The other day I read a story about a man who dropped dead at his daughter’s wedding. Right after their father-daughter dance. No warning. And he certainly had had a few more plans of his own for the rest of that day.

A high school friend’s twin sister died unexpectedly a few days before Christmas. She hadn’t shown up for work that day, and when worried co-workers went to her apartment, they found her dead. Again, no warning. She had a full calendar of plans for the next three weeks, both for work and in her personal life. She hadn’t been planning on leaving.

The other night I looked at my Facebook and saw a friend of ours who had years ago moved to Israel to live his dream had passed away suddenly from a massive heart attack. Again, there was no warning. His daughter is a few days away from delivering his third grandchild, whom he will never meet here on this earth. His wife announced the event in five profoundly sad words: “My precious husband is gone.” I can hear her tears.

Yonatan, dear friend, you inspired this writing. You will be sorely missed by all who knew you. By all who were blessed to have eaten one of your delicious home-cooked meals, enjoyed the wines from your vineyard, and marveled at your expertise as a tour guide in your beloved Israel. May God continue to watch over those you loved and left behind.

No, tomorrow is not promised.

So what are you doing with your today? There may not be a tomorrow.

The Bridge is Calling

My bags are packed and I’m ready to go. As ready as I can be. I know you want me to stay, but you always knew I couldn’t stay with you forever. So did I.

We’ve had a wonderful life together, you and me. And my kitty brothers and sisters. And those funny doggies who didn’t know whether to be afraid of me, or play with me. But it’s time. I’m tired and I’m in pain now, and that nasty tasting pain medicine doesn’t help all that much. And I’m having trouble breathing comfortably. It’s even hard to purr.

I’m going to miss purring for you. I’m going to miss cuddling with you. I’m going to miss trying to sneak outside when you’re not looking so I can explore the world. But now I’m going to have a huge back yard…and front yard…that I can explore with my friends. I’ll finally get to chase mice and bugs and roll around in the soft grass. And my back won’t hurt. And I can scratch my claws on anything I want!

You won’t have to worry about me getting lost, because I’ll always know where I am, and I’ll know when you’re coming to get me and take me with you to your new home. That’s a promise. And kitties don’t break promises.

I know you’re sad, and you’re crying, and I’m sad, too. But it’s ok. We both knew this day would come. And once I cross that Bridge, I’m going to be like a little kitten again! And I’m excited to be able to feel good again!

So please dry your tears quickly, and remember the fun we had together. We did, didn’t we?! But there will be more to come….it’ll just be awhile. And when we meet again I’ll be able to communicate with you and you’ll understand what I’m saying; we’ll have wonderful talks together. That’s just part of the wonder of the rainbow bridge. I can’t tell you any more about it now, but believe me it’s such a special place. God created it for all of us beloved pets because He wants us to be happy together again. That’s how much He loves you as well as me.

And don’t feel guilty when you get a new kitty that looks like me. It’s ok, because I’ve already put in a request for you, and you’ll love that new kitty just like you loved me. I know you had another one that looked like me before, and I’m sure Mischief will be waiting to greet me, so I can tell her all about what’s been going on with you since she left.

And now, let me go. It won’t hurt me. And then I won’t hurt any more. You will for a time, but you’ll understand.

It’s going to be ok….Meow!!!

Artwork by Stella Violano…Fine Art America

Meet Me at the Rainbow Bridge

You know, it was a little over ten years ago that we first met. I was a small little kitty. I’d left my mom, and my brothers and sisters, and I didn’t understand why. I missed my mom a lot. And I missed my siblings. We’d had so many good times, playing and sleeping and purring together. It was fun.

But then we were all separated. One by one we all said a quick good bye to each other, and had to go our separate ways. We didn’t know why. We didn’t understand, and there was no one there to explain it to us.

EXIF_JPEG_T422 And then you came along. You had been looking for a kitty just like me, and you’d been looking for a while. And as soon as you saw me, you ran over and picked me up and held me, stroking my fur and kissing me and telling me I was just purr-fect! And as nervous as I was, I couldn’t help purring back to you. It’s how we kitties communicate, you know.

