"Snippet" -- a small piece or brief extract
A couple years ago for Mama's birthday and Mother's Day, I gave her a gift -- a book that I wrote just for her. The thing is, Mama was hard. Anyone who knew her will tell you she was tough as nails. When she passed last month, and people were sharing memories, they used words like fiery (red hair), formidable, independent, strong. All of those are true. They were kind enough not to use words like harsh, difficult, stubborn -- but those are true, too. None of us are all light -- or all dark. Both live within us. It wasn't always easy being Mama's daughter -- especially not her first-born. Nor was it easy for her to be a first-time mom. I wasn't an especially easy daughter -- particularly when I reached about 12. Mama and I seemed to butt heads 24-7. I didn't learn to fully forgive and appreciate Mama until I was about 30 years old. For the last 23 years, we shared a loving and respectful relationship that I treasure. This gift was meant to let her know that I had such love and respect for her, but also lots of happy memories. She often got shafted because she was challenging, the disciplinarian and somewhat hard-to-please. Daddy was fun, creative, carefree, and much more nurturing, so he got the lion's share of affection while I was growing up, and Mama got pushback and arguments and little affection or respect from me. I wanted her to know that I did appreciate her and knew the contributions and the sacrifices she had made for me --and for our family.
When I wrote this I had no idea that she had written a letter to us -- her kids (and spouses) about 10--12 years ago (It's not dated, but we think it was written before she went in for major surgery around that time, as she was contemplating the reality of what she was dealing with and that she might not survive it.) We found the letter after her passing last month. Here are some excerpts: "I love you all more than my words could ever say. . .I'm not good at expressing my words. . . .I hope in your heart of hearts that you all know just how much I care for each one of you.. . . I am so very proud of each of you for your own accomplishments!. . . I now need to apologize for any hurt I ever caused you and any inadequacy I may have caused you to feel. I never meant it to be that. I am truly sorry. I have always wanted only what was best . . .please forgive me for all my wrong words, actions or deeds. . . .I am so very blessed . . .whatever you endeavor to do in the future, go for the mountain tops, stars, space, etc. and I'll be there in spirit supporting you every step of the way. . . ."
Whew! Even as I type those words, tears are streaming all over again. What a beautiful gift that letter is! And interesting the correlation to my introduction to this book for Mama:
"Mothers and daughters have a special -- and challenging -- bond. I can’t speak of it from a mother’s heart as I’ve never been blessed with children, but in this volume I want to share some of my favorite memories with my mama. Our relationship was hard-won -- I gave her fits as a baby -- she says I was colicky for the first 6 mos of my life; I was her wild child (which she didn’t share until I was 52?!?!?). I never stopped talking; I was precocious and smart and boy-crazy from an early age and all around difficult. By the time I was 12, hormones hit, and the relationship hit rock bottom -- and honestly -- it stayed there for a really long time. She made mistakes, and I made mistakes -- and we did a lot of things poorly during that time frame. There are lots of things I would take back if I could -- and she probably feels the same. I don’t want to belabor all of that in this book. I want to use my gift of words to let her know how much I appreciate all the gifts she gave -- even the difficult ones. I want her to know that all my memories are not of food, and that I have just as many special memories of her as I do Daddy and Grandmama. Most of all I want her to know I love her and treasure her. I want her to know I forgive her for all of the inadequacy (and I’m praying she forgives all of mine. . .)"
I hope you'll continue to read along over the next few weeks as I share the beautiful memories and the ways she blessed me and my family through the years with all of her gifts, talents, and heart -- and in spite of any inadequacies and difficulties. She wasn't easy, but she was amazing, fiery, formidable and strong, and I hope in all those ways, I am just like her. . . .
Four weeks on this side of forever with Mama on the other side. It seems surreal. At least once a day, I've thought of calling her or stopping by to fill her in on something, only to realize that's a luxury I don't have anymore. Almost a month of wading through the waves and eddies of the grief cycle -- being dragged under, rising to the surface, treading water, swirling in a maddening whirlpool of emotion. Reliving memories, feeling guilty, wondering if we did the right thing at so many places along the journey, wondering how life would be different if we had made different decisions. Putting one foot in front of the other, crying and trying not to cry. A time of condolences and kind gestures, and of people who should care but don't seem to. It's been an interesting time, a mixed bag of emotions as grief always is. I've grieved enough to know. Yet, every grief is different and takes on a life of its own. I forget (and how blessed I am that I CAN) from one grief to the next the blinding fatigue -- getting up in the morning knowing you've slept but feeling more tired than when you went to bed. I forget how the memories creep in every crevice of your mind if you don't keep it busy with something else. I forget the heart-wrenching guilt of what-ifs and whys. I forget the utter emptiness that is grief.
Losing Mama added watching my daddy grieve as I've never seen him grieve before. I traded watching her suffer for watching him suffer. It's the worst part. As their daughter I know deeply the affection they shared. As a wife, I can imagine the empty bed, the empty house, the vast emptiness of a missing half, and feeling you'll never be whole again. Tears stream as I write how it must feel -- to be without your other half after 56 years of being together.
And, because of COVID -- and just life, there have been SOOOO many other deaths in this 4 weeks -- people I know, people who had spouses and children. It's incredibly overwhelming and at times, it has paralyzed me. My creativity has been at an all-time low -- requiring energy I do not have. Notwithstanding the state of the world or the affairs of this country I love. Trying to teach in a Pandemic with all the trappings. It has been a dark 4 weeks. Ironic at a time that is supposed to be full of light. Three major holidays of this season focus on light -- Hannukah, Christmas and Kwanzaa. And yet, this has been such a dark season for me. It is not devoid of light, however, even though it's dark.
Hope shines. In the midst of darkness, hope shines. It is a beacon. I choose to place my hope in a kingdom not of this world -- God's eternal kingdom. I have a strong faith. My parents instilled it early on. As I grew older, I made it my own. It's been tested and purified. It's waxed and waned at times, but because my faith is strong, Hope's beacon shines.
A friend who shares my faith and hope was lamenting on her own grief recently, saying she knew she shouldn't be sad, but she was. But NO! Faith and hope don't take away the sadness. The grief is the love we felt and the hole that is left. We weep and grieve, but not without HOPE. Hope is what guides us THROUGH the grief. Hope is what we have to look forward to on the other side of the grief.
The scriptures say it this way:
I've been a teacher of K-3 students for over 20 years; I'm also a writer of poems, short stories, devotionals and picture books. I'm wife to an amazing husband and mom to Sparkles, Mocha, and Rusty -- our feline fur babies . I love reading, writing, singing and listening to music. I enjoy nature, Bible study and spending time with friends and family!