Tag Archives: mom

Do We Have DeathDays?

Today marks the tenth anniversary of my mom’s death.  She breathed her last breath before noon on a Friday morning – a day when I was supposed to go to a wedding, a day that was weeks before the doctor had predicted she would die, and a day on which payroll for the motel had to be done.  It is strange the things that we remember, isn’t it?

As I started to go on in writing this post, it sounded familiar in my head and to my fingers.  The opening paragraph and what would follow sounded like I had written it before.

So – I bipped on over to my WordPress dashboard and searched for all of the blogs written about June 13, my mom’s death-day (if we have a birthday, we must also have a death day…try that greeting out sometime, “Happy Deathday!”  Do you think they will write a song about it?  Sorry…getting morbid and dark…).

Back to my search: I found that I have written about my mom’s death a lot since I have had a blog.  And reading the posts allowed me to see my progression through grief.  Last year’s anniversary was the best and might be the last one I need to write…ok, probably not!

So – here are a few. Read them.  Comment on them. Share them.  My grief shared with others means that others feel comfort that they are not alone…and THAT is a huge thing in this thing called grief, for to be alone in our grief is what leads to despair and despair to all kinds of bad decisions.  But shared grief finds someone else sitting next to us – maybe not saying a word or maybe saying several words in a rambling blog post.

And that “sitting next to us” brings a bit of heaven to Earth.

Here are some of the posts – I am sure that there are more, but I got tired of looking:

PS: Yes – it still hurts. Some days more than others.  Some days less than others.  And most of the time, it just feels strange…and that is how I think it is supposed to feel. Death was never part of the plan, but sin ushered it in and “numbers our days.”  Someday there will be no more death, and that day will be glorious.

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What I Want for Mothers’ Day

Frequent readers, friends, and family members know that my mom passed away nearly ten years ago.  I do not remember the last Mothers’ Day I had with her; in fact, I do not think I was with her.  I actually do not think, at the time of Mothers’ Day that year, that I had accepted that she would die even though all indications had made that pretty clear.  I do not remember the first Mothers’ Day after she died or any particular ones after that one.

Sometimes we choose to forget things that are painful.

Mothers’ Day should not be a day filled with pain, regret, fear, hurt, disappointment, or sadness. Yet – because life is what it is – we know that it is not pain free.  We read it on the internet, we hear it from friends, and we know it in our hearts.  Most of our greatest celebrations in life come with that tinge of some unwelcome feeling.

Sitting on my dining room table as I write these words is a box. On that box, my daughter has written, “Happy Mothers’ Day!”  I will open this gift tomorrow, and I will love whatever is in the box because my children put thought and time into choosing something to give me.

What they do not know and may never fully understand is that no gift could ever be better than the fact that they exist.  To be their mom has been one of the top three most defining and fulfilling experiences in my entire life.  They are the best gift that they could give me, and that has already happened.

But what I want this Mothers’ Day is not a thing, an experience, or even my kids.

I want things to be different for people who cannot celebrate well on this day.

I want “wanna-be moms” to know that they are important and have something to give regardless of whether they have children from their own wombs.  I do not use “wanna-be” in a derogatory sense here, and I apologize if anyone takes it that way.  Most of the time if we want to be something, we see something in a position or other person that we want to emulate or copy.  There are so many women – who want to be moms and who would make great moms – who are not.  For Mothers’ Day this year, I want them to know that they are important, have much to give to children around them, and are a vital part of society.  I want these women to be celebrated rather than relegated to the sidelines.

I want all kids to grow up with moms who raise them well and with a lot of love.  This is a pretty tall order, but I want it.  I do not want foster care to be a need in our country.  According to adoptioninstitute.org, “Between 1971 and 2001, U.S. citizens adopted 265,677 children from other countries.”  Imagine – if that many have been adopted, how many more remain without forever families?  At the same time, according to childrensrights.org, “On any given day, there are approximately 400,000 children in out-of-home care in the United States.”  We have so much need inside of our own country.  I want children who are currently abandoned worldwide or in United States foster care to find loving homes, and I want the reasons that these needs exists to be erased from our world.