And I knew. I knew you were the one I was meant to be with. You knew it, too!

And I went home with you. We had wonderful times together. I met my new kitty brothers and sister, and we became great friends! We had wonderful times together. Especially in the middle of the night when we’d chase each other up and down the steps and wake you and the rest of the house up late at night. But because we were so cute, you couldn’t be mad at us!

There were doggies there, too. I’d never really been around dogs before, so that took some getting used to…on both sides. I had to show them my claws several times before they realized who was the new boss in the house. But they learned, and we all eventually became good friends. I bet you didn’t know about all the times we got together and played tricks on you, throwing pillows around, and eating each other’s food, and watching those doggies chew the baseboards while we dug holes in the plants and tried to get in the fish tank and make friends (sort of) with those pretty fishes that were swimming around.

imageI cried with you when you lost those two doggies you had when I came to live with you. That was awful. But I have to tell you, before Lassie and Rocky left, they had the chance to tell me some things that I’ve never forgotten, and I feel like I need to share them with you now.

Because, well, you know why….

They both told me the story about the Rainbow Bridge. It’s a place that we animals go to when it’s time to leave the earth and meet up with all the other pets you humans have had over the years. It’s a special place. It’s a place where we’re not in pain any longer; where we can run and play like we used to do when we were kittens and puppies. Where we’re free to roam wherever we want; where we can eat whatever we want and it won’t make us sick; where our claws won’t need clipping, and we won’t need those baths we hate so much.

It’s a place where old and sick animals go, and we’re suddenly young and well again. There are fields of flowers and grass to play in. For us kitties, there are mice and butterflies and bugs to chase, and there’s catnip growing everywhere. For the doggies, there are balls and frisbees to chase and pools to swim in, and socks and bones to chew on. And all the dog treats they could ever want! For us kitties, there are soft warm beds to cuddle up in, and balls of yarn to bat around. There are spots of sunlight to chase, and all kinds of furniture to jump up on….we can go as high up as we want and play King of the Mountain. And we won’t get hurt when we jump down.

Christmas KittyDoesn’t it sound like the best of places? The bad part is, we have to leave you, our very special and very beloved owners, in order to go there. It means we’re both going to be sad, because we have to say good bye. And sometimes it’s a painful good bye. Neither of us wants to do it, but we know there’s not really a choice.

But the good part is, when we pets get to the Rainbow Bridge, and we cross over it, we’re not only young again, not sick and hurting any more, but we’re there waiting for you to come and get us.

Don’t worry, because we’ll have plenty of things to do while we’re waiting for you. It may be a lot of years before you come for us, but we won’t forget you. We’ll just be waiting there with our friends, playing and eating all kinds of wonderful treats. For us, the time will pass so quickly we won’t even know how long it’s been.

But we won’t forget you. Just like you won’t forget us. And on your way to Heaven, you’ll either stop by and get us, or we’ll be waiting for you in your special heavenly mansion. That’s not our decision to make, you know; only God plans that. But we WILL be with you again. Forever.

And now, I know you don’t want to hear this from me, but you have to. I’ve had the most wonderful life with you. It’s been everything I could ever hope for. You’re the best kitty mommy ever. But it’s time now for me to leave. You see, I’m in pain. My legs don’t work very well any more, and I can’t walk without hurting. And I’m not able to digest my food the way I used to anymore, and that’s making me feel worse. The pain meds you’re giving me help, but they can’t make me well. I really don’t want to leave you, and I’d be happy to keep lying beside you every night purring you to sleep, but it’s just not something I can keep doing. I’m tired, and I need to go where I can be pain free again.

imageI love you. I know there are people who say we animals don’t know what love is, but they’re wrong. We animals know love. Unconditional love. I would do anything for you. And now you have to do this for me. Let me go to the Rainbow Bridge. Let me go with my friends and wait for you. I promise we’ll be together again. And I’ll be ready to play and purr and cuddle, and I’ll even let you clip my claws without trying to bite you like I always did.

Until that time comes, please know I love you. And I always will.

