It is 9:00 at night and all three kids are asleep, which means I have approximately 30 minutes until my eyes start involuntarily twitching and I start mumbling random nonsense words to Aaron as I bump into things on my way to my room and stumble into my bed. But this is what is on my mind tonight.
This afternoon, a very good and long time friend of mine texted me with this question: How are you with the grieving process? Janis' mother passed away a few years ago so she totally gets it. Something I've learned over the past several months is that not many people totally get it. The day after my mom died, Janis showed up at my door with flowers and tears rolling down her cheeks because not only did she love my mom, but she knew exactly how I was feeling. She knew what to say and what not to say because she stood in my shoes not long ago. Back to the text message. I started and erased fifteen different replies before I responded. I haven't been asked this in a while and I was caught off guard. Had I been asked this in person I would have fumbled my way through a clumsy lie about how I'm fine and I'm learning how to move on, blah blah blah. Some of that is true. The part about learning how to move on wouldn't be a complete lie, but I would say it is a stretch to say "I'm fine." The truth is, every single time I think about my mom, I have to catch my breath. The pain still stings. Watching her suffer for so many months still makes me weep. More than anything, I want to talk to her and hear her call me sweetie. I miss my mom and knowing that I will never see her on this side of heaven makes me physically ill. I miss her so bad.
To be perfectly honest, I haven't yet figured out how to pray for myself as I navigate through my grief. Every time I start to say a prayer that begins with "Please, Lord, help me to [fill in the blank]," I feel awkward and move on to something else, feeling peacefully assured that the Holy Spirit would fill in that blank so I didn't have to. I haven't even attempted to push through that brick wall that is keeping me from even talking to God about my pain.
But He's so good to me. He tore down that wall for me. Let me explain.
My sweet, baby girl Ramsey has taken me on the biggest emotional roller coaster ride I've ever been on in my life. Throughout my pregnancy with her, I don't suppose I thought there would be much of a difference having a girl. I had two babies and assumed the third would be about the same. I was incredibly excited about the thought of having a girl, but I'm not sure I ever thought about her in relation to myself. Confused? I'll explain further.
I have two older brothers. Ramsey has two older brothers. I was Ramsey.
I too often get frustrated with Clark and Griffin when they love on Ramsey a little too hard. They don't know their own strength, apparently, and an innocent hug could turn into near suffocation for the girl. I absolutely cannot leave her unattended within arms reach of those two boys. Clark loves to give her Eskimo kisses and nuzzles his nose up to her nose. Oh, the germs! I shoe him away because I don't want him to get her sick. Griffin loves to squeeze her feet. I know it doesn't hurt her even in the slightest way, but I push him away just in case.
Very recently, I was in Ramsey's room letting her kick on the floor when the boys ran in the room and began to play with her. I watched from a close distance so as to be able to interfere just in case the playing got too rough. As I stared at my three kids with eyes wide open, I saw a very clear vision of my older brothers as young toddlers playing with me, a six week old baby, and my mom who would have been 26 years old, sitting on the floor nearby watching us. I wondered to myself if she would have stopped Chase from nuzzling his nose to mine. Probably not. Would she have stopped Drew from squeezing my chubby legs? Doubt it. In this vision slash daydream of mine, this young mother of three was laughing with her children. She was encouraging her boys to love their new baby sister and teaching them how to be nice. Not pushing them away (like I have the tendency to do). I have seen one photo of the day my parents brought me home from the hospital. I was asleep on a bed and my brothers were hovered over me. When we brought Ramsey home from the hospital, I took several pictures of Clark and Griffin hovering over her in that same way. Do you see? I was Ramsey. Almost every time I get the chance to sneak away from my boys to snuggle up to my girl, I imagine my mom sneaking away from the loud chaos of my brothers to have some alone time with me. I love to think about her holding me in her arms in the same way I hold my sweet baby girl.
And now, I am the mom. I have two boys and a girl who are very close in age just like my brothers and I. I am MY mom. I find comfort in knowing that everything I am doing these days....every single thing...my mom was doing 29 years ago. She chose not to work when we were young and stayed home with us. She fed us breakfast, snacks, lunch, snacks, dinner, and snacks. She cleaned up after us. She drove us everywhere we needed and wanted to go. She dressed us. She broke up many fights. She sent us to our rooms when we got in trouble. She let us watch cartoons. She bathed us. She read to us. And even though I am positive I do not do these things as gently or gracefully as she did, I do all these things for my kids now. I am my mom. I constantly, as in 400 or more times a day, think about her as a young mom and how much she loved us. I constantly compare myself to her and wonder what life was like for her with three young children. It's not very difficult to imagine what motherhood was like for her because I am in the trenches of it as I type this. I think we are the same person. Everything I learned about being a mother came from her. One day this past spring, I was driving her to a chemo therapy appointment, and out of the blue she told me that she regretted being stressed out and mad at us when we were young. As far back as my memories allow, I do not remember her being stressed out or mad at us. Never. But at the end of that conversation she urged me, as a young mom, to keep my stress level in check and to not stay mad at my kids. I needed to hear that from her, I guess, because I replay that conversation in my head over and over again throughout these days of whining, screaming, tantrum throwing toddlerhood.
I was Ramsey. Now I am my mom. I am forever connected to my mother through this, even though she is gone.
To bring this full circle, just in case you've had a hard time following this sloppy thought process of mine...
I mentioned before that I have struggled in my prayer life to acknowledge my pain and ask God for some sliver of providential peace that would help me to "be ok." I really just wanted to be ok. I didn't want to lie any longer to concerned friends who asked me how I was doing. The truth is, I'm still not ok with my mom being forever gone. But that has got to be normal. There is a scar on my heart that will just have to stay there forever, I'm guessing. I desperately want to talk to her. I painfully want her to watch her grandchildren grow up and have kids of their own. I don't want to forget one single memory I have of her, but I know I will. Despite all of these things, I feel peace in my heart. Upon reflection, I do believe God broke the walls of my struggling conscience and allowed me to know and believe my mom is alive in my heart. Because I can see so much of myself in her, she is still with me. She's here with me as I lay in the trenches of motherhood.
The Holy Spirit was at work when I had no words. Thank you, Lord, for that gift. If this is what it means to "be ok," I'm perfectly fine with it.