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This is a melancholy time of year for me. My mother died on St. Patrick’s Day, 11 years ago. Since she was Irish, I have no doubt that the timing would have made her smile.

I dream of my mother often. But in my dreams, I can never get to her.  I’m looking for her, and need desperately to talk to her, but either I can’t find her, or she doesn’t want to be found.  I awaken from those dreams so saddened and frustrated.

My mom and I had a very difficult relationship, from the time I was in my tumultuous teens while coincidently she was navigating menopause.  OUR HOUSE WAS A BARREL OF LAUGHS, LET ME TELL YOU.

And then, when I thought things could not get worse, my parents divorced.  A very gut wrenching and ugly divorce.  Lines were drawn, sides were forced to be chosen, and 4 people who were once a family became fractured nearly beyond repair.

My mother could let anger dictate her decisions, and it was that anger that would cause her to literally disown those people who loved her the most.  I was on the receiving end of that kind of anger off and on throughout much of my adulthood.  Not to say that I was innocent, oh my no. I was self centered and didn’t always think before I spoke. I handled things on my end very badly as well.  Mostly by avoidance and non-confrontation.

I joke about my issues with these two traits, but they are very real and very nearly have crippled my relationally.  My mother suffered with the same affliction.

The year before my mother’s death, we had not spoken.  I disappointed her in a way that she felt she had no choice but to disown me.  This was during my first pregnancy.  I called her once to tell her that I had miscarried, but she could not give me the comforting words I needed, and asked me not to contact her again.

My heart was broken into a thousand pieces.

In late February of 1999, I received a call from my brother telling me that my mother had suffered a stroke and was in the hospital.  My husband and I left for Arizona the next morning to be with her.  When I arrived at the ICU, I looked in the door at a frail woman that I barely recognized as my strong and larger than life mama.

She smiled and weakly raised her left hand to take mine.  She nearly inaudibly told me that she was glad I was there.  What we thought was a stroke turned out to be incurable cancer, that had gone systemic.  After some testing, we learned that she had only days to live.  And would likely lapse into a coma within 24 hours.

My mother handled the news with a sense of calm. She chose to shun all talk of death, and instead focus on antique buying trips we would take together, and she would compose a laundry list of what we needed to pack.  Including a 6 pack of Coke.  I gladly accompanied her on this mental journey.  Because I couldn’t bear the thought of losing her.

In that brief time I could spend with her sitting by her hospital bed while she was lucid, we made our peace. In our own avoidance laden way.  She did tell me that she so regretted not being there for me during my miscarriage.  And she even made peace with her only sister on a long distance phone call, after years and years of not speaking.

We took her home to her sweet little house so that she could be surrounded by the things and people that she loved.  It was there that she slipped into a coma.  Just a day before I found out that I was at long last pregnant with a little curly haired girl who would be her first grandchild.  It is no coincidence that little grandchild is the spitting image of my mother.

My mama held on for two more weeks, before peacefully slipping away on March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day.

I dreamed about my mother again last night.  But this dream was different. I found her, and stood before her not as a fearful 10 year old, but as a grown woman.  A woman who was herself a mother.  A woman who was not afraid to face her fears.  And a woman who was not so prideful that she couldn’t admit when she was wrong.

And I was mad as a hornet.

I told my mother everything that I was thinking and feeling.  And how I didn’t understand how she could leave me.  Not only in death, but also in life.  I told her how much I hurt and what her actions did to me.  A mother never lets go of her own child.  No matter what that child does.  A mother never lets go.

I also told her I was sorry for all that I did to hurt her.  And how I wished I had handled things so very differently.  And I told her that I loved her with all of my heart and I miss her more than she’ll ever know.

I woke up before she could respond.

Before my mother died, late one night I sat by her bed, she opened her eyes and looked at me and said, “Don’t cry, I will always be with you.”

And she is.  She’s in my heart.  I see her larger than life spirit in both of my daughters.