Until we meet again……

Artwork by Stella Violano…Fine Art America

The Tears Still Come

Saturday, the day before Mother’s Day, I did something that I haven’t done in ten years. I went into my favorite card shop, which in itself is not unusual, but going to the Mother’s Day card section was. I had no idea that going in to buy a Mother’s Day card for the first time in ten years could be so difficult. Even though it was for our daughter

Looking at the display of Mother’s Day cards that were still left I was suddenly overwhelmed. Especially since I had just written two other blogs about Mother’s Day. I thought after ten years I could handle it. And I did, but not without the tears forming in the corners of my eyes. And sensing that familiar feeling of sobs forming in the back of my throat. You’d have thought my loss was much fresher than ten years ago.

I had just talked to a good friend a few hours previously whose mother passed away two years ago, actually on Mother’s Day. That was still fresh sorrow, fresh grief. She was crying for her mommy, and I felt her pain, and I was crying with her as I tried to comfort her and encourage her. When I told her that her mom knew how much she loved her and was watching over her, that helped some. But such pain takes many years to be healed.

And now here I was. Standing in the middle of that card store in front of a display of cards I couldn’t even begin to read. I’d already picked out the gift for our daughter, which also made me start to tear up, since it was a Willow Tree angel of a mother holding her new infant. I certainly had to get her a card, but how many would I have to go through before I found the perfect one for her? Before I could get out of that store before I started actually crying and the other shoppers thought I’d lost my mind?

It’s not that I’m sad our daughter is getting ready to have her first baby. On the contrary, I am thrilled beyond measure. But suddenly in that store, I realized once again that my own mother was no longer around, and I missed her more than ever! I wanted to share my happiness with her that I was going to be a grandmother, and she was going to be a great-grandmother. I wanted to see the smile on her face, and the sparkle in her eye, hear the excitement in her voice as we talked about all the wonderful times ahead for all of us. Four generations of amazing women.

But only three generations are still alive. Which includes our soon to be born granddaughter.

Yes, the tears still come on Mother’s Day when you no longer have your mother with you. It doesn’t matter how long ago she left. Ten or fifteen years, two years, two months. It still hurts. It doesn’t matter how old we were when we lost her. I was 56. Another friend was 68 when she lost her mother. Another was only 26, and another 18. We all had more memories we wanted to make with them, but now we can only make them in our dreams.

There will always be reminders of her, and I shouldn’t be surprised at my reaction that day. I’m sure I’m not the only one who had similar experiences.

But I am thankful for the years we had with her. I am thankful for her love. And I am thankful for the promise of spending eternity with her.

Will I have that same reaction next year when I go to buy our daughter a Mother’s Day card? I have no idea, but if I do, I know it’ll be okay. Because we never stop loving those we lose.

Mom, I hope your Mother’s Day in heaven was wonderful! And I still love you.

Memories of Mother’s Day

I still remember the last Mother’s Day we spent with my mom. Ten years ago. I remember it vividly, and I also remember thinking at the time, “this may be the last one we have together.” But I quickly dismissed it, because I didn’t want to think about that possibility. I made sure we took several family pictures of us all, even a few including her beloved dog Angel. But then again, I’d done that every year. But something about that particular year told me I had to make sure I had enough pictures.

And by the next Mother’s Day, it had all changed. Drastically. She’d only been gone for six months, and of course I still hadn’t gotten used to it. All I could remember was how we’d all been together last Mother’s Day, just a short year ago.

That first year it seemed everywhere I went there were Mother’s Day cards, Mother’s Day gift suggestions, Mother’s Day flower arrangements, and ads for special Mother’s Day brunches. It was a stark reminder that things had forever changed. Even when you’re a mom yourself and you’re being honored on that special day by your children and grandchildren, when you have no mother to buy cards and gifts for any more, no one to take out for a special brunch, it’s still hard. Father’s Day was always difficult, too, since I’d lost my dad at a very young age, but somehow those Father’s Day ads, at least in my case, weren’t quite as painful as those Mother’s Day reminders. Because all I had left of her were my memories.

