I lost my mom yesterday. She’s been ill with cancer for almost 3 years so it was not a surprise but that doesn’t really make it any less difficult. I’ve never really talked about my mom or her health struggles on here, because I didn’t feel like it was my story to tell. But now that she’s gone I feel like it wouldn’t be right to NOT talk about her. She loved this blog, and I think my readers need to know a little bit about the magnificent woman I was lucky enough to call Mom.
My entire life I’ve always been the quintessential Daddy’s girl. As far back as I can remember, I always ran to him for comfort and saw my mother as the “bad guy”. She was the disciplinarian, the one who always said no and didn’t put up with me being a brat. When you’re a kid you don’t really understand those kinds of things, but as an adult I realized that she was just doing her job – molding me into a good person and productive member of society. That realization gives you an entirely different perspective.
We butted heads a lot, especially when I was a teenager, and seemed to always be able to push each others buttons. In retrospect, I think this is because we were a lot more alike than either of us would’ve cared to admit. Both stubborn, both prideful, neither of us lacking conviction. A lot of my other qualities can be credited to her as well… my independence, my love of the written word, my self confidence, my very liberal mindset, and my passion for the arts. Although anyone who has seen me try to sew a button onto a shirt knows that I most assuredly DID NOT inherit her gift for all things crafty. She made the most amazing quilts, she could paint, she could decorate… she could make beautiful things wherever she went with whatever materials you gave her. Her ability to find the beauty in anything was truly a gift. My mother was one of the most creative people I’ve ever known, and she always encouraged that quality in me, even if it meant being “weird”. She loved purple, and her nickname amongst all her quilting buddies was Purple Princess. She was a free thinker in every sense of the word, always with an open mind and big heart.
I think my mom only went to one horse show ever – standing outside in the heat and dirt wasn’t her thing – but she supported me in lots of other ways. She drove me and my friends to the barn after school every single day. She supported me after high school when I decided to delay college to move to the east coast to be a working student. She always bought whatever weird random horse thing was on my Christmas list. She absolutely loved seeing pictures of the horses and hearing updates and seeing ribbons. She was proud of me even when I wasn’t proud of myself. But at the same time, she didn’t just hand me anything… I had to work for it. I might have been the “poor kid” at the barn growing up, but for that I thank her tremendously. I learned what it means to really love something enough to work your ass off for it.
One of the earliest memories I have of my mom is her driving me home from swim practice in our very brown 1980’s era Honda Accord. She’d just gotten the newest B-52’s tape and had the windows cranked all the way down, blaring Love Shack and singing along at the top of her lungs. That was my mom. She did what she pleased and she was who she was, and if you didn’t like it – too bad. She taught me to believe in myself, to speak my mind, and to be my own advocate. She also never once told me that I was incapable of doing something. If I wanted to do it, no matter how far-reaching it sounded, she told me I could. I always felt like my mom believed in me 100% and would support me no matter what, as long as it made me happy. What a tremendous gift that is to a child, to always have that feeling.
I know that my mom went through a lot when she was first diagnosed as terminally ill. It was a shock to all of us. She was a tough lady, bossy as hell, incredibly strong-willed, and I just never imagined she’d be taken down at such a relatively young age by such a nasty disease. The diagnosis was hard on her and she went through a wide range of emotions before settling right where I always knew she would – courage. This is the virtue that I have always considered most important and maybe now I know why… I have always seen it in spades from both of my parents. She faced her illness with honor, with dignity, and with grace. Her strength was always and will always be an inspiration.
It’s easy to get mired down in the sadness. There is a big gaping hole in my heart that no one will ever hope to fill. No one can, and no one should. The hardest thing for me is to think that she won’t be there on the other end of the phone when I have my next inevitable life crisis. She won’t be there at Christmas to wrap nine million tiny presents in 9 million different ways. She won’t be there asking me if I’ve read the latest James Patterson book, or tried the new Mexican restaurant down the street.
But I really can’t be that sad, can I? In a way I don’t feel like I’ve lost anything at all, because so much of her is so deeply rooted in me. How incredibly lucky was I, to be able to call this amazing woman Mom? Lots of other people out there would have traded places with me in a heartbeat, and lots of other people didn’t get as much time with their mothers as I did. So I’ll let myself feel the sadness for a while, but then it’ll be time to crank those windows down and sing along to Love Shack once again.
The word “goodbye” doesn’t seem quite right to end this post… something about it just isn’t HER. Since she loved to travel, instead I’ll say Bon Voyage.
I’m sure many of you will ask if there’s anything you can do – there is. Call your mom today, if you’re lucky enough to still have her. Wear something purple. Roll down your windows and have a good sing along to Love Shack on your way home from work. Be weird, love yourself, and don’t take no for an answer. Be unapologetically YOU. And always, always give ’em hell. That’s how we honor her, and it means a lot more than flowers or condolences ever could.