Letting Go, Parenting, Relationships

To My Mom, Who is Far Away, On Mother’s Day

I wish I could be with you on Mother’s Day, but as it works sometimes, time and distance are not with us this weekend. From my living room eleven hours away, I am thinking of you in your home of the past year and a half, a home we never intended. No one ever does. I know that today my brothers and sister and Dad will take you out, the sun will shine, and you’ll enjoy the day in the way it was in the best times – filled with love, laughter, conversation, and more than a few smart-ass remarks from your kids and husband. It’s not our fault. You taught us to laugh and to make you laugh, and right now, we are desperate to hear you laugh. Laughter is the best medicine.

I know there will come a day when I have to let go of you, Mom.

But I will never let go of my mom.

I always thought of you as my rock, but I was wrong. Rocks are stationary, and you were a force. You were my pilot — doing everything you could to make sure it was safe for me, for all of your kids, to fly. Often you were on autopilot – raising six kids, you had to be – but when it mattered – no matter how bad you felt, how far away you were, how overwhelming circumstances got – you took the controls again, guiding us through even the bumpiest of landings.When things got rough, you’d say “Buckle up” because, well, that’s just how life goes sometimes. And when you had to send us out into the storm, you always reassured us that everything would be okay, even when you weren’t sure yourself. “Don’t worry about it,” you would say. But I could see your shoulders sag, and I know there were times when the baggage of life nearly took you down.

You pulled through. You pulled us through until we could all breathe on our own again. We used to joke that you had nine lives. Or an army guardian angels. Or both. We used to joke that you had more kids and just lost them in that mess of a garage somewhere. Or about how you once tried growing a pineapple in a French onion soup bowl. “Ma, what are you doing here?” I asked.

“I just like watching things grow,” you said.

A few years ago while I was shopping in Target, you called to tell me that you had gotten last rites for the second time in a month. You were afraid. I said, “Mom! God’s gonna think you’re crying wolf if you kept getting Last Rites.” People overheard me and looked at me strangely, but I didn’t care because you laughed. And you pulled through.

You worry about going to heaven. I know it keeps you up at night. I worry that you believe God doesn’t see in you what we see. I worry that you will leave this earth one day not knowing how many lives you have touched. You taught us that kindness matters. Honesty matters. People matter. Love matters. People often tell me that I give good advice, but it is always your advice: You win some, you lose some.  Cross that bridge when you come to it. Don’t worry about it. Say a prayer to Saint Anthony. Call it a day. Just keep plugging along.

When things threaten to overwhelm me, I remember how you told me the best way to clean my house: “Start in a corner, and work your way out.” I wonder if you know how many life situations this advice has gotten me through. I wonder if you know that I give my kids the same advice when they feel overwhelmed. As a kid I never thought there would come a day when I would become the strong one.

I am not the strong one.

I watch you fight, day in and day out, for the will to hold on. To get up and walk, even if it’s just 30 feet.

“God’s not done with me yet,” you say.

That’s okay with me, but every once in a while, I offer up a little prayer to give you strength because that’s what you asked me to do. And even though I know no stronger woman, I ask Him anyway. And then I tell Him that whenever he finally does decide to bring you on board, He’ll make a hell of a co-pilot.

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