For the first time I had no mother to buy cards for, and no cards to receive from her. There were no gifts to buy for her, and no visit to the home I grew up in to be with her. Our daughter had no grandmother to celebrate with, and even though she and her dad did everything they could to make the day happy for me, something was definitely missing. Something, meaning, someone, who could never be replaced.

When I was packing up things at my mother’s house I’d found a small stack of cards she’d bought for our birthdays, and a few other occasions. I saved them all and used them for my husband’s and daughter’s birthdays, and even signed her name to them. After all, she’d bought those cards for them, and they deserved to have them! One of the cards was a Mother’s Day card which had obviously been meant for me. Until I pulled it out that morning to put with the cards Ben and Ashley had given me, I hadn’t realized she’d signed it! There was her familiar handwriting, “Love, Mom”. She must have bought it for last year’s Mother’s Day, gotten it ready, and then couldn’t remember where she’d put it. But to me, it was as if the Lord had given me a sweet reminder of my mother’s love on a day on which He knew I’d need it more than ever!

But as hard as that first Mother’s Day was, I had to remember to count my blessings. I was blessed to have had my mother around for 56 years. Far too many other daughters, and sons, are not that fortunate. They lose their mothers at an earlier age, and are forced to grow up without a mother’s love and guidance, with their mothers missing so many important events of their life. My mother lived to finally see me happily married after two failed marriages. She lived to meet her precious granddaughter, and spend time with her for 18 years (and I have no doubt she is still watching over her from heaven every now and then). And she would be so thrilled on this Mother’s Day to know that her beloved granddaughter is about to give birth to her own daughter, and naming her Rachel, after her grandmother.

I was blessed to have a mother who loved me unconditionally; who sacrificed having things for herself so she could provide for me. Who unselfishly gave me the best life she could, being both mother and father to me, in a time when very few children grew up with only one parent. She taught me strength, self-worth, the importance of family and faith, and most importantly, the meaning of love. Even when I made dumb mistakes in my life, and I sure made a lot of them, she still loved me unconditionally. She never gave up on me.

Memories of her are all around. I have so many pictures of her, which is surprising, because she always hated having her picture taken. I have pieces of furniture from her house that my father had made for her, and I cannot look at them without a stream of memories flooding back. I have her engagement and wedding rings that I wear on special occasions to make me feel closer to her. I have her favorite recipes, written in her own schoolteacher’s careful handwriting. I even still have her wedding dress, now yellowed and torn, but a reminder of the special love she and my father shared.

Selfishly, I didn’t want to lose her. Even at her age of 94, I wasn’t ready for her to go. But she was tired, and she was ready to go be with the Lord and be reunited with the husband she’d lost 47 years previously, and had never stopped loving. We are not promised to live forever. Nor should we want to. Our final and glorious reward is waiting for us in heaven, and we’ve earned it. I know my mother did, and I know she is enjoying every heavenly second of that reward, in ways I cannot even begin to imagine.

My mother would never want me to be sad because she’s gone. She would not want me to continue to grieve over her, or cry over her, or be sad on Mother’s Day because she’s not with us. She would want me to celebrate with my family, and this year look ahead to my soon-to-be new title of grandmother. She would want me to enjoy the day, remember the good times we all spent together, and look ahead to even more good times with our granddaughter.

No, Mother’s Day will never be quite the same without my mother. But this is the time to make new memories. My mother would be so excited, and so thrilled, to be here to see her great- granddaughter enter the world, but then again, I believe she will somehow see that moment.

There are times I can still hear her voice in my head, and in my heart, softly saying my name. And I can also hear her saying, “This is the legacy I left with you. Cherish every moment. Because now you will not only know a mother’s love…you will know a grandmother’s love. I am so excited for you. You have no idea of the joy you are about to experience.”

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you. And I always will. These flowers are for you!

The Day I’ll Finally Stop Grieving

Thoughts on grief from another blogger we follow. My voice still quivers at times, and it’s been almost ten years. And I hope it always will.

john pavlovitz

tears

“How long has it been? When is he going to get over that grief and move on already?”

I get it.

I know you might be thinking that about me or about someone else these days.

I know you may look at someone you know in mourning and wonder when they’ll snap out of it.