I want women who have lost children due to death, miscarriage, or abortion to feel joy on this day again. I have no idea how to make this happen.  I feel like a broken record as I keep saying this.  But I want it.  I want those who feel that today is all about loss – a harsh remembrance of the grief that they feel – to know that today can be a day when they honor those who are no longer … or never were … with them.  For some, they do not appear to be mothers because there was no child outside of the womb. I say to you, “You are mothers!” I realize that I may be causing controversy by including mothers who aborted children in this paragraph, but my interactions with those who have chosen abortion tells me that their loss is similar – and as complicated – to those who have lost children through other ways. How can we – as a society – show them that they are still honored today? I want moms who deal with the death of a child – however it occurred – to know that God’s love is great.

I want those who have lost moms to be comforted.  I used to think that time healed fully.  What I have realized is that time creates a scab on wounds and that days, events, reminders, pull those scabs off and reveal the wound again. Mothers’ Day can be one of those events.  As the ten years have passed, the wound under the scab has become less intense, but the removal of the scab – whatever pulls it off hurts.  The pain is intense for a while, and then it goes for a while.  Some of us search for other people could “be mom” to us, but that only goes so far.  Eventually, we realize that it just is not enough. And it never will be.  I would love for moms to stop dying, but that is not the world that we live nor will it likely ever be.  If they did not mean so much to us, it would not hurt so much when they were gone.  Even if our relationships were strained, we hurt for what could have been.

As I wrap up this post, I want to share a bit from my faith-walk in this area.

God does not ignore us or turn a blind eye to our pain.  He sees us, He hears us, and He wants things to be different as well.  The mystery of free will means that pain will stay in our lives, but – in knowing God through His Son – we can see things differently.  We can look up from our situation and see that there is more going on in a situation than just our pain.  We can cry out in agony to the God who hears.  He will turn our mourning into dancing.  He will – some day in heaven – dry every tear, hold us close, and whisper, “You are mine, and you will never hurt again.”

Until then, may we be that voice for each other.

Whether you know it or not, You belong to God.  He sees your pain today and every day – whether Mothers’ Day related or not.  And He wants to hear from you.

Happy Mothers’ Day!

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Grief Pangs

As I do almost daily, I read my friend Marilyn’s blog post on Saturday.  She has started a weekly Saturday feature that is so fun – a wrap up that entails some of her favorite internet finds, things that are on her heart, and what is currently on her bedside stand (in other words, what book [s] might she be reading right now).

Almost as compelling as the blog post itself are the comments left by a handful (which is sometimes a very large handful) of daily followers.  Marilyn interacts with her commenters as one would a friend, and she does so – whether they have met in person or not – because they are.  I have come to enjoy her friends as well.

What happened in my heart on Saturday in my heart is something that has happened other times as I have read the comment section. It is not terribly new to me. However, it does always catch me off guard.  The thought has stayed with me now for a few days which usually means I am to write a post about the thought, but I almost would prefer not to do so.

I had a grief pang.

In June, we will remember for the tenth year in a row the death of my mom.  After 10 years, the pain is both much more dull and just as fresh as it was the morning that she died.  While I originally thought that I could predict what would bring about the grief pangs, I now know that I have absolutely no idea what might and what might not do so.

Marilyn’s mom is a frequent commenter in her comment section.

And the great part about the fact that she is a commenter is that she identifies herself in exactly that way – Marilyn’s Mom.  Everyone else has their first name or their blog name or even their Twitter sign @tweeter_someone, but Marilyn’s mom is just Marilyn’s mom.

The thought that went through my mind the first time I saw this was the same thought that went through my mind on Saturday.

That is so cool; I am so jealous.

At first, I scolded myself.  Stacy Ann, you can’t be jealous!

What a horrible feeling to have toward my good friend.  It is not her fault that her mom is alive and mine is not.  It is not her fault that her mom comments on her blog while mine never had the chance. 

And then I realized that I do not feel this feeling toward my friend.  Rather, I feel it because it is just another reminder that my mom is gone. 

I am honestly happy that other women still have their moms around.  It stinks that mine is gone, and I do not really wish these feelings on anyone else.  The problem is that their moms being around is not a quiet occurrence.

