My Beautiful Mother

My Beautiful Mother

My mother turned 80 years old last week. All five of us kids had a big party for her and she was surrounded by so many family members and friends that love her. She is easy to love. Her smile is welcoming and comforting. Her spirit is gentle and kind. She will make you feel well cared for with her conversation and concern for you, over a warm cup of tea. I’m her daughter, but she shares this gift with everyone. I’m not the least bit jealous.

I was fortunate to be the collector of the RSVP’s for the party, because whether our guests were coming, or unable to make it, everyone felt the need to tell me what a wonderful person she is and that they would love to celebrate with us. I loved hearing those things about my mother. It brought back people to me from my past that I hadn’t seen or heard from in such a long while. They sent cards and photographs in droves. Family traveled from Florida, Indiana, Missouri and Ohio to be here. My mother is the best at keeping in touch with her friends and family. She is a gifted letter writer and I’m certain that everyone who signed the guest book will get a personal, beautifully handwritten and heartfelt thank you note.

I enjoyed the preparations for this party. My brothers and sisters and I were in frequent communication and we all had recollections of past memories coming back into the present. My sister Kim amazingly remembers everything in great detail and wanted to talk about all things funny. It made me happy that she keeps all of these stories tucked away in her brain, because she makes us laugh. Kathy is the oldest and is a talented cake decorator. She cares about all of us and lavishes over all of the details, making everything beautiful. She would do anything for anyone and loves when we are all together. I consider my sister-in-law, Missie, to be more like a sister. She and my younger brother Larry were high school sweethearts, so she has been part of our family for a long time. She has blonde hair like the rest of us girls and fits right in to the picture. She is great at putting together a spread and I was thankful to have her help! She lost her own mother when she was in her twenties and my mom has compassionately cared for her, so I know she was just as eager to honor her on her birthday. My brothers Butch and Larry are quiet, and mostly let the girls do the planning, but I admire the way they love our mom. They, along with my husband Eddie, and brother-in-law John, were all helpful the day of the party, carrying TONS of food and decorations, setting up tables, figuring out the sound system and obediently doing whatever orders us girls barked at them!

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My mother has 19 grandchildren and 13 great-grands! The grandchildren (led by Allison and Andrew) put together a precious, creative gift for my mom, whom they affectionately call “Nana.” It is a large, framed crossword puzzle with all of their names intersecting to form the grid. The corresponding clues are how you figure out the answers for each grandchild! What fun they had coming up with the clues! Andrew, my nephew, also put together a slideshow of 80 years of photographs to run during the party. My daughter, Charlotte sang a beautiful song to my mother titled, “Love Will Be Our Home.” 

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I know my dad was proud to honor her as well. She is a faithful and loving wife. They have been the best example of love through everything life throws at you. They’re an adorably cute couple!

I had planned to say a few words about my mother the day of her party. Both of my sisters did, but honestly, I couldn’t utter a sound. I definitely would have ended up in a puddle of tears. I am so grateful and blessed to have her as my mom. She has been with me through everything; teaching me as a child about God and laying the foundation for the person I would become. I share her love of creativity, entertaining, cooking, sewing, crafting and compassion for others. We love to laugh together. Even my teenage years weren’t that bad. Although I’m certain I did a lot of eye-rolling, and possibly closing my bedroom door firmly. (My bedroom door wouldn’t slam! There was some sort of invisible vacuum preventing it! As hard as I tried, it just whooshed and stopped right before impact. Do you know how frustrating that was for a teenage girl?) I married young and I was in constant communication with her about life, marriage, cooking and motherhood. When my daughter became ill, she never left my side. She helped me physically, emotionally and spiritually and I couldn’t have done any of it without her help. When my marriage ended, she supported me again in all of those ways. When I made decisions she didn’t approve of, I knew how she felt, but she never stopped loving me. She let go of me when she knew I needed to spread my wings, but she was, and always has been, there when I needed her.

