I just read the umpteenth article about motherhood. I thoroughly enjoy them all – they remind me that I am not alone, that the way I am feeling is not crazy, that my role as a mother is utterly irreplaceable and important. But as I read them, I realize how words can never do motherhood justice. I fear that this piece will fall right into that trap, because it, like everything else, is just made up of words and cannot fully capture the way that motherhood changes everything.
But I will try anyway.
As with almost anything in life, you can’t fully appreciate something until it is gone. When I lost my mother, I felt an inescapable sadness, but I couldn’t quite express the way that I felt to others. Even now, I’m stuck at a pause, letting the cursor blink while my fingers tap the keys.
Your mother is your biggest fan. She’s the one person, above all others, that genuinely, honestly, absolutely wants the very best for you. She reads to you, brushes your teeth, packs your lunch, washes your clothes. Then you grow up a bit and she drives you around, takes you shopping, attends your events. She listens to you when no one else will, worries that you’re not eating enough, quizzes you on final exam questions and selflessly helps with science project after science project. She believes in you, supports you, and loves you more than she herself could even explain.
And you need her more than you know.
There are times in my day – sometimes several times – when all three of my girls are hollering, “Mommy!” simultaneously. If I carry one of them upstairs, all of them want to be carried upstairs. If one of them wants to sit by me, they all want to sit by me. If I get one of them out of the car, they all want me to get them out of the car. If one of them wants to eat dinner while in my lap, they all want to eat dinner while in my lap. I have never, ever felt more NEEDED in my entire life. Sure, my bff needed me when she and her boyfriend broke up, but these three girls NEED me. For food, for comfort, for safety. They need a buddy to play with, a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on. They need someone who will brush their hair out of their faces, pick them up when they have fallen, teach them how to take on the next step, and cheer them on when they are doing it right.
All this needing helps me to put words to why I miss my mother so much. I have NEEDED her since birth. First for simple things – food, diaper changes, someone to rock me to sleep – and then for so much more. My mother was the only person I felt like I could call at any time for something big or small. She’s the only one that I knew I wasn’t inconveniencing when I asked for something. There was never an IOU or a guilt trip. This is who I want to be for my girls. I want to be that person who loves them unconditionally, who points them to the Father over and over again, who guides them through this life.
And although life has gone on without her, it doesn’t mean that I don’t still need her. I need her advice, I need her to play with my girls, I need her to see them grow up. Mom, can you believe Selah is three? Remember when you got stuck in New Jersey trying to make it to Thailand to see her birth? Mom, look how big Kate is getting! I think she’s going to crawl any second now. I’m not ready for any of that! Soon I’ll have three girls going in three different directions. Mom, would you mind sewing on a button for me? I lost one on my coat. Mom, Macy is teaching Selah how to go to the potty. Maybe by the time we get to Kate, I won’t have to do anything. Mom, can you babysit tonight? Just for a couple of hours? Mom, I ran out of milk! Could you grab some for me at the store on your way over?
I once read a quote by Washington Irving: “A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.”
My mother was my truest friend, my anchor, my life raft. As I sit here on the second anniversary of her death, I miss her so much, so tangibly I can almost taste it. Two years ago, when she died, I laid in bed with Macy, listening to her breathe and felt an enormous weight of sadness sitting on my chest. It felt as though it would never go away. But through the grace of God, it has lessened. With each time someone tells me how much Selah looks like my mother, reminds me what kind of coffee she used to drink at Starbucks, shares with me a favorite story of my mother, it has lessened. Watching my girls laugh and play, hug one another, or run together holding hands, it has lessened. I see my mother in their smiles, I see myself becoming like her, I see my girls one day becoming like me and the weight continues to lessen. Two years ago, I lost my most-needed person, but daily I am becoming that same needed person for three little people.
I read this passage the other day and it stuck with me.
19 Jesus realized they wanted to ask him about it, so he said, “Are you asking yourselves what I meant? I said in a little while you won’t see me, but a little while after that you will see me again. 20 I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy. 21 It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world. 22 So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy.
33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
– John 16: 19-22, 33
Today, I have grief and joy, sadness and hope. I miss my mother every day, and every day, I have peace knowing that one day I will see her again. Thank you, Jesus. And thank you, Mom. For being that person, for giving up your time, your energy, your space – so that I could see what a mother should be. I love you.