Dear Mom, Why Didn’t You Tell Me?

My mother passed away after a seven year battle with breast cancer when I was fourteen. There is literally no way she could have told me all the things I needed to know about pregnancy and parenting but I had this idea to write like I was writing to her a few years ago so I’d thought I give it a try. There are so many times I find my kids sucking on the toilet cleaning brush or wondering what to do about splinters and I ask myself why I didn’t have a notebook in my back pocket observing my mother while I could have. 

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Dear Mom,

I love you and I miss you tremendously every day. Seriously. Young moms need their moms to have on the other end of the phone saying things like, you used to suck on the toilet brush too and you still have two eyes, ten fingers, ten toes and a twisted but very funny sense of humor. 

I am now a mom and I get you. I get why you had to talk to yourself while you are driving the minivan or shopping in the grocery store. I used to think you were a little insane. I loved you but the aloud list making was just something I couldn’t understand. But I get it now. If you didn’t say it aloud your thoughts may have been lost in the screaming and the chaos of the unpredictable life of raising multiple kids.

And by the way, why didn’t you tell me it was unpredictable? I really believed my children would come into the world knowing how to listen to mommy’s voice. I have seen all these nice videos now-a-days on the Internet (the Internet has really taken off and is a good but horrible thing all at the same time) when children hear their mother’s voice from their womb and the mother’s voice is a beacon for them, it is comforting to them. Why didn’t you tell me that as babies grow the beacon isn’t as important for them anymore?

None of my children listen to mommy’s voice. There are times when I feel like they have turned my beacon/frequency down all together. If you would have told me this before I feel like I could have been a little more guns blazing about it. The listening patterns of my children are still a mystery to me.

Why didn’t you tell me there will be days when I feel like I am doing everything wrong but at the same time I am doing something right.

As a mom there are so many moments when the data seems to point to the undesirable outcome. There are just too many times when I feel like I am screwing up my kids and I wish you would have told me that it will all be okay.

I wish you would have said that even though you were at every class party, brownie troop meeting, dance competition and planned the most creative birthday parties I have ever seen before pinterest, (pinterest is a website where people can find all of your ideas for birthday parties on that thing I mentioned above called The Internet, it doesn’t even dial up anymore, it’s all about high speed access to your awesome birthday party ideas)

I wish you would have told me that I didn’t always listen and the data pointed to the undesirable for you too.

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Why didn’t you tell me it would be so hard and that I would need you so much? Even what feels like so much more now than it felt like I needed you when I needed you when I was little.

When I was little I needed you to help me use a spoon but now I need you to help me feel un-crazy.

These toilet brush sucking moments make me freak out! I can’t even begin to let myself go down the road of germs and other possibilities. I really can’t even go there or I’d call 9-1-1.

Why didn’t you tell me?

Why wasn’t I listening?

Why aren’t you still here?

These are the moments when I miss you. When I want to pick up the phone and call someone who has been gone for seventeen years.

It’s a good thing I’ve totally accepted talking to myself as normal. That basically is what I blog is for me. So I’ll maybe keep bringing the questions to you here.

Maybe someone out there will remind me that toilet brush sucking has happened before and talking to yourself is not insane but it is survival.

Mom, I miss you all the time. The loss of you makes me understand the fact that this life is not the way it is supposed to be and makes my soul long for something better. 

You were a treasure and I wish I would have followed you around with a notebook when I could have.

You Are My Sunshine

There was a time when I couldn’t sing the song, “You Are My Sunshine” without crying. Somewhere near the part about taking my sunshine away, the tears would begin to blanket my eyes, the tears wouldn’t fall but the blanketing tears were present, enough to blur my vision and remind me of grief.

With my oldest it as been difficult to sing the song so, for years, we have been exchanging phrases while I hoover over his bed…

you are my sunshine…

you are my daisy.

you are my warm summer day…

you are my giant ice cream cone.

For a long time, I haven’t been able to sing the words “you are my sunshine” to my oldest child. Too many blanketing tears would come to blur my vision.

Tonight was different, tonight, I made it through a whole diddy of you are my sunshine with my youngest son without the blanketing of tears. At the end I whispered to him, “you are my sunshine.” and I looked right at him with pure eyes and a happy heart. (In return my son half sleepily said, “you are my poopy butt diaper.” I giggle because in a strange way he is being affectionate and silly.)

But tonight, I made it though a whole diddy of “you are my sunshine.” That is progress for me and this is the moment where I can see the hope of moving on shining brighter than the dark nights of hovering phrases and blanketing tears. The time isn’t healing my wounds but Jesus is. He is binding them up ever so carefully and making me able to sing sweet songs to my kids over their beds in the darkness.

He is gentle with His love and He is patient with my grief.

“Love is patient, love is kind.”

I remember my mother singing that song to me. I can still hear her voice, her voice sounds just like the voice I have grown into as a woman and as a mother. It hurts my heart that she is not here and my kids can’t know her, but God is finally moving me to a different place in my grief. With Jesus binding the hurts and God renewing me, I can see that my kids knowing my mom simply comes from my kids knowing me.

My mom lives on in my songs.

My kids can know her through knowing me. 

I am her sunshine, so my sun is beginning to shine bright in the darkness of grief.