Over these last years, I’ve forged a close relationship with my mother’s only sister.  We talk at least monthly.  She has confided in me things about my mother’s upbringing and tragedies in her life that I was not aware of.  I understand my mother so much more now.  She was so very broken. And I was too blind to see it.

I’ve come to a place of complete forgiveness. Because what I realize above all else, is that we’re all broken.  And we all have things that we’re working on.  And what a travesty it would be to take all that baggage with us as we negotiate the complexities of life.  This is an area of healing in my life that God is continuously working on.

I have a chance to change history with my own children.  To leave them with a legacy of undying love, a faith filled upbringing, and most of all, the ability to seek forgiveness and to accept it as well.

I pray that I never again stick my head in the sand when I’m tempted to avoid something unpleasant.  Because I just might miss something amazing.

Me & my mom, mid 90’s

26 Responses to Cathartic

  • Beautiful! I enjoy laughing while reading your posts. This one touched my heart in a different way. Thanks!

  • Praise God that He can help us grow and learn in Him. I’m so sorry for your loss, I’m glad you were both able to be together and talk though. I pray for you all the time.

  • I lost my mother 5 years ago yesterday – we had a pretty tumultuous relationship too. But she wasn’t one to let you go, no matter what. She fantasized her way toward death too – we were not allowed to discuss it with her. She was going to get well & go on a cruise with her brothers!

    I wrote a post about her yesterday. Not nearly as eloquent as yours, but I was glad to be able to acknowledge her.

  • Aww…thank you for sharing. My mom is a spitfire Mexican that has been struggling with dementia for the last few years is just now being diagnosed. The dynamics of our family have changed so much in the past year. My prayer is the Lord uses it draw my siblings and Dad to Himself. I’m so thankful the Lord gives us another chance with our own children…and hopefully carry on a different legacy.

  • I didn’t have a great relationship with my mom either. That hasn’t stopped me from missing her dreadfully as I raise my own family.

    I pray that this dream will be God’s way of giving you peace.

    Now I need to go get a cloth to dry the keyboard and a cup of tea to get rid of the lump in my throat.

  • Beautiful post. I am so sorry for your loss, but what a wonderful testimony on the power of forgiveness, whether spoken or unspoken. May you feel God’s comfort and peace today!

  • That was a really moving and raw tribute to a woman whose life was indelibly printed on yours.

    In reading this I learned that you and I have an interesting parallel in life- my father-in-law died on St Patrick’s Day 11 years ago. The day after we found out we were pregnant with our first child, a girl. Guess that kind of sameness happens more than we realize but now thanks to the wonder of the internet, we can know about it!

  • This is the most beautiful post I have ever read. Not just the most beautiful post by you, but that I have EVER read. A lot of truth and wisdom. Thank you for sharing.

  • (((hugs))) I hope your dream has given you peace.

    I was estranged from my dad the last 20 years or so of his life. He was what is now called “dual-diagnosis”: mentally ill and addicted (in his case, to alcohol). He was really scary — so scary that, even though I knew he was sober and in a hospital, near death, I couldn’t bring myself to talk to him directly before he died. I had a nurse tell him I was expecting his first grandchild.

    I later realized, when I developed the same illness, that he had no control over his rages — the meds that keep me sane hadn’t been invented yet. We think we know everything about our parents….

  • I have tears in my eyes with this post. It’s so difficult to come to peace with those kinds of wounds, and I am so very glad that you are doing so. If I could, I’d hug you.

  • Isn’t it awful how dumb we are when we are young? Unfortunately some people never learn the lesson of seeing people beyond the situation.

  • Thank you so much for sharing that, DeeDee. I’m so glad that you and your mom were able to reconcile and have that time together. God is so good! May He continue to bless you and yours.

  • What a great post. I use to think that I was only one who didn’t have a great relationship with my mom. I have learned that a lot of woman have a problem with the there mom. How sad. At 18 I thought I knew all the answere, how dumb I was. We grow up hopefully in time to repair our relationships. I do believe that your dream allowed you find what you needed – forgiveness. I’m so happy for you. God is so good.

