Tag Archives | grief and loss

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Motherless

Mothers DayThis post over at (in)Courage made me really start thinking about my Mom.

Mother’s Day always brings up tough feelings in me. While everyone else is putting ribbons on balloons, choosing flower arrangements, or making dinner reservations, I sit home with my memories. True, I am a mother, and my kids usually do the Mother’s Day “thing” for me, but while I love them and love that they care, I miss my own Mom a whole lot more. Mother’s Day isn’t a real “happy” day for me. I know that it should be, but it isn’t.

My Mom died when she was just 45 years old. She had battled breast cancer at 35 and won. At the time, they told her she “couldn’t have breast cancer… you’re too young.”  She did, but she survived. She had a mastectomy and no follow-up treatment whatsoever. (Thankfully they have learned a lot about breast cancer since 1984).

Mom taught me so many things. She taught me how not to take “NO” for an answer. She taught me that grief is sometimes felt so overwhelming that we can’t think or be anything but grieving. Watching her live through the death of my sister was both heartbreaking and amazing, because when she moved past immobility, she caught the fire of purpose, and took on Sheriffs, District Attorneys, Attorneys General,  and other governmental officials and policies without batting an eye.

She boldly wrote letters to the editors of I don’t even know HOW MANY newspapers in Washington and California. She even wrote two letters to President Reagan. The first was answered by the Secretary of State, and in the second reply, Ronald Reagan himself told my mother that he and Nancy were praying for our family. My Mom had chutzpah.

Ten years after she beat breast cancer, she had a sore in her mouth, so she went to an oral surgeon, who did the biopsy and made the diagnosis: Squamous Cell Carcinoma this time, and it was in her jaw and mouth.  Too many years of too many cigarettes, but again she was told she didn’t “fit” the typical case scenario for this type of cancer. “It’s the kind you hear about men who use chewing tobacco all the time getting,” she told me.

She didn’t use chewing tobacco, and she certainly wasn’t a man, but she did succumb to the cancer all the same. It was the hardest year of my life. She was so sick, went through several surgeries,  lived with an NG tube because the radiation treatment burned her throat so badly she couldn’t swallow correctly. She fought the best she could and showed me again that she was strong. Her spirit was stronger than anyone I’ve ever known.

Mom was creative. All the way back as far as I can remember, she did crafts with us. She knitted, crocheted, and sewed. We did paper crafts, created photo albums, planted gardens, picked flowers, all the while she hummed or sang. I miss that so much.  I have my Mom and Dad’s answering machine tape from their last answering machine. It’s her voice on the tape, telling someone to leave a message after the beep. I have the tape put away now but I used to listen to it over and over. We never got her on video; all I have is the tape.

Mom loved us. She always made time for Cindy and I. Crafts, walks, playing games of all sorts.  There were always games handy: playing cards, Scrabble, Boggle, Yahtzee, a set of dice, and a Backgammon board. These were the things we used on an almost daily basis.I remember playing Rummy until 3am with her when I was around 11 or 12, then going out for breakfast. We snuck back in and went to bed around 4:30 in the morning the first time we ever did it.

Mom was given enough time to raise me before God called her home.  I know that now.  She got breast cancer only about six months after Cindy died.  If we’d lost her too I think my Dad and I would have just disappeared into thin air. As fragile as we all were, she kept us together during those years.  My teen years were turbulent at best. My early marriage was volcanic, and it wasn’t until I was out with my daughter, safe, and stable that she was taken from us.

God knew.

He knew that I wouldn’t have survived my teen years without her. He knew that my Dad would have completely fallen to pieces. He knew that I wouldn’t have made it through a  premature birth, a divorce, and living on my own without help. He knew. She taught me what it meant to be a mother, a wife, a friend, and a survivor. God gave her just enough time to teach me those things.

Still I’d give anything to just have one more night of Rummy with her, and breakfast at Denny’s. 16 Years later, I still miss my Mom.

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Christ Holes and Missing Souls

This year isn’t a good year for me. I’m feeling the holes left by the missing people in my life, and it hurts. Add to that the fact that my Grandpa-in-law isn’t expected to live through the weekend, and it turned into an I-don’t-feel-like-Christmas.

Christ Holes and Missing Souls

I decided to shoot some pictures of our Christmas tree, because I’ve seen so many neat ornament photos lately, and I thought I would share them with you, along with some thoughts on the holes.

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I have a set of brass ornaments hanging on our tree which my Mom & Dad had made when I was little.

We had a family ornament, seen here, and one for each family member. They are the only ornaments that I insist on hanging up myself. They hold precious memories of years gone by.

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Cindy was my younger sister.

