This past February, one day before my mom passed away, I opened an email from my five-year-old preschool teacher.
She’s now the directress for a church, and she expressed interest in having me speak to her community.
Immediately I thought of my mom, who was in the room next to me, yet unresponsive. With all my heart, I wanted us to laugh and discuss the irony. You see, I was the shyest kid ever, and I refused to go to school that year unless Mom came with me. She appeased me many times, and for years we’ve joked about our pre-school memories with the beloved Miss L.
Now, 42 years later, that experience had come full circle, and I wanted to see my mother’s reaction as I shared the email and added, “I’ve come a long way, right, Mom?” She’d laugh and understand exactly what I meant because she knew my life history, down to that early struggle.
I realized then how this was my new normal. For the rest of my life, I’d long to pick up the phone or walk into the next room and tell my mom what just happened.
I admit how I used to be skeptical when elderly people spoke about the deep ache of missing their mothers. To hear an 80-year-old say, “My mother’s been gone for 40 years, and I still miss her every day” sounded a little far-fetched to me. Now, however, I get it. We never outgrow our need for our mom, and only when they’re gone can we see their deep imprint on our lives. We miss their voice, their touch, and the way they loved us like no one else on the planet.
My mom wasn’t perfect, but she was the perfect mom for me and our family. She and I ended in a great place, where I could appreciate her and thank her for her countless sacrifices, yet I still felt regret in her last week of life. It wasn’t just those seasons where I acted salty, resentful, or dismissive; it was also the efforts I didn’t make, the invitations I didn’t extend. I’ve worked hard to be a better mother – but what about being a better daughter? Why wasn’t I as intentional in that arena too?
I found peace in knowing that my mom understood. She loved me unconditionally, even when the relationship felt one-sided. On her deathbed, I knew she wasn’t thinking about the times that any of us disappointed her. Instead, she felt blessed beyond measure. She’d lived an amazing life and was ready for heaven. She couldn’t wait to see her parents and escape the suffering she’d endured for years.
My mom faced a health crisis on Mother’s Day weekend 2016 that almost took her life. She recovered, yet she never walked again. For an active, social, accomplished, and extroverted woman, being trapped in a body that made it hard to leave home was a challenge. Yet as she lost physical strength, she gained an incredible inner strength. She showed her children and grandchildren how to suffer with dignity.
My mom sometimes wondered why God didn’t take her during that crisis. On particularly hard days, she questioned her purpose. What made her remarkable was how she pushed through her doubts and trusted God’s timing. She leaned on her family’s love and fought to the end, hanging in there for all of us.
Having 4 extra years with my mother changed me profoundly. I learned about myself – and my selfish nature. Initially, I wanted Mom to bounce back so that she could take care of me again, but over time, God softened my heart toward her struggles. He opened my eyes to the world of wheelchairs, hospitals, doctors, caregivers, and handicapped vans. He revealed to me that in a culture likes ours – that prizes speed, strength, and achievement – we miss a major opportunity to learn from the humility and wisdom of people past their prime.
I feel so blessed that my mother loved me and knew that I loved her. Many women have mom wounds that are deep and hard to bear. Wherever you are in your relationship, I encourage you to work toward peace. If your mother has loved you well, then pass on her legacy. Pay it forward with your family and friends.
And if your mother has mostly been hurtful, then love her with healthy boundaries. Break the cycle in your family, and ask God to help you forgive or restore what happened in the past.
My mom is my reminder to be patient with my daughters as they grow up. Even if I feel unappreciated, even if they don’t love me back, I can love them like God loves me. One day, my girls will feel the pain that consumes my heart right now. They’ll know the deep ache that never leaves. This perspective now guides the way I raise them. More than ever, I want a strong connection. I want them to have peace and joyful memories when it’s my time to leave.
My mom cried out for her mom a lot in her final season, especially in moments in pain. For the first time in 45 years, they’ll celebrate Mother’s Day together, and while that makes me happy for them, I still long for my mom’s presence. I wish I could have her back in a healthy state. I’d give anything to catch her smiling at me with the wonder of a mother’s love.
After my mom died, someone told me, “Whenever I miss my mother, I thank God for giving me a great mom.” I’ve taken this advice to heart, yet it doesn’t stop the pang when memories pops up. Missing my mom can make me feel fragile, but then I remember – I’ve got her spirit in me. I’m stronger than I think. I saw my mom fight to the end, hanging in there for her family, and healing will come as I continue her story and share the love she generously gave down to her final breath on earth.
Thanks for reading this message today. Please share it on social media, or click over to the Girl Mom podcast to hear more about my mom.
On Aug. 18, my new book Love Her Well: 10 Ways to Find Joy and Connection with Your Teenage Daughter releases. Pre-order now through Amazon, and you’ll receive the lowest price between now and Aug. 18. Save your receipt for the amazing pre-order incentives coming very soon.
I’ve also written two books for teen girls, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know and Liked, used widely across the U.S. for small group studies. To keep up with future posts, subscribe to this blog or join me on Facebook and Instagram.
Posted by Kari on May 3, 2020