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Finding Shelley At Christmastime

For years I have struggled to find her. For seventeen Christmases I have looked for her but I have been so overcome with grief that my eyes couldn’t see what was right in front of me.

Christmas is a hard time of year for anyone who has lost a family member.

As a fourteen year old girl I lost my mother and it has taken me almost two decades to recover.

For as long as I could remember I was waiting for others to bring her back. I put the expectations on others to do Christmas like she did and each year Christmas passed and my expectations were not met. I felt disappointment and loss in the belly of my soul and this made the cycle of grief start all over again.

Finally, this Christmas I have found hope. I have found the hope in honoring her, after sixteen other Christmases have passed. Sheesh, it feels like it took a lifetime. But today it was worth the wait. 

Today, I found my mom in the simple words of a recipe for Christmas cookies. Just one taste of the uncooked batter brought me back to childhood in her kitchen years ago. I baked Christmas cookies with my kids today and I told stories about my mom at Christmas.

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I found her in the handwriting of her recipe book. The large loops in her cursive and the perfection and consistency of each stroke.

While I iced the Christmas Tree shapes and added the red hots I told my sons this was something I looked forward to every Christmas as a child. I told them I would even sneak bites of the refrigerated batter and how my mom would catch me anyway.

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There have been plenty of opportunities for me to choose bitterness and loss and grief at Christmastime. There are plenty of opportunities for me to stick in the cycle of grief and let the bitterness take root and grow.

If she was here it would be different. It would be better. I do miss her. My kids and my husband have never experienced her laughter. My kids have not been able to experience the blessing of involved maternal grandparents.

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I could choose to celebrate Christmastime with emptiness each year.

But instead, I choose HOPE in the midst of loss and unmet expectations.

Hope falters the growth of bitterness. Choosing hope at Christmas is a choice.

I choose to find my mom in the traditions and the stories. This has not happened overnight. It has taken sixteen years of sadness and choosing grief and the plauging seed of bitterness over the fruitful seed of hope.

Hope is what would be honoring to my mom at Christmas anyway. She wouldn’t want it any other way. If she was here she would tell me to dry my tears and teach my children to find her at Christmas. Grandma Shelley is not here physically but she lives her in our traditions.

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Finding Shelley in the traditions is a choice.

Finding hope in loss is a choice.

Finding Shelley at Christmas has taken me almost two decades but I am thankful I found her today. In the cookies. The simple cookies with the red hots.

And I hope to pass her on to my children. I hope to give them hope. And stories. I hope to teach them that God’s story is full of people who lost but these same people had their eyes fixed on something Greater.

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The Tremor Of Her

I miss her.

Every day.

Every moment.

When I see my sons holding my baby daughter’s face in their little toddler hands – When I am holding a grudge against my husband and digging my heels in the sand because I am right about where that couch should go and he is wrong- I miss her.

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Recently I have noticed little ways of how I seem to be becoming more and more like her. How even though she is gone I can feel the tremor of her in my moments. Every day.

Lately I have found myself saying and doing things the same way she used to. When you are younger you never think you will become your mother. But you do.

Her voice tremors through mine even when I least expect it.

Even though I miss her, I believe she lives on in me and I am thankful to be able to share her wise and crazy quirks with my sons and my daughter with hopes they will someday feel the tremor of her in their stories as well.

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That secret stash of chocolates I have in my pantry reminds me of her. She used to hide snickers bars in the freezer.

She used to sing “another one bites the dust” when one of my siblings fell asleep. When I was a child I thought this was a cruel way to respond to your babes falling asleep but now I find myself bom-bom-bomming along to that same tune as my children nod off in the evening.

The words, “I’ll give you something to cry about” have come out of my mouth when my children are crying because they can’t find their eyebrows or their bath time is too wet. Again, cruel words I swore I would never say now make a completely acceptable and appropriate phrase to pass on to my children.

I have dinner on the table almost every night at 6pm on the dot. This annoyed me as a child but now it is a part of the rhythm and routine of my daily life.

I feel the tremor of her when I make her poppyseed bread at Christmas.

I feel the tremor of her when I huddle all my kids and my husband together for a “hunga bunga” which is a completely embarrassing group hug where the whole family jumps up and down while chanting “hunga bunga.”

I play rummy like her and taught my husband. I despise cooking and do anything I can to make it as easy as possible.

Every birthday party is special for my kids just like she made birthdays special for me.

I am grateful for a season where I can move beyond the feelings of sadness and anger that go along with my grief. In the seasons of sadness and anger it is too hard to find the simple and joyful ways how the fourteen years I had with her have impacted me for a lifetime.

I know through the years the Lord will continue to reveal more ways of how she is a significant part of my story.

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I am thankful my children can experience their grandmother through the simple ways she lives on through me and I pray even though they never knew her my kids will feel the tremor of her in their stories for years to come and maybe years from now they will bom bom bom along as their own children “bite the dust” for the evening.

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My mom lost her seven year battle with breast cancer sixteen years ago this week. If you have a memory of her please share it here in the comments. I know it would bless my siblings and I greatly to hear about more joyful memories of her and you might help us discover more ways we can feel the tremor of her in our lives as adults.