On Mother’s day…

Mother’s day can be such a day of mixed emotions. For those of us that are mothers, it can mean breakfast in bed and a celebration with our children and family. It can also mean a bit of sadness for those of us who have children, not in our homes, or who have grown and left the nest.

For those of us daughters, it can mean an opportunity to celebrate the woman who raised us, loved us (even through our teens), and cheers us on — for some, it can be a reminder of strained relationships.

For me, as a daughter, it is both a day of good memories and a bit of mourning. My mother passed when I was 29, a newer mom to a toddler with a little girl on the way.  Mom didn’t live long enough to learn she would be having a new granddaughter and I always felt a tinge of sadness about that — she would have loved to have gotten to know my daughter and watch her grow. We often refer to my girl as “Joyce 3.0”, my mom is the original model, and me a close replica.

Mom was a pretty great lady. She loved fiercely, expressed herself with abandon through her writing, and taught me many lessons about life in general — but our relationship took many different forms over the years.

When I was young, I watched with a critical eye as my mother navigated her relationship with my father. Dad had a ten year or so mid-life crisis and it started with little warning. My mom’s role was as a homemaker. She didn’t hold a job outside of the house, tended to her family, kept the budget, and made amazing meals. My dad’s actions during this time turned her life upside down. I remember many days of tears for her during this time and I also remember wondering why she stayed if she was so unhappy.

As I entered my teens, my mother’s approach started to shift. She had found a group of supporters who encouraged her to go back to work, which she did. She found a part-time job at first and eventually returned to the field full-time. She had less patience for my dad’s antics after that and he eventually came around. And through that time I had the opportunity to watch them heal their relationship.

Next up, my turbulent teen years. I won’t go into detail but suffice to say, I gave my parents a run for their money during those years. I watched my parents, but especially my mother struggle to understand but even at my worst, she loved me tirelessly. I’m sure there were plenty of times she felt exhaustion, and without a doubt, she must have wanted to through in the towel more times than I care to count, but she never gave up on me. Through prayer and steadfastness, and the support of her prayer warrior friends, she ushered me through my worst and into young adulthood. The land where I finally started to catch a clue about how lucky I was to call her my mom.

I learned so much through watching all those years. I learned about love and loss and forgiveness and grace. My mother, who I saw as weak in my early years, became the beacon of strength as I grew older. As I grew even older, she became a dear friend and confidant. And just when we were in our groove and she was celebrating the fruits of her labors in raising me to this point, cancer came and interrupted her joy — and mine.

This year marks my 20th Mother’s day without her here. And though the grieving is mostly past, I feel a tinge of sadness and longing today. What I would do to hear her laughter, or look in her cornflower blue eyes one more time. To hear her say, “I love you” again.

She left me with many gifts. A unique perspective on my world. She taught me:

  • the importance of prayer
  • the importance of equality in my relationships
  • that it’s okay to weed your garden of relationships and friendships that no longer serve us
  • that some people come into our lives for a time, a season or a reason — not everyone stays forever — but their impact and what you learn from them can last long beyond your time together
  • that self-care is not “indulgent” but a necessity — and sometimes that means spending time alone with your thoughts or a good book and not feeling guilty
  • that creating a tribe of strong girlfriends is critical to mental health — even — and especially after we’re married
  • that our children’s choices are not a reflection of our success or our failures
  • and that time is fleeting — we need to take every opportunity to express to those we love how we feel

Of course, I would want more time with my mom if it were possible, but I am thankful she left such a mark on my life. She wasn’t perfect by any stretch but she did the best she could with the tools she had. She had a fantastic sense of humor and a softness in her advice. I will never stop missing her presence, but on this day this year, I am happy to celebrate the lessons she imparted and I hope to share the same with my daughter. It’s quite a legacy to hand down to the next generation.

I love you mom, more than tongue can tell.

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