A former student, Bethany (see the Dear Bethany post) lost her mother about eighteen months ago and I have been blessed with truly becoming friends with Bethany. We chatted before her mom’s passing, but, since then, our conversations (though still sporadic) have grown in frequency, depth, and intensity. I love Bethany and I want “to be there for her.”
Recently, Bethany has started writing her own blog on tumblr titled “Beth on Death” which is incredible and inspiring and thoughtful. She makes so many true and wonderful points about what it’s like to be twenty-two and wanting to share her life with her mother only…her mother isn’t there.
So, Bethany and I have just done a Facebook-chat in which I reminded her that I would always be willing to talk with her if she ever needed. But, I also recognized and acknowledged the truth in something Bethany wrote about. No matter how kind or well-intended your friends might be, there’s no replacing Mom.
I have a love-frustration relationship with my mom. I’ll be 43 at the end of March and Mom still sees me as a little girl. Now, I’m short, but I’m taller than her. And heavier than her. And stronger than her (physically). But, whenever we have anything close to freezing where I live, Mom begs me to drive slowly so that I will not crash and burn and die a horrible death.
Don’t get me started on the fact that when I was in high school Mom actually taught me what to do if the airplane we were flying in was highjacked. Or the fact that I lived in a bubble held together with rules and regulations that were intended to keep me safe. Because Mom was convinced that I was going to be kidnapped, raped, tortured, mutilated, murdered, resurrected and have the procedure repeated to infinity and beyond.
So, yeah, I have a love-frustration relationship with my mother. I love her. But her fears and anxieties frustrate me.
At the same time, she knows me and my history. She and I share so many little stories and memories that no one will understand because they weren’t there for those little moments which have contributed to the warm, fuzzy feeling that nostalgia and happy memories bring.
Mom understands the humor of imaginary letters she and I wrote when we were hiking down into a valley in Switzerland and I was bored and a bit cranky. We pretended that we were writing letters to one another when I was an adult and married (to my middle school crush…the handsomest boy in Sunday School. We were going to get married…if I could ever actually talk to him).
Mom knows the surge of embarrassed-joy I felt when the Italian guard in St. Peter’s Basilica approached me and told me my hair was “fahn-tahs-teesh.” For a young woman who was overweight and felt horribly ugly, I giggled a lot and probably did a couple of mild hair tosses. In some respects, that trip to Rome saved me from me.
Mom gave me a teddy bear when I was thirteen that I still have even though it is sitting on the Girl’s bed. But even the Girl understands that the bear is still mine because it is what my mom gave to me because she knew I was upset about losing the baseball cap my grandfather (her father) had given me.
Mom was there when my high school friends died…and she comforted me.
Mom forgave me when I nearly punched her not once..but twice…because she made me so mad.
Mom taught me how to say “I love you” and mean it when my children are being horrible to me. Because she did that to me when I was being horrible to her.
Mom taught me to sing gospel hymns, specifically “And he walks with me and he talks with me” when we were hiking through a klamm in Germany. A klamm is a ravine with a river rushing through it. The Germans have set up a path that goes through a series of caves (not fun for a budding claustrophobic) or right against the ravine. Everything is soaking wet and a series of heavy wire cables are all that separate a clumsy girl from gushing-watery-death. And it was loud. So loud that it terrified me. It was like walking through thunder claps that never stopped. So Mom sang to me. And I sang with her. And I felt like Jesus really was walking with me through the thunder and the fear melted away from me and I could breathe through my terror.
Right before my wedding, Mom gave me a necklace that my father had given to her. I don’t know how special it was, but I had coveted it for…decades. And the night of my rehearsal, she pulled it out of a sandwich bag and put it in my hands. I never wear it because I am afraid of losing it. But I have it in my jewelry box and, every now and then, I lace it around my throat and feel like I have my mother curled up in the loop of my breast bone.
Mom raised me in art museums, taught me German, and gave me my first Schlumpf (Smurf in English). Mom took me to Rome for a week, paid for me to fly back and forth to Germany, and did everything she could to give me joy.
My mother resuscitated my father when he died from a heart-thing-a-mah-jiggy (not a heart attack). I have the audio recording of my mother singing “I will glorify the king of kings. I will glorify the lamb.” I can hear how each syllable was a compression. My father, my wonderful and beloved father is still alive today…because of my mother.
Mom brought me to salvation. And she still nourishes my relationship with the Lord hourly.
Mom is generosity and love and forgiveness. I try not to let a day go by without calling her or video chatting with her. Because I know that life has an ending and I don’t know when hers is but I know it’s approaching.
We talk about death. We talk about what it will be like when she dies. We’re not being morbid or depressing. Rather, I know that her time on this Earth is evaporating and she will likely predecease me. And I want to make sure that…I don’t know. I don’t even know what I’m trying to say here because it hurts and I know that when Mom dies I will be broken but will have to re-glue the broken pieces of my heart together with the glue that she created because she is Mom and she always has the right ways to fix me.
When Pat and I were going through terrible times, Mom was the first person I called. And I begged her to fly from Germany to America to make it better for me. And I could hear her grief when she gently explained that she couldn’t. I needed to walk this path and she couldn’t do it for me. And she was right. Because at the end of the path, I was a new woman, a stronger woman. And if she had walked the path with me, I would have been crippeledly holding on to her and not on to my own two hands.
Bethany was and is so right. No matter who she calls, she will never be able to call her mother. Moms are irreplaceable. I have a fantastic mother-in-law. And we share so many memories together. But she doesn’t understand “fahn-tahs-teesh.” My mother-in-law is fahn-tahs-teesh, just like my mother. But, in the end, Mom is Mom…even with all of her worries and fears.
But as I have said before, I would rather have my mother will all her worries and fears than to only have the memories of those worries and fears.