January 18, 1997. It's the date my mom died 11 years ago. I will never forget coming home that night to an answering machine full of messages. I joked " look how popular we are!" then I saw the blinking lights and heard the same messages over and over. There must have been 15 of them, "Susan, this is your dad, call home." or "Susan, it's your sister, call me." I knew immediately that something was very bad and when I finally reached my father and heard the words "your mom died tonight," my life was forever changed both bad and good.
Obviously, the death of your mom has a lifelong impact. It changes you in a way that can't be described. As I look back over the last 11 years, it's hard to believe how much she has missed. Basically my entire married life and the birth of all 4 of our children. There are so many things I have wanted to ask her over the years about marriage, life and especially children. My kids often ask me " if you could spend the day with anyone, who would it be?" I always answer the same, "my mom." I would spend the day introducing her to her grandchildren and watching them just soak her up. I would hug her and smell her and rub her feet like I did as a kid.
The Good things:
In a strange way, her death has brought me closer to my husband. We had only been married 7 weeks when she died. The strain that this put on such a young marriage is unimaginable. I can only thank Stew for being such a quiet source of strength for me in a time of profound grief. He was and is my rock. I can remember coming home from work and just sobbing in his arms. For him, the youngest of 3 boys in a pretty stoic family, this was a big deal. In fact, one of the few times I have seen him cry was at the death of my mom. My mom loved Stew and she doted on him whenever she could. I know he felt that loss as greatly as I did, but he remained solid, knowing that what I really needed was a soft place to land.
My sister and I were close before, but we were truly united through our grief. There wasn't another person in the world who knew exactly how it felt except her. I could call her and she could just tell by the tone of my voice that I was struggling. We'd sit on the phone and just cry together until it passed. She's also my roadmap to motherhood. With no one to talk to about the day to day struggles of raising children, she has certainly fielded her fair share of panicked phone calls and talked me off the ledge of desperation. When Macie was a baby and wasn't nursing well, she talked me through the whole thing over the phone. To my children, she has been their biggest cheerleader. She's the one they call when they've lost their first tooth, ridden a two wheeler for the first time or gotten an A on their report card. She's the one who really cares about what they are doing on a day to day basis. I know it's cliche but she really is the best sister I could have ever asked for!
If ever there were a silver lining in a sea of grey, it's my mother-in-law. I often wonder if I would be as close to her as I am if my mom had not died. She is just such an amazing woman with such an inner strength. She has truly shown me how to be a good mother, wife and person. She is so good to me and my children it's unbelievable. Just when I begin to doubt myself as a parent, she provides me with encouragement. She knows exactly what needs to be done when she visits and steps in quetly without having to be asked and without stepping on any toes in the process. For a mother-in-law, I'm sure that is a fine line and she does it perfectly. I feel like she loves me unconditionally and she has seen me at my worst. I can't imagine a life without her and am forever grateful to have her in my life.
Not having a mother has made me so much more compassionate. It has truly made me reevaluate my life and put things in order. I understand what is important and what is not and try not to get caught up in all the junk that life throws your way. I'm not perfect, but I do put my family first and appreciate every minute of every day that I have with them. They truly are the greatest gift I have ever been given.
I still think about her all the time and tell stories to my kids. I think they feel like they know her a little bit more with each story. The pain today is not nearly as great as it was, especially that first year. I really never thought I'd feel better but I can honestly say that it's rare that I think about her with sadness. Don't get me wrong, I have my days, but for the most part I think about her and remember things she'd say or do. I'll hear a song that reminds me of her, look up to heaven and smile. I know she's there watching over us and waiting patiently until it's our time to join her.