Resting in Peace

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My dad was always wanting us to visit our mother.  After church on Sundays, he would suggest we stop by and see Mom, to pay our respects.  My brother, dad and I would stand at my mother’s grave and silently stare at it.  Sometimes we would bend down to clear the grass or pick a weed so the marble headstone would stay pristine.   What a sight we must have been to other mourners; a grieving widower and two small children.

 

As a young child, I was never quite sure what I was supposed to do or say while we were standing there. I just knew Daddy needed it and he wanted us to have whatever closeness or comfort the visit could provide.  As strange as it may sound, for us, this was a perfectly normal thing to do.

 

As I grew up, the visits became less frequent, being relegated to holidays or important milestones.  In high school, I went even less often, partly because I was ‘too busy’ and partly because I was a little embarrassed to show that un-cool side of myself; that side that was still hurting.

 

When my brother or I would come home from college, my dad would always ask,  “Would you like to go by and see your mother?”  Sometimes we would ask him first and I could tell he was pleased, his answer always yes.  Often, as we stood there, he would tell us a story or share a memory about her.  He so wanted us to find solace there, just as he did.  I could tell he never wanted to leave, hating for her to be alone.

 

Through the years my desire to visit the cemetery changed.  It may have been because I had moved away and we were no longer just a short drive apart.  I especially wanted to visit her when I first married and became a mother myself.  I knew she really wasn’t in that grave, but I also had no other place to go where I knew her spirit would be.  I had no memories of our time together, no past heart-to-heart chats to recall.  I only had this place, where somehow I knew I could find her and she would be waiting there for me.

 

A few years ago, I went back home for a high school reunion and visited the cemetery, perhaps for the last time.  As I got out of the car, I slowly walked up the familiar hill to my mother’s grave.  The only difference this time was that my daddy laid next to her.  Strangely, as I stood there, I knew they both were at peace.  They were finally together again and I was satisfied with that realization.

 

I don’t know if I will ever visit that cemetery again.  My whole family resides there except my brother and me.  Grandparents, parents and an aunt all underneath the Panhandle sky.

 

I am grateful for the effort my father made to keep us all connected.  He did the best he could; I wholeheartedly believe that now.  My peace has come with time and work.

 

I may feel the need to return there again.  But, for now,  I know that their home is in my heart, not in that grounded space, and with that, I do find comfort.  The comfort I was searching for was inside of me all along.  

 

The Autumn of My Life

Old Grief and New LossThe Autumn of my life began in July 1977.  I was 8 months pregnant when I suddenly went into labor and delivered my daughter….stillborn.

As suddenly as a life is conceived, a life may end.  As much as we may want, anticipate and long for a child, we may equally grieve and mourn and fall prey to depression.  There is no guidebook or manual to read that instructs us on how to be…how to cope… or how to live with the sadness.

Because my mother died when I was very young, I didn’t know what to expect with pregnancy or delivery.  I didn’t know about children or even the smallest part of mothering.  You would think, however, that I would have known how to deal with the loss and pain, but alas.. I did not.

It seems I was completely inept at grieving.  All the years of missing my mother somehow tumbled into the loss of my child.  It became one and the same.  Old grief and new loss melded.  

Through time, of course, a slow mending began and healing took root, but parts were hard and lonely and dark.  Then finally, another pregnancy.  During this 2nd pregnancy, I dared not to plan or prepare.  I waited to think of names and I drug my feet at buying a crib.  Then somewhere after the 8th month, I took a breath and instinctively knew it would be ok.  I felt an inkling of peace, a boost of hope, and a firm resolve that no matter what, everything would be alright.  And, it was.

My Autumn would turn 40 years old this July.  In my mind, she is a baby.  A wee little soul flying back from whence she came.  I sometimes like to think that maybe my mother is holding my daughter.  Hopefully, my mother was there to meet her as she floated to the other side.  Perhaps, the two of them have enjoyed these 40 years together as grandmother and grandchild.  It heals my soul to think so.  My mother, who never lived to be a grandmother and my daughter, who didn’t live to be a child, living perfectly together, healed and whole; connected, just like I would have wanted.

Someday, when my time here is ended, I know those two will be there to greet me as I cross the bridge.  Hand in hand, two souls will welcome me and whisper, “We missed you!” My heart will know them instantly and in that moment, the Autumn of my life will be complete.

Ode To A Motherless Daughter

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Ode to a Motherless Daughter:

It comes over me like a heavy wool blanket..it feels warm at first but then the denseness feels like an overpowering pressure that stops me in mid-breath.