She’s a good mom, the best a girl could hope to have. When I think of my mom, I see a beautiful and graceful pillar of strength, fueled by faith. A quiet, introspective person who thinks before she speaks. Sometimes, she never speaks at all; she doesn’t feel the need to. She lives out the adage, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  Maybe I get my “pondering heart” from her. As Mary, the mother of Jesus observed and pondered things in her heart, so does my mother; knowing that God has a plan for whatever happens in our lives. When she does choose to speak, it is full of wisdom; wisdom that only 80 years of living a life of faith can give you. There’s not much she hasn’t seen. There’s not much that she hasn’t experienced, but through it all she chooses to love, and love us well.

Happy 80th birthday to my beautiful mother! Not only are you beautiful on the outside, but most importantly on the inside. Your smile even makes your eyes sparkle and is a constant comfort to me. I am honored to call you my mother and am blessed beyond measure to have you in my life. I love you so much!

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February

February

February is the month I love to hate.

February sits smack dab in the middle of winter, when the skies are grey, the trees are bare and it’s cold outside. You go to work when it’s dark and come home when it’s dark. No neighbors are outside to chat with, the kids are bored inside and although the days are short, they seem to drag on and on….

Every year for the past 15 years, I brace myself for the arrival of February. Chelsea, my beloved daughter, passed away on February 10, 2001. It was only 15 days before her 10th birthday. So every year, in February, I celebrate her life, and mark her death. You would think that after 15 years it would get easier. Some years have been easier than others, but when you lose a child, the heartbreak never truly goes away. Yes, you learn to live with it. You learn to smile and laugh again. There is even joy to be found, but when thoughts drift to her, it’s just…hard. Would it be different had she died in the spring? I doubt it, but mid-winter only exacerbates the emotion that is as grey as the sky.

What should I do on February 10th? Some years I’ve taken off work, stayed under the covers and wished it would all go away. Pity parties don’t help, but sometimes the tears just fall regardless of how hard you try to not let them. Other years, I try to celebrate her life, remembering the good times and how sweet she was. I can look at pictures and watch home movies, but still the tears…. Sometimes we’ve gone on an adventure she would have enjoyed. Another year I was on a business trip and was so busy that I didn’t remember until I wrote the date. I almost panicked. It made me feel like a terrible mother. Then my own mother called to check on me and I broke down into a million pieces.

I used to struggle with terrible depression in the winter. One doctor diagnosed me with SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder. He suggested I try light therapy. I diagnosed myself with SAD, but I was just that, ‘sad.’

Then there’s February 25th, Chelsea’s birthday. This year she would be turning 25. That’s hard to imagine… This day is a little easier. We always get a cake, sing happy birthday, then write messages on balloons and let them go. I love to see what Ethan and Charlotte, (my son and daughter who came after Chelsea passed away) say and write to her. They never knew her, but she is every bit a sister to them as Ashley, my oldest daughter. They talk about her like they did know her. Hopefully, because we all have talked about her so much over the years that they feel like they do. I love when they ask questions about her.

Now when the holidays are over, and we round the corner into the new year, I see it looming in the distance. I know it’s coming and I try not to fear or dread it. It’s a time to remember Chelsea and celebrate the life she lived. I don’t make any definite plans as to what I’ll do or how I’ll feel, because every year is different. Awareness and acceptance of my feelings is what has made the difference. It’s okay to feel sadness and even pain, because even though it hurts, it is part of healing. The most important thing is to let yourself feel – all of it – the good, the bad and the ugly. Grief is a process and there is no time limit. It really never actually ends.

The best part is that after February is over, spring arrives. A renewal and rebirth of life. The trees bloom and the sun comes out and life is new all over again. I take a deep breath and know it’s going to be okay. My joy and hope is in knowing that I’ll see her again one day. So, until then, I will remember her with a smile, (and most likely a tear) and live my life to the fullest, experiencing as much joy as I can along the way.

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My little monkey Abu!