littlegirllostMy mother was my compass. She weathered a hard childhood followed by a hard life and yet she never stopped pushing on. Because of her, I have never known the meaning of quit.

Every Mother’s Day my focus was on telling—and more importantly, showing—my mother how much she meant to me. Every Mother’s Day until 2005 when she took her last breath and my compass froze still.

In a number of ways I can’t explain, I’ve been lost ever since.

I’ve spent the past seven Mother’s Days in something of a daze, putting on a smile and doing whatever it took to keep a cheerful face, taking periodic breaks from gatherings to pull myself back together when thoughts of her would sweep in and her memory would overtake my ability to maintain social stability. I swallowed hard—a lot—and took many deep breaths in my attempts to keep the tears tucked safely away.

Because Mother’s Day isn’t about my mother any more.

It can’t be. As much as my heart aches and my gut twists in the empty where she should be, I have no choice but to live in the here and now where my own babies and grandbabies live and need me, not just present but all here.

I’ve come to crave the sharing of family memories. Not that they haven’t always been dear to me. It’s just that since Mama left us I realize how valuable memories are—and how much more I feel the importance of sharing our stories.

I virtually beg my children for their memories as one desert-parched and thirsting. I feel almost a desperate longing to hear what they remember, what they carry inside, what they will carry forward with them. I remember so much about my mother. What will they remember of me? I want to know long before I breathe my last.

My family gathered for Mother’s Day this year and the kids, now all grown up, made dinner for me so I could relax and enjoy the day. When asked what I wanted as a gift, I asked for memories. After dinner we chatted for maybe an hour about their favorite childhood moments, things that had frightened them, funny things they had done. We laughed a lot, and even grew misty a few times as tender moments were recalled.

They gathered here, my family, and kindly quenched the thirst of a little girl grown up to be a mama feeling lost without her own. They couldn’t have made me happier, and the day couldn’t have been more healing. The empty remains—but not as vast, not as dark, not as hopeless as before.

My family is a gift from God and the light I see by on this grief journey. Somewhere deep down I’m still a kid without a compass, but it helps no small amount to know I am not alone.

No one should ever have to walk this road alone.

 

 

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Featured at Write Where It Hurts

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