They have something that I do not have.

As I wrote the previous sentence, another thought crossed my mind: That is always the problem with us as humans.  We compare our situations, and we find that we are lacking. Rather than seeing the great things that we have in our lives, we see only what others have that we do not.

I realize that it is ok for me to be sad about my mom being gone; however, I have to ensure that I do not stay that way for too long.  These things happen. People die.  Every second of every minute of every day of every month of every year – someone…many someones dies. 

And when they do, we are left with a sincere sadness that they are gone.

While we can be sad, we must look around us and be willing to keep on living.  They are gone, but we are here.  We are sad, but there are many others around us who need us. And they need us to live…to be alive.

Grief pangs can put us on the sidelines, but we have to return to the game.  We are not meant to be spectators; we are meant to be participants (I initially wrote players but worried about the double meaning – ha! Glad for the comic relief?).

Are you on the sidelines today? Be gentle with yourself. Do something calming or chaotic – whatever you need to do.  But get back into the game…soon.  The rest of your team needs you, and they want you to play.

By the way: this coming Saturday would have been my mom’s 63rd birthday.  As I read Marilyn’s post that day, I will thank God that her mom is able to comment – what a gift!

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She Would Be 62…

Today is my mom’s birthday.  I wrote that sentence and immediately questioned my grammar.  My mom passed away eight years, eight months, and twenty-five days ago.  Today would be my mom’s birthday…if she were still here.  I did have to pause and count the years, months, and days.  I do not sit around keeping track of that on a daily basis.  From time to time, though, it is good to sit for a minute and count.  To remember…

Some days it seems longer than that; other days, it seems like just yesterday that I sat next to her bedside after she had taken her last breath.

Some people live life as if tomorrow may never come.  They throw all caution to the wind, and they live.  Before my mom’s cancer diagnosis (which came six months prior to her death), she already lived that way. There was always a new project, a new class, and a new friend.  After she died, I spent years cleaning out her belongings because there was simply so much to go through – halfway finished cross-stitching, crates of projects, and books…so many books.

When my mom died, she had come to terms with it.  She did not feel punished by it necessarily, and she did not exactly welcome it (although by the time it came, she had so much pain from the cancer that it was likely a relief).  But she had accepted it.  She had a strong faith that Jesus and had died for her sins and that she would go to heaven to celebrate life with Him.

Every once in a while, I ask myself if I have come to terms with her death and if I have accepted it.  I have that same faith; I believe very strongly that she will be in the presence of her Lord.  Having that certainty is comforting – no doubt – and I do not doubt God’s goodness just because she is no longer with us.  I do not understand why she had to die at such a young age, but I understand that we all do die.  I am not sure any of us die at the time when our loved ones think it is the right time.  I also do not think that a “right” time for my mom to die could have ever come.

Life does not stop just because someone passes away, but I think our current society does not know how to mourn well.  To a certain extent, I would like to adopt some of the Jewish customs of mourning.  I particularly would have appreciated the shiva time – the one week of mourning following the burial of the deceased.  During this time, extended family members and friends visit the home of the deceased where the first degree relatives gather for the week.  One of the most compelling parts (to me) of the shiva tradition is that those close family members of the deceased are not the one who entertain the visitors nor are they obligated to greet or talk to the visitors.

Those who visit do so to care by being present with those who mourn.

Ministering through presence to those who grieve also seems to be a lost art.  I do not do it well.  I want to speak words of encouragement or share from my own experience. I need to learn to shut up and sit down next to those in mourning and just be quiet with them or to listen…but mostly, I just need to allow them to be what they need to be.  Mourning has its own face in each of us, and we need to learn to allow those faces their places in our society.

Other parts of Jewish tradition concerning the death of parents that I feel particularly drawn to include those that commemorate the parent’s death each year in a special way – with a lighting of a candle or with fasting.  The concept of fasting on a parent’s “death day” makes me think of a way to empty myself once again, to remember deeply, and to then break the fast the next day and celebrate that life is still here and must be lived.  Pausing to remember is good.  Having time set aside to do this allows us to give mourning a place, to recognize it, and then to move away from it and continue to live.

