Enjoying my daily Ellen DeGeneres, I caught her with Gayle King who is releasing a book based on her “Note to Self” segment on the CBS morning show. I couldn’t help but reflect on my thirty-one years of life and all that has happened. Would I prepare myself for the present? Yes, but would I have changed anything…no.
Dear Jessica Lynn,
You’re probably playing dress up in your mom’s closet, rearranging/cleaning her room or helping her bake something delicious and I want you to savor every moment with her because they are easily taken for granted. Every time that she asks you to do something…do it. You can still roll your eyes like kids do to their parents, but still do it. If she tells you she’ll call your friends parents when you make plans she doesn’t believe…trust her, she’ll do it. She’s not above following your car, or randomly stopping by the place you say your staying. She isn’t afraid to call you out or let you fail but she loves sitting back and watching you shine. If you’ve already called her at work five times today, go ahead and make it six – she’ll say she’s going to lose her job but she loves it.
When she tells you she loves you always say it back. And don’t always wait for her to say it first. She’ll love hearing it randomly. You won’t always want to hang out with her but when you do it will mean the world to her, especially if you and your sisters don’t fight. There won’t be a ton of family vacations so make the ones you do go on together enjoyable…just for her. It doesn’t matter who sits up front in the vehicle, that has no bearing in life. You decide to go to college where she works because the thought of living far away from her is terrifying and it will be one of the best decisions you make. Unfortunately you get a bit distracted during college but distance will help you figure out your priorities and you’ll make up for any lost time with her BUT it will be under different circumstances…she’ll have cancer. And you won’t like the way it ends but you and her, and your family and friends rally around her in a way that is so beautiful you’ll forget her not beating it is even an option.
I hate to tell you this but you’ll become a mom with her watching from heaven. And it’s going to be really hard but you’re going to revisit all those times with her as if they were a blueprint for motherhood and it was a DAMN good one. And all those times I mentioned before and how you should treat her, you’re going to know exactly how she felt in those moments with you. And there will be times you wished you’d behaved differently, held on a little longer during that hug, chosen to stay in with her instead of going out with friends. Or joined her on one more run or shared another random dance in the living room. Because they’ll be a day when you won’t be able to make new memories with her, you’ll have to rely on all those feelings and strength to get you through. But the good news is you do and she is so proud. You’ll know because you can feel it…even from heaven.
Sitting here over due with Baby #3, I can’t help but look back at this pregnancy and realize how many times I’d wished for my mom. This pregnancy has been way more mental than physical and while some of that has to do with the two little loves I have running around but also because I know that she is the one person who could truly relate. An experienced mom of three.
Entering into uncharted territory is always easier when someone you love and trust has paved a path. I can’t even begin to tell you how many days I’ve laid in bed a little longer while Joel got up with the kids or ducked away to my bed to just lay and cry, because I know if anyone could make me feel better in that moment it was her.
And those moments have put into perspective the hard days when the only word out of my kids mouth is “mom, mommy” on constant repeat…I remind myself that I would call for my mom if I could.
Each day I expected to grieve a little less, be a little more used to my mom not being here. Not being a phone call or hug away. But as I continue my grieving journey I’ve realized that it’s just always going to be here because as life continues new moments will inflict their own feelings.
My mom’s health began to significantly decline when my life was beginning to grow. This was hard for my twenty-four year old self to be okay with. How do I find out who I am without leaving her behind? She passed away two weeks after I started my first full-time job in a new state. I’ll never forget her face and our tears as I hugged her good-bye at my aunts wedding reception. She was reclined in her chair, so frail and sad…so unlike her. I remember walking out in tears because I knew that the mom I grew up with was really never going to be that way again. And looking back, I can still see her eyes and thinking this isn’t how it’s supposed to be.
Why didn’t we get the normal life of weekend visits to my apartment and seeing me live a grown up life? Watching me marry the love of my life, talking me through pregnancy concerns, reminding me to think before I speak and to take care of my self. But we don’t get to pick and this was the hand we were dealt. I know she was angry at the end. She was an extremely positive person but she was angry. She didn’t deserve that ending to her story.
And I think that is why I’m so committed to carrying on her memory every day. Because she deserves that. She deserves Grandkids who understand why we love Bald Eagles, and a memory garden filled with her favorite flowers. She more than deserves to feel our love all the way to heaven.
This rambling post is really because each new memory in life brings up those new feelings. We are expecting our third child and I’m met with a whole new set of emotions wishing she was here. Wanting to ask her how she handled three kids, if she had anxiety or depression during and after pregnancy…and how she did it all?