Bubbly and energetic, and genius-IQ smart, she was my closest friend through many military transfers. I was 11 when she was taken from us, killed at the age of 9 by a drunk driver. The green monster-ish “ornament” here is—if I recall correctly—The Grinch.

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Her name is written on the back, in red felt marker all childish and large. I have protected this Grinch, green and papery, faded and now nearly 30 years old, the only thing I have that she made with her own hands.

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Betty was my Mom, whose battle with cancer was amazing, painful, and inspiring to me.

She was 44 when it took her. She fought, oh how she fought, but we cannot fight the Lord and His timing. I was five months pregnant with J. This is perhaps the most gaping hole.

I can still feel it, ragged and dull, soft now but always there.

This Christmas has brought it back into sharpness, feeling her not here now more with my own teens to raise and feeling like I need my Mom so much and she isn’t here. 17 years this February, and I am left to glean wisdom from other older women, women I love and look up to as mothers in Christ, but still not my Mom.

The Lord knew that we would have holes.

He knew that our lives and our holidays would not always be perfect. That we would not always strive for godliness and holiness as much as we sometimes strive to just get through. That in these times my faith would be the only thing that carries me through, when my holey-ness pushes aside my desire for His holiness.

And yet He fits inside of the holes.

Each one is perfectly filled by Him, as my substitute in death, taking the punishment I deserved, also my substitute for Life. The One reminding me that each day is precious, each “I love you” and smile, and that Life is what we must seek out when we feel we are all holey and dark and sad.

I call Heaven and Earth to witness against you today: I place before you Life and Death, Blessing and Curse. Choose life so that you and your children will live. And love God, your God, listening obediently to him, firmly embracing him. Deuteronomy 30:19 MSG

Christmas isn’t always fun for everyone. This year, I am one of those. I am feeling the weight of recent fractures within my family, the holes of loved ones passed on, and one who is most likely going to the Lord this very weekend. Jesus will be my Sufficiency, my Hope and my Shelter. If this Christmas is a difficult one for you, I pray that He is these for you as well.

 

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Mother’s Day and Memories

Mothers Day

Some years are harder than others.  This year is tough.  Last year, not so much. I lost my Mom on February 5, 1994. I was 22 and 5 months pregnant with J at the time.  15 months prior to that, she had been diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the jaw. She was a smoker, which is what the oncologist indicated was probably a major cause.  She was a breast cancer survivor of nearly 10 years at that point.

Her diagnosis in November 1992 and the following year of treatment was the one of the hardest thing she and my Dad had ever lived through.  It was the hardest thing I have ever experienced. She underwent radical surgery, experimental gland surgery, radiation, and the deterioration of her body. She was 45 years old when she died. She never met her second granddaughter, or the grandsons we adopted later on. She missed a lot, being gone.  But I’ve missed more.

I think what has made it hard for me this year is that a friend of mine at work had her mother pass away a few weeks ago. I didn’t see her at work for a while, so I wrote her a note, telling her I’m praying for her, and that I know what she is going through.  And then I started thinking about my Mom a lot.

Some things that my Mom taught me…

  • Staying home with your children is important.  She didn’t work outside of the home until I was a Junior in high school. She was always home when we got home, even when I was in high school.
  • Being creative keeps you from being bored. She loved to knit and crochet, and we were always doing crafts together. She was also an accomplished wood carver, and she carved the most beautiful cribbage boards with military emblems on them. My Dad still has several of them.
  • Reading is the best way to pass the time when there’s nothing else to do. She always had her nose stuck in a book, and I tend to be the same way.
  • Play games!  Mom loved all sorts of dice, card, and board games. I remember she and I staying up all night a few times, playing Rummy. We would go to Denny’s around 2am and have breakfast, and I was in junior high when we did this. Fun times!
  • Love on your kids.  As far back and I can remember, Mom used to hold my sister and I in the rocking chair, and she’d sing to us.  She was gentle and sweet.
  • Love your husband. Even when he isn’t acting lovable.  My Mom & Dad were married 27 years when Mom passed. Their marriage wasn’t perfect, but she always modeled for me what a wife should be, not hasty to run away when things were tough.

I have my Mom & Dad’s old answering machine tape, that has her answering message on it. I pull it out and listen to it once in a while. I get to hear her voice. It’s not much, but at least I have that. I also have the letters that she wrote to my Gramma (and a few other people) over the course of 30 years, including the last letters she wrote my Dad and my mother in law (who was a dear friend), both about a month before she died.

I have memories and pieces of my Mom’s life, and I cherish those. So if you see me at church on Sunday and I seem a bit down, you know why. I’m just really missing my Mom.

 

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