In giving death its due recognition as something that happens, as something that causes pain to those who remain, and as something that we all will experience, we can learn to live.  Today may very well be our last – not because we have cancer diagnosis but because death can surprise us in any way.  Knowing that, recognizing that, and accepting that should free us to live.

What are you living for today? 

What life-changing, soul-inspiring, and breath-taking moment awaits you?

Even if she is not here, it is my mom’s birthday, and she would want us all to celebrate…

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Memories: Mom and Nachos

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Last night, the huz had a hankering for one of the appetizers that my mom used to make for us when we would come to visit…so we made them.

Put a layer of corn chips down on a cookie sheet.  Cover the chips with your favorite kind of nacho cheese.  Then put down some slices of pepperoni – the amount is really up to you.  I like to add another lighter layer of cheese.  Bake the nachos on 350 degrees until the cheese looks yummy.  Switch the oven setting to broil for a few minutes to add a bit of crispiness.

Eat with your favorite salsa. Recently, we have been enjoying salsa purchased from the grocery store which truly comes from the Mexican Village restaurants in Grand Forks and Fargo, ND.

If you try these, think of my mother who was not the best cook but what she did cook was great.  As I took the picture last night, the boy asked why I would blog about pepperoni nachos.  The truth is, when I take a bite of these nachos and close my eyes, I can see my mom very vividly.

And that is a good memory.

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Happy 16th Birthday to the Girl!

There is truly no other way that I can post today except to honor the girl that God entrusted me to raise.  She is a compassionate, kind, and brilliant young lady.  I am proud to be her mother, and I know that she will do great things in her future as she does great things every day.  I guarantee that we would be friends even if we were not related.

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Sixteen years ago, the girl came along a month too early.  As the (pastor) huz mentioned in his sermon this week, he called a friend and said, “Jim, she just didn’t come at the right time.”  But she did – she came in God’s timing.  The huz and I had not turned 22, had not been married even a year, and had not finished college.  She came in the middle of my final senior semester.  I had to change a few classes because of her early arrival. She went back into the hospital for jaundice and RSV, and the first few months were really hard.  Her timing was just out of whack.

And she has kept us on our toes every since!

But – she is more than an interruption or something to be endured…she is a blessing, and she always has been.  Even in the first few months when we had no idea what we were doing as parents (and had to rely on a lot of advice), she was a blessing. She was beautiful, and she has been beautiful throughout her entire life.

As a girl of sixteen, she blesses us daily.  Oh – she is a teen and has her times of difficulty, but overwhelmingly, she is awesome.  The huz and I will have had a long day, and we come home to find that she has cleaned the kitchen without being asked to do so. She has an empathetic heart and cares about those around her.  She wants to include those who might be left out at the lunch table or in a class.  This past summer, she spent many weeks at camp.  The huz and I had the chance to see her in action, and we were impressed.

I have to admit that I am not ready for her to be sixteen. I am not ready for her to start driving a car alone, for her to have a summer job, or for her to receive emails from three or four colleges each day.  The reality that we are marching more and more quickly to her departure is one that scares me while it excites me for her.

I know that her future is bright and filled with great things that God has planned for her, but I want her to always remember that I am her mom.  I want her to ask my opinion just one more time while I want to prepare her to make decisions on her own.  I want to be important to her, but I need realize that I am no longer the center of her universe.  Maybe I never was.

Regardless of how I feel about today, I want her to know that I am blessed to be her mother, I am proud of her, and even if she does not think she needs it – I will always pray for her.

Happy Birthday, Darlin’!

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Empty Chairs at Full Tables

My apologies for writing what may appear to some as depressing posts, but these are the things that are on my mind right now. From talking to others who have experienced loss of loved ones, I know that I am not unique in this.  In my attempt to empty my own mind of the racing thoughts, I can only hope that others find some encouragement in the fact that they are not alone and that grief goes on and on and on…and on…

Grief takes different forms each year as things change and as we see things differently.  This year, for some reason, I am really, really (really, really, really) sad.  I guess that this is a different year for me; not all years have been this hard. Perhaps the fact that friends around me have experienced losses this year has re-opened wounds that I thought were somewhat healed.  Perhaps it is the empathizer in me that has made this year more difficult.  Whatever the case, this year has been harder for me than others, and that – along with the typical things that bounce around my head – has been racing through my mind.  I am not angry.  I am not in denial.  I do not feel guilt.  I am just sad.  So, so, so, so sad.

