One year ago today, I jolted awake from a fitful night’s sleep. For the past five nights, I had worried my mom would pass from this world to the next and I wouldn’t be there. But I still had a family who needed me — physically and emotionally — and none of us knew how many days longer Mom would hang on. I slept with the phone by my bed, half expecting a call in the middle of the night.
Something woke me up. My heart was unsettled.
Read her the Bible.
I couldn’t get the thought out of my head. My mom hadn’t communicated for days, though something prodded me to read Scripture to her. Why hadn’t I thought of it before?
I got my kids ready to go back to Meme’s house. I picked up donuts and Starbucks on the way, and as soon as I greeted my dad and my aunt, I searched for Mom’s Bible. I knew which passage to read her, and I thumbed through the heavily marked up pages to find it:
After I read those verses, a peace flooded over me. I’m not sure if they were more for her benefit or for mine.
Two hours later when the time drew near, I lay next to my mom in the hospital bed as she labored for her final breaths.
I told her I’d be okay.
It was a statement of faith, not of certainty, of course. Though I tried in vain to prepare as best I could, God taught me in those last days it’s best not to prepare.
Grief didn’t look like what I thought it would. Though I can’t describe the sense of emptiness I felt in the days after the funeral, I felt like I did pretty well overall. I rarely cried, but when I did, it came in unexpected gushes.
I expected Mother’s Day to hit me hard, but it didn’t. Instead, tears on my birthday flowed unhindered. But my mother-in-law and best friend anticipated this day more than I did and they were there bearing gifts — thoughtful gifts like my mom would have chosen.
I remember the day I cried after I read my pastor’s recommendation for my Bible Study, Journey through Acts. I was so humbled and awed by his words and I wanted to share them with my mom — my biggest encourager, my biggest cheerleader, my biggest supporter. Even now when someone says, “Your mom would be proud of you,” I fight tears. She believed in me and supported me in a way only a mom can.
I miss telling her what Drew is learning in the fourth grade — the grade she taught for years and the grade she taught me. I miss bragging on his math ability; I miss telling her that he learned the same acronym for the Great Lakes that she taught me…it’s the little things.
I grieve that she never saw Alyssa in kindergarten. I wanted to call her when Alyssa’s teacher told me that Alyssa went out of her way to befriend a special needs child in class. I want her to see Alyssa’s joy in school and in friends.
And I want to call her when days are hard and I worry about my kids.
I miss bringing her jonquils. Going shopping together. Meeting for lunch. Seeing her name on my caller ID.
Life Goes On
But I think one year later, what gut-punches me more than anything, is seeing life go on without her. In a way, I know it’s a blessing. The pain lessens with time, and that’s the gift of it — the ability to move on. But it’s also a curse, because more and more of life goes on without her. My kids are growing up into ages and stages she never saw.
I remember during her last months feeling terrified of having regrets. “Spend all the time you can with her,” many people told me. Every time I heard that, though, I felt confused and guilty. How would I know how much time was enough? How do I balance my young family with spending time with Mom?
I have to say, looking back, I don’t regret not spending time with her for my sake. An extra day here and an extra hour there doesn’t make a difference to me now. She’s still not here. I still miss her, and I wouldn’t miss her less if I had spent more time with her.
I think instead, I regret not spending more time with her for her sake. I regret not meeting her at the mall to buy Alyssa some clothes because she wanted to. I wish I had given up more of my time to spend with her for her sake, not for mine.
Hope for a Future
But Mom wouldn’t want me beating myself up over that. She’d want me to let it go and move on and know I’ll see her again. We’ll have eons to catch up on the years we spent apart. I imagine we’ll plant flowers together and who knows what other good things God has planned for us when we’re reunited.
Though missing my mom will never stop, I can see the memories starting to transform from painful reminders of what I’ve lost into beautiful reminders of what I had.
And each spring when the jonquils blossom and fade just as fast, I’ll look forward to the day we can be together again, where the flower doesn’t fade and the tears will be no more and good-byes will never be spoken again.
To my email subscribers: One thing I remember during those last months and the months following, was writing to you on Wednesdays as I journeyed through my grief. Thank you for allowing me to share my innermost thoughts. For those of you who don’t receive my e-mails yet, enter your e-mail address below. I write a personal e-mail every other Wednesday that I’d love to send to you.