  • Thank you for such an eloquent and heartfelt post. Many things have been mirrored in my own relationship with my mother. We are speaking but not really. We live close physically but it might as well be across the country. Whenever I try to forgive and forget to get closer, I end up getting hurt. I am still hopeful after reading your post. God Bless You.

  • I hope in sharing you were as blessed as I was in the reading. What a ministry you have through this blog and your openness. I’m considering these words (and the reflections I will have on them) as today’s devotion. Thank you.
    And you are well on your way to changing things for the next generation.

  • how true it is that no matter how old you are there is still something inside that craves acceptance from one’s mother. I too wish to brake the cycle from my mother with my own chilren. I’ve started reading my way through the book…

    The Blessing by John Trent and Gary Smalley

    It deals specifically with these issues. It’s not easy to read, and will force you to deal with some closet skeletons… I had to put mine aside for a little while.

  • Thank you for this. It is beautiful.

  • What a beautiful post, DeeDee!

  • I’ve had this sitting in a tab in my browser all day because I have to say something, but I know I don’t have the right thing.
    I want to give you a hug. I want to tell you this is exactly what humans are supposed to to when wronged, I want to tell you your ability to forgive is inspiring. All that and more.
    But mostly I’d just like to give you a hug.
    In a totally non-internet stalker, non-creepy way, of course. 🙂
    You are amazing. She would be so proud.

  • I made the mistake of reading this at work and ended up with tears streaming down my face…not that there’s anything wrong with that. 🙂 I felt as if I was reading my own story, however mine has not yet come to an end. My mother is still with us, causing my 2 sisters and I plenty of grief. She and my oldest sister haven’t spoken for years since she and my dad divorced. Like you, lines were drawn and my middle sister and I walk that very precarious line. I am probably closer to her than anyone, but only because I am apparently a glutton for punishment. She has some really great attributes, and there are times I would be lost without her. I too have learned things about her past that explain many of her behaviors, but necessarily excuse them, if you know what I mean.
    I suspect in the next few years, we will learn that she has dementia, as she is beginning to show signs of it. I am personally scared to death because I myself am a single mom with 2 children under 8, and I will be the one that has to care for her. But…I know that life is a wild roller coaster, and you have to hang on for dear life to the ONE that knows your trials.
    thank you for this post, it really touched my heart.

  • This post so touched my heart…..I had a dream about you last night….SERIOUSLY. In my dream I gave you a great big hug.

    So my friend, a great big hug from me to you! 🙂

  • Oh man I wasn’t prepared for this post. Brought on an ugly cry. Glad you have found peace. Leave me a trail of bread crumbs as I’m still on that road. Hugs! and thanks for posting this.

  • Great, heart touching post. Thanks for sharing! The last line saying having “the ability to seek forgiveness and to accept it as well”….profound, my dear, profound. So spot on with every aspect of our Christian walk. It is so hard for us to offer forgiveness in some situations, even though we are commanded to do so, and equally when we have been in the wrong, it seems hard to accept true forgiveness. The devil himself draws lines and makes up feel so guilty, repeatedly, convincing ourselves we couldn’t have REALLY been forgiven. What a snake in the grass!!
    Thank the good Lord, He does offer true forgiveness. And in doing so has given us the perfect example to follow…..in the footsteps of forgiveness.

    Thanks again for the heartstring tug. Proud you were blessed with those few lucid days to spend with your mom before her passing.

  • Just when you think your the only daughter out there in this big world who is estranged from her mom. My mom disowned me one month before I was to give birth to my 4th son (fisrt birth= 3 adopted one homeade)
    I could never make any reason for what I did that would cause her to hate me so much that she would seperate herself from my hubby, my sons, and myself. My son will now be 4 years old. It has been 4 years. I can only leave it in God’s perfect hands and pray for her. & forgive her & love her. All I have left now is hope. Your story reminds me that it could still work out.
    I send her cards and photos with notes of how we love her and miss her. Maybe one day……

  • I have no words just hugs and a prayer for you tonight.

    I am glad you had that dream. To be able to have that conversation is a gift!