“Les Miserables,” one of my favorite musicals of all time, has a song in it titled “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.”  The character Marius has just lived through a battle, but his friends have not.  He mourns them while sitting at an empty table and talks of days gone by.  He questions why they had to die and wonders if he can have purpose beyond their death.  This song does not actually address what races through my mind today; rather, I have a different thought.  I would love to have some ability to write songs.  I would write a song titled “Empy Chairs at Full Tables.”

Most of us who have lost loved ones have very full tables.  I have plenty of relatives (I am the oldest of 14 cousins on my Italian side!!!), my husband and children are wonderful, and my extended family and in-loves are a wonderful bunch of people.  Holidays are not spent alone by any stretch of the imagination; the rooms and tables are very full no matter where we are.  And yet, there is something missing.  There is someone missing.  In a room full of people, there is still a pervading and overwhelming sense that all is not right.  But there is no way to make it right.  Nothing about this situation will change.  And, while we can move through the stages of grief and live “happily” in the acceptance that sits just beyond “depression,” there are times – hours, days, and even years – when sadness pervades all other feelings and hangs above our heads regardless of how full the rooms are.  Feeling utterly alone in what I feel while surrounded by a multitude of others is a strange and fascinating feeling.

This feeling is not new to me, and I am sure that just about everyone has experienced it.  As a student in high school, I experienced this feeling sometimes in the hallways.  They would be packed full of people, but I felt overwhelmed with loneliness.  As a student in my first year of college when I knew very few people on my first few days there, I felt overwhelmed with loneliness.  As I struggled in those college years, surrounded by friends and even family, through what I thought at the time was depression and was later diagnosed as bipolar, I felt utterly alone.  I could talk to therapists, friends, pastors’ wives, and camp counselors until I was blue in the face and even feel understood.  Yet I would lie in bed at night and wonder if anyone understood me or if anyone else felt the way that I felt.  It does not seem to matter how full the table is, that empty chair can still make a deep impression on us.

I think that what often is missing in all of this is an acknowledgement of the empty chair at our very full table.  This morning as I spoke with a friend who experienced her first Thanksgiving without her mom, I asked if anyone had acknowledged her mom’s absence.  I was overwhelmed with her answer: her husband had made a toast to her mom on Thanksgiving.  What a great idea!  I have heard of others who have actually left the empty chair at the table.  I am not sure if I would need to go that far, but it would be better than simply ignoring the fact altogether.

It has been eight years since my mom died, and I keep thinking that all of this will go away.  It has not.  It is easier, of course, than it was that first year.  And I anticipate that eight years from now it might be easier than it was this year.  But with each passing year there are also things for which I wish she was here: the kids’ graduation from high school, their wedding, an article that I wrote getting published in an academic journal, or simply a discussion that she would have had with my huz about some theological point he made in a sermon.

While I would like to say that I should just get over it, I am also a realist.  I doubt that I will.  And I think that I am ok with that.  Why should I get completely over it?  She was my mom!  How do we maneuever through life without our moms?  I will never be entirely satisfied with the way things are now without her presence in our lives.  This does not mean that I am dissatisfied with my life or that I am even angry at God about it.  It simply means that I acknowledge that this is not ok.

All of that being said, though, I do live with a hope that I will see her again and that I will see her forever thanks to the redemptive work of Christ on the cross.  I look forward to the day when I can tell her the stories of all that she has missed.  She would want to know that her granddaughter was the choir president and speech captain.  She would want to know that her grandson was the youngest student in Minnesota history to make it to the state debate tournament.  She would love to have me call her and tell her all of these things.

Until then, I will wipe the tears from my eyes and smile through them whenever they come.  Until then, whenever I think of that empty chair at my full table, I will experience a strange sadness mixed with joy because I have the hope of seeing her again.  And when I do see her again, there will be no more tears, no more sadness, and no more seperation.

Thanks be to God.

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