This doesn’t happen every day, every week or month, but it will happen and when it does, it takes me by surprise, some 59 years later.  I walk by a mirror and glance up into my eyes and for a moment, I see that little girl whose mother is dead.  She didn’t go missing, or get lost or move away.  She left me in the most permanent of ways.

My mother died of a brain tumor when I was four years old.

No one wants to be that girl without a mother.  No one wants to be singled out in such a brazen way, with pitying glances and pats on the head.  No one.

“She’s in a better place now”, they said.  “She’s out of pain”. I try never to say those phrases to anyone who is hurting, but I’m sure I have.  They slipped out of me because I didn’t know what else to say.  Me, not know what to say?  This is my area of expertise, but still….  My words are silent.

I remember hearing, “She’s in a better place”, but inside  I was screaming, “isn’t her better place with me?..wouldn’t she rather be with me”?

Me

Us

I’ve been saying ‘me’ and ‘I’, but in reality, there was an us.  My Dad, my brother, and I.  I was four and my brother was eight when our mother died.   I know my brother still feels the effects of growing up without a mother.  I will have to let him have his own story, but I wanted to acknowledge ‘us’, even though no matter how many are affected, it always comes down to one.  The ‘me’ in all of us.

Pink spongy rollers and pin curls

My Dad tried.  He tried to keep me clean, dressed and my hair looking presentable.  There’s evidence of this through photographs with my bangs trimmed unevenly, a homemade dress from my Grandma and a fake smile on my face.

The truth is, I looked motherless.

I felt motherless.

And I knew everyone could tell.  I hated that.

Enter, my first bout of shame.

As a female child without a mother, I felt such shame that actually I could feel it throughout my body.  I was ashamed.  Ashamed of how I looked, how we lived and who I was.  It makes no sense to me now, as an adult.  Why should I have been ashamed?  I did nothing wrong.  But as a small child with so many fears and doubts about everything, I felt shame.  I had no one who stepped in to help me grieve or question me as to what I was thinking or feeling.  We were all in this together….alone.

It’s hard to explain.  As Rosie O’Donnell said once, “it’s the dead mothers club.  You’re initiated, you get the tattoo and it’s not going away.”  And sadly I might add… You are a lifetime member.

I don’t want to end this story on such a sad note, for you see, that is not totally who I am.

Oh, I still have the fear and the overshadowing feeling that everyone else knows the secrets to life, except me.  

But, through the years, I believe my God and my mother have sent me guardian angels to light my way.   I’ve had a grandmother, my best friends’ mother, a favorite aunt, even sometimes a loving stranger who stepped in with a kind word or encouraging hug.  I’ve been blessed with daughters of my own and the best girlfriends in the world.

I have a posse of women who nurture me and love me and help me to know I am enough.  And finally now, at 63 years old, I am able to look up into the heavens and not question why, but with a smile in my heart, I am grateful for this life and all I have been given, all I have learned.

Sometimes, my little grandson will look up at me, eyes searching for mine, and smile and kiss my hand.  I just melt inside and wish my mother could see him.

I think she does.

Make a Wish

 

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I haven’t always known my mother’s birth date.  I’m sure my daddy thought about it as every September rolled around and she was not here to celebrate, but he rarely spoke of it.

 

About twenty years ago, Auntie Sue began calling me on my mother’s birthday, September 28.  She would call while I was getting ready for work, sometimes at 6:30 a.m.  “Hi honey,” she would say.  “I’m still sittin ugly, but I wanted to remember your mother on her special day.”  Then she would tell me a quick little story about her or just tell me something about her personality.  Most of the time we would laugh while she was telling her story, but we both knew our tears would flow as soon as we hung up.

 

As I’m prone to do, I imagine that I would have been a wonderful daughter.  I would have called, sent gifts and baked a cake.  I could imagine her eyes lighting up and us hugging as we both said, “I love you!”.

 

The truth is probably somewhere between my imagination and reality.  I might have been busy with my own life and children and only managed a phone call or card purchased hurriedly to make it on time.  I’ll never know how it might have been.

 

But today, I am wishing my mother a Happy Birthday.  Today, I am remembering a story Auntie Sue might have called to tell me.  I’m missing these two special ladies, but I’m happy they are together and celebrating within the Pearly Gates.  Who knows….they may be eating some heavenly delicious cake!  I hope so.

 

Happy Birthday Mom!