So ask your mom, or dad or whoever is super special to you these questions because you just never know. I’m left with this sweet card my dad found when he was cleaning out their house. We can’t remember why or when she wrote it, but I love that it’s so simple that a quick look can bring both tears and love.
Friday I had the privilege of giving Father Keith an early Father’s Day gift – spending most of his day with me. It’s actually the other way around. It was so nice to get to hang out with him without distractions. We spent the day at a conference learning all the ins and outs of the health condition he battles.
Pulling into the parking lot and seeing the sign “Hope starts here” really resonated with me. As I fought back tears realizing I’d soon be face to face with fears of the unknown, I took that sign as not only a sign from God but from my mom. I couldn’t help but think back to her interview with a local news outlet discussing the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition-IA Chapter’s annual Break the Silence Run/Walk. Her message of hope just made me feel like in that moment, on Friday, my dad and I were where we should have been. Together, educating ourselves (and smuggling suckers from the vendor tables). Because all you can do is educate yourself and #sweets4life.
I actually listen to her interview often. I selfishly need to hear her voice and a verbal reminder of hope. And, ironically a couple weekends ago, we attended the Break the Silence run/walk in her honor. It was incredible to see all the people supporting their loved ones. It’s bittersweet attending without her but having her Grandkids and sister participate were a close second best.
How do you handle fears of the unknown? Do you like to be educated or are you stronger when you’re unsure?
“Your mom just has cancer. Not you.” I’ll never forget those words. When my mom was diagnosed someone told me this after I explained how my life had changed, my values and priorities had shifted and I’d grown. The comment stopped in me in my tracks.
And while I can’t remember how I responded, I catch myself thinking back to that moment every once in a while. “Your mom has cancer, not you.”
True, my mom was diagnosed with stage 3C ovarian cancer, the kind that is past the point of easily being cured – I was by all accounts healthy. But anyone who has lost or seen someone suffer a loss knows that while the patient does carry the heaviest burden – family and loved ones have their own struggles. How do you keep it together when your world is falling apart? You just do the best you can. And some days you have it together and others you don’t, but both are ok.
Some days will be fighting through the fears of the unknown, the questions of whether or not your recent phone call will be the last. Will they feel up to talking with you or having you visit that day? Who is going to talk to your siblings guidance counselors and make sure they don’t miss athletic events they simply cannot miss? How will you give the play-by-play of athletic games you don’t understand? Smiling when you can because you know that’s how they want to see you. Making the hospital or chemo/doctor visits your new place to visit and going for that hour run when you’re way out of shape because they just killed their chemo treatment and want to run.
And that is “just cancer.” It’s your dad sitting at your wedding by himself in a pew that he should be sharing with his fourth grade sweetheart. That is grief, that is loss and that is heartbreak – a different kind of heartbreak. It’s having your world flipped upside down. It’s bittersweet memories…always. It’s being afraid but smiling. It’s crying harder than you’ve ever cried and it’s realizing that you don’t have to keep it together. Things can fall and you can change. There will be good days and there will be hard days. And that is ok.
How do you cope with a the loss or fear of losing a loved one?
Today we celebrate the birthday of a beautiful woman who turns 60 in heaven. All day I caught myself wondering how she’d spend her day. We did our best to honor her here on earth. I finally hung decorations in Hayden’s room that have a special tie to her — bald eagle prints, horse decals and an “I’ll love you forever…” print. I couldn’t help but tear up as I was cutting flowers from our “Grandma Kristi” garden thinking how badly I wish I could share life with her. I wish she could see the excitement Hayden has for the bird feeder anytime he catches a visiting bird in his binoculars. Or the way he is so happy and proud to smell our flowers. He loves to play baseball and bake and just live life. I would give anything for her to have a slumber party at our house in Hayden’s teepee then greet Leah in the morning smiling wide-eyed in her crib. We’d take them on a long walk or runs, talk about recent award shows, the news and grill seafood.
I know she’d love sitting with my dad and just watching her Grandkids play and laugh. She’d be right there with them. And while it breaks my heart to think of all the things I don’t get to see her do, I know she does them all in Heaven.
I love you mom. Thank you for every moment you remind me that you are here, never far from my thoughts and always in my heart. Happy 60th.
