A Visit with Mom
Yesterday I crafted.
Even typing that word makes me cringe, but it’s true. I went to Fall for Greenville and decided to visit Mom’s grave while I was there. I do not go very often, but when I do it’s a surreal experience. How is it that sitting on the ground and talking to a piece of stone can feel so therapeutic?
My mom loved the fall. The first October after her death I could not step foot in a store that sold any kind of decorative items. The colors, the sights, the smells…it was all Mom. With time I came to embrace that it’s also my favorite time of year, and I can use it to celebrate for both of us, which is why I purchased flowers, ribbons and styrofoam on my way to Graceland Cemetery.
The air was crisp as I knelt beside the headstone and gently arranged her bouquet. I knew she would appreciate my homemade effort over store bought convenience. And as I worked, I brought her up to speed on my life.
My first line of thought with Mom is always, “I wish you were here.”
I wish she could see the way my daughter’s smile can light up an entire room, or how her blonde ponytail bobs in the wind as she runs around the track.
I wish she could hear the words my son writes as editor of the yearbook or the way he yells “I love you, Mom!” from across the fence at the end of every football game.
I wish she could be here to know all my people, and how I feel held by the love of so many in her absence.
I wish she could know my hopes, my plans, my dreams—this grown up version of me.
I wish I could hold her wrinkled, blue-veined hand.
But just as quickly as those wishes appear, they are replaced by a very different thought.
“Maybe it’s better that she is not here.”
I would not want her to see the pain and suffering lighting up our newsfeeds. The wars, the senseless acts of violence, the unnecessary deaths.
I would not want her to worry about me and my kids being shot every time we walked in a school building.
I would not have wanted her to witness the heartbreak of my divorce or the death toll of a worldwide pandemic.
There is so much hurt she has been spared by not being here.
Yet, as I sat pulling weeds from around her name, I focused on the verse from 2 Timothy sketched upon the stone. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” My humble attempt at saving Mom from recent pain or suffering disregards the strength and faith she exhibited on a daily basis. She fought battles big and small throughout her life, and she kept her faith—a faith that could literally move mountains.
She did not live in fear, so who am I to think she couldn’t handle these latest bumps in the road? Would the pain devastate her? Absolutely. Would she shed tears and endure sleepless nights? Of course. But it’s possible, as I now know, to feel the pain and keep going. Glennon Doyle once wrote, “I’m not a mess but a deeply feeling person in a messy world.” My momma could handle messy, and I now proudly carry that torch; however, it is our wounds that become our greatest gifts. Mom would no more want me to spare her painful details of my life than she would want to miss all the celebrations along the way.
At the end of my visit, I told her how much I miss her presence. It’s not about what she would or would not get to see, but about me living in a world where I don’t have my momma. As we drove away, I told my friend that I still feel cheated. She was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s at 57. I needed more time with her. More hugs with her. More tears with her. More conversations with her. I was robbed. It will never make sense.
I went about the rest of my day surrounding myself with beauty and love. I ate delicious food, walked around in perfect October temperatures, listened to live music, and perused an indie bookstore. Mom would want me to breathe it in and feel it all. And this week as my new classes begin, I will teach my creative writing students about the importance of telling our story. I will tell them how Mom was my first English teacher. She showed me how to fight the good fight with my pen and an open heart.