I understand because I use to think that way too.

Okay, maybe at the time I was self-aware enough or guilty enough not to think it quite that explicitly, even in my own head. It might have come in the form of a growing impatience toward someone in mourning or a gradual dismissing of their sadness over time or maybe in my intentionally avoiding them as the days passed. It was subtle to be sure, but I can distinctly remember reaching the place where my compassion for grieving friends had reached its capacity—and it was long before they stopped hurting.

Back then like most people, my mind was operating under…

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On the Day I Die

This is too well written not to share. We hear all the time about living each day as if it’s our last. This reminds us once again to do just that. How would you be remembered if this were your last day?

john pavlovitz

flowers copyOn the die I day a lot will happen.

A lot will change.

The world will be busy.

On the day I die, all the important appointments I made will be left unattended.

The many plans I had yet to complete will remain forever undone.

The calendar that ruled so many of my days will now be irrelevant to me.

All the material things I so chased and guarded and treasured will be left in the hands of others to care for or to discard.

The words of my critics which so burdened me will cease to sting or capture anymore. They will be unable to touch me.

The arguments I believed I’d won here will not serve me or bring me any satisfaction or solace.   

All my noisy incoming notifications and texts and calls will go unanswered. Their great urgency will be quieted.

My many nagging regrets will all be resigned to the past, where they should have always…

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Walking Across the Rainbow Bridge

All of us pet owners have heard of the Rainbow Bridge. There’s nothing scriptural about it, but for those of us who love our pets, and grieve over them when they leave us, we know about the Rainbow Bridge.

Legend has it that the Rainbow Bridge is very close to heaven, maybe even a part of heaven. When a beloved pet passes away, that pet crosses over the Rainbow Bridge, where it meets and plays with all of its friends in rolling fields and meadows and beaches, chasing balls and Frisbees, waves and butterflies (maybe even a few mice, in the case of cats), and enjoying the warm sunshine on their fur. These pets are also totally restored to health, just as we receive new healthy and glorious bodies when we enter into heaven.

It is said that one day, each of those pets will suddenly see their former owners. There is a joyful reunion, and these pets and their owners are finally reunited for all of eternity.

Over the years, my mother had three dogs she absolutely adored. Two of tAngel Doghem had passed away before her, and my husband and I took her Pekingese home to live with us after Mom died. Knowing the love my mother had for these special animals, and the joy and companionship they brought into her life, I totally believe her first two dogs were waiting for her in her mansion when she arrived at her heavenly home. I also believe when her Pekingese died almost 9 years later, that sweet little dog ran across the Rainbow Bridge and bounced up the steps to Mom’s heavenly mansion, barked to be let in, and they had a glorious reunion! I’m sure all three dogs quickly began playing together as my mom smiled in approval.

The Lord loves us. You can open any page in your Bible and find a verse which tells you that. And He knows how much we love our pets. In the book of Genesis God gave man dominion over the earth and all of the animals on it, as well as all of the fish in the sea and the birds in the air. If He gave us dominion over them, He entrusted us with their care. And He commanded Noah to take two of each species of animal with him on the ark so the earth could be totally replenished after the flood.

Scripture clearly gives us instruction about taking care of our animals. Although animals are not mentioned specifically as pets, it is obvious we are to care for them and watch over them. Ecclesiastes 3:21 tells us: “All (referring to animals and man) have the same breath (literally “spirit”); humans have no advantage over animals.”

Let’s also not forget animals are mentioned as being in heaven. Isaiah tells us “the lion will lie down with the lamb.” And Revelation refers to the Lord and the armies of heaven coming forth riding on horses.

I truly believe the Lord knew how much we would come to care for those certain animals He entrusted as our companions. Of course He knew. He created them as well as He created us. Because He knows the depth of our feelings for our special pets, why would He not have them waiting for us in heaven?

“…with God, all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26) I am believing and trusting that my favorite pets will be waiting for me, too, inside my heavenly mansion. With a heavenly “welcome home” party. And what a reunion we will all have!

What pets have you had that you are looking forward to being reunited with one day? Share your comments with us.