This week is always a hard. Staying positive when you want to celebrate the person who brought you to life takes a toll emotionally. But the one person who’s mission in life was to always celebrate you should be celebrated. The countless marketing emails and social posts calling out Mother’s Day make it hard to escape. The best decision I made when my mom passed away was to not think of her as past-tense. She’s still my mom regardless of whether she is on earth or not. So, even though the day is bittersweet and May is especially hard because it’s her birthday month, I’ve put together a list of ways to celebrate or honor moms who are here in person or in spirit.
Mother’s Day road race
Whether its specific for the day like this local one (I signed up for the 10K), it’s a great way to get celebrate an active mom or honor your mom by doing an activity she loved and can no longer do.
I love flowers and all you haters can say they are a waste of money but they will no doubt bring a smile. Whether you buy a bouquet (I’m obsessing over Boesen’s collection) or hanging basket from a local greenhouse like Canoyer – you can’t go wrong. And these can be taken to a grave site or given to a hospital or place that maybe meant a lot to your mom. We’re going to plant our garden and a peony bush in my mom’s honor.
My wedding bouquet courtesy of Bella Flora Event Design.
Give mom a break and take her out to brunch or visit her favorite restaurant. Order her favorite meal or bake your own using family recipes. Check out my friend and blogger, The Makerista’s take on how to throw a simple Mother’s Day brunch with Keurig.
Makerista Mother’s Day Brunch w/Keurig photo: Justin Salem Meyer
A scent can bring on nostalgia. Perfumes make a great gift but they can also take you back to a place and a memory. These Anthropologie candles are my favorite.
Attend a concert, make a CD or playlist that your mom can jam out to or load it with songs that remind you of her. My mom loved James Taylor, The Eagles and Motown. I have a special playlist of songs just for her. Grab an iTunes gift card and make a playlist together.
Those are just a few ideas. How are you celebrating?
I’m in a few mom groups on Facebook and a mom posed the question of whether you can feel a family is complete after one child. They were debating having another but also felt good with one child and wanted other opinions.
So many factors go into that decision but I just felt compelled to comment with a perspective I unfortunately have had to realize and appreciate so young. Navigating grief can be really hard and it is definitely dependent on your situation but I can’t imagine my life now without my sisters. We didn’t always get along growing up – super competitive with each other and our parents (mainly mom’s time) and we’ve always loved each other but three girls wasn’t a walk in the park…I mean middle school years seriously.
A lot depends on family dynamic but I can’t imagine overcoming the last seven years as an only child. Sure friends and extended family offer their support, which has been great, but there is something comforting in knowing that two young women really actually do know how I feel because we are grieving the same person – OUR mom. She fostered great individual relationships with each one of us but it was and is challenging to find that new relationship and essentially our new sisterhood without our fearless leader.
My response to the question was basically this – As a new mom who lost a parent very young I’m so thankful for my siblings. Because good and bad days we’ve been able to help each other miss the one person we fought over (and still do some days). Now we get to direct all our smothering love at Papa Keith (formerly Father Keith). And who knows, my kids may grow up to not be best friends and talk occasionally or they may want to live down the street from each other and send their kids to the same school – who knows. But for me, I feel so much better knowing that they will have each other to make those decisions.
Turns out I’m not the most consistent at posting and I have gained a whole new respect for dedicated bloggers since starting my own blog.
Today marks a hard day and really a day when I just want to call my mom. Today is the due date from our pregnancy that resulted in miscarriage. It’s crazy to miss and love someone you have to wait to meet and it’s been comforting to hear of others who have gone through pregnancy loss just sad to know others have felt that same pain. In the sadness that haunts today, I’m blessed to feel the sweet kicks from our newest blessing due in July. Being pregnant after having a miscarriage has brought on a whole new mix of emotions but we continue to pray and remain hopeful as we continue the journey to grow our family.
Music is one of my favorite ways to cope. This song has brought me comfort in our pregnancy loss and especially these hard days when all I want is my mom. How do you get through the hard times?
This Wednesday will be five years since I last saw my beautiful mom alive. Each year it is always hard but this year hurts even worse. I think of all the times I’ve needed her here and all the things she’s missed out on. Her shoulder to cry on and her hugs are something I wish I could have just one more time. Especially during the hard times like this past August when our journey to become a family of four (not counting Lou) was derailed when I started to miscarry at nine weeks; just two days before our nine week ultrasound appointment.
We found out we were pregnant right away. I remember being so excited and telling myself I would really make the most of this pregnancy. I was confident in my body’s ability to carry a healthy child full-term and had made it through a fairly uncomplicated labor and delivery (minus 36 hours of labor and a hematoma). After taking a few tests and thanking God for positive results, I shared the news with Joel and Hayden Keith. We were all so excited. Continue reading →