And Then We Watched the Sunset

I started writing this post last spring, when it had been one year without my mom. While it is very personal to me, I felt it was time to share. I know Mother’s Day can be a difficult time for some but a mother’s love is forever. Be sure to squeeze your people tight while you can. And don’t spend too much time in that place of hurt. It’s more than acceptable to grieve and feel but take time to remind yourself of all the goodness that still surrounds you. Happy Mother’s Day to all the mom’s out there. You do the greatest work known to mankind.

I wanted to watch the sunset with you today. So, I went to the prettiest spot I know here. Where you can look down into Latah Valley and see it all. Trees, the first signs of spring. Life moving forward. Even if it I felt as if it stopped, I knew that wasn’t true for everybody else.

I wanted to watch the sunset alone, except for you of course. We listened to Elton John because I know how much you love him. It was a little bit chilly outside but I didn’t care. Being with you that day was really all that mattered.

I wanted to watch the sunset because I knew I’d find you in the moment where everything becomes still. When the hues of yellow, blue, orange and pink all blend together on the pallet of sky, finally disappearing into complete darkness.

I wanted to watch the sunset because things needed to feel real. I didn’t want sympathetic looks from strangers or the “I’m sorry’s.” They mean well and heck, I’m sure I’d do the same, but gazing at the sky with you finally brought back some normalcy into this life.

 

I wanted to watch the sunset, not to be reminded of everything I’ll miss, but of what I still carry with me. The concerts and plays where I found you in the stands. Silly moments and arguments. Cooking lessons where I spent more time with my nose in a book than actually learning how to cook. Christmas mornings and holidays where we didn’t have a single place to be except together.

I wanted to watch the sunset but also I didn’t. Because of what that would mean, of what I would feel. Of the tears flowing too easily. For what I would learn in this shared quiet moment between you and I. In the way the memories flood back, making it difficult to catch my breath. So for a bit I could forget the unfairness of it all, shrinking away from the tragedies that form our stories.

I wanted to watch the sunset because to say I needed a place to visit you sounds so cliche but yet, I did. To glimpse past the veil that seems to separate us at times, between those who are here and who have left. To see more in the stillness than we generally allow. To recognize that the love is greater than the loss.

I wanted to watch the sunset. So we did. It wasn’t perfect but it was beautiful. It was the point where bliss and hurt coincide. The sharpness of the pain meets up against your unbroken love. We hurt, we heal, we start again. In it all, we never stop loving. In the sunset that day, though I felt my foundation was shaky, I found assuredness in you. In each gift you’ve given. In each smile. In every moment I saw your heart. And wouldn’t you know it, the sun keeps rising and setting. Just like that glorious circle, your love reminds me to rise and to rest. To cover all I can with my own love and warmth.

Thank you for so very many of my best days and for the strength to make the rest of my days as beautiful as those I spent with you. I love you mom.

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The Woman Beyond “Mom”

My second Mother’s Day without my stepmom is here. It is one of the busiest days of the year at the restaurant I work at and after losing Lou to ovarian cancer last year, it is one of the hardest days to get through personally. I found myself recently telling friends that it hurts but I think I’ll be OK. As it drew nearer, however, I found myself feeling differently. I found myself missing her and tears filling my eyes. I found myself restless and searching for distractions. I won’t be OK. And, I don’t have to be. Grief is a turbulent, reoccurring storm that leaves damage in its wake. But, over time, you learn to protect yourself in little ways. You put up safeguards in order to prepare for when the storm actually arrives. It still hurts, maybe less or maybe more, but you ride it out.

I was rather young when we moved out to Montana. At the age of 6, I was starting over in a new town, new state, and new school. I loved my stepmom dearly and am filled with beautiful memories of camping trips, car rides, and just moments of togetherness. Approaching junior high and high school though, there was a shift. I felt myself withdrawing. After I left for college, we went through a rough patch for a couple of years. Of course, I will always wish for it to have gone differently. Looking back, I was yearning for some different version of my stepmom, instead of seeing everything she already was. It took quite some time to realize that a mom can be many things and you can even have more than one. A mother is simply one who takes it upon themselves to raise a child. A mother is somebody who carries children for somebody who may be unable to. A mother may even have to give their child up in order to give them the best life possible. The definition of a mother is difficult to pinpoint because it covers so much, more than I had ever thought about before.

As I was reflecting on the past with both my stepmom and birth mom, I began to notice that I had placed my moms on pedestals. They were untouchable and unreachable, bound by terms and conditions of what I believed a mother should be. Until, one day, I made the choice to accept them both as they were and for all they had given me. Our relationships weren’t perfect but each was unique and I knew that the path of gratitude was the one I would follow. A heart of love and acceptance allowed me to see my mothers as they really are, instead of what I had envisioned they should be.

A mother is not perfect, nor would you want her to be. Her madness in the mess makes life so much more fun and magical.

A mother is not superwoman, though she makes it look like it right? She has her doubts, fears, and insecurities just like the rest of us.

A mother is not indestructible. She will break and falter at times. Words can do so much, even if it doesn’t seem like it.

And yet, she is still perfect and indestructible.  And yes, she’s even superwoman. Because for everything that she isn’t, she is still more. I wish that I had realized all of this sooner, before it was too late. That I hadn’t missed out on a couple years with her because of my pride. I’m not a mom, but I’ve been lucky enough to have two moms in this life. One of which brought me into this world, and the other whom I watched depart from here too soon.

Some of the greatest gifts, personality traits, and memories are because of my mothers. For that I will be eternally grateful. I’m blessed to have known my mothers beyond the “mom” that I know them as. To have learned their stories and absorbed their wisdom. The biggest takeaway I can offer in all of this is: Give your mom credit. Not just today but everyday. She’s done more for you in this life than you’ll ever know. Never take this time for granted that you have with her because you can’t get it back. Listen to what she teaches you. Care for her when she’s in need. And never take that love for granted, even if it isn’t how you had pictured it.

Happy Mother’s Day friends.