I’ve just deleted my mother from my cell phone contacts list; this is not as drastic as it sounds. She passed away eight years ago.
You might ask what took me so long. And you’d have a point. I’ve written before about my mother being a force of nature. She was a mighty oak, someone you did not trifle with. And right there lies the answer to why it took me so long. It’s hard to let go of mighty oaks. They provide reliable shelter in a storm.
Within the past decade, I had to weather some rough weather without Mom. My perfect storm was divorce, the deaths of both of my parents, a sister with cancer. I don’t mean to sound callous, but the list doesn’t really matter. I’ve come to realize that it’s less the actual events that occur and more our reaction to them that is the point. We all have our own mix of life’s hardships. My fellow bloggers are a testament to that. From George’s two-funeral week to Caitlin’s recent bout with cancer, we see life can throw us unwelcome surprises at any time.
During my personal storm, I looked for anchors, mighty oaks, shelter. I didn’t find them so much as become them for myself. I remember a few weeks into my divorce, when I realized: No one is going to show up. My sisters proclaimed their love and called often, but most didn’t show up (I’m guilty of the same too often). They were dealing with the same grief I was around my parents and sister—just not also with a divorce as the cherry on top of that sundae. It was a harsh realization; no one was going to sit and comfort me with a cuppa’ and a warm blanket. It fueled me to keep going, in some odd way. It made me rely on myself and stop looking for what had died with my parents.
I’m watching a friend go through a similar storm. Every aspect of her life has changed—and continues to—and it’s all been compressed into a short couple of years. If you’ve been through the wringer, you get it. Or maybe you get it because you’re just one of those rare people who excels at compassion, even if you haven’t gone through a rough time. Perhaps you’re one of the bystanders who doesn’t want to hear about trouble or be near it because you’re worried it’s of the catching variety. Regardless of your level of compassion—or mine—my friend has to weather this one. Outlast it. I feel for her. And yet, I see her reach for her own version of shelter via men. A string of them. None of them, I believe, the kind of mighty oak she probably deserves.
Do you want to know what prompted me to finally delete my mom’s contact information? A happy error. I think one the Universe might have orchestrated to clue me in. As I scrolled down my cell phone contact list the other day, I noticed two “Mom” entries. Stymied, I clicked on the second one. The number listed under it was my own. Huh. And then it hit me–my son’s contact list had somehow merged with mine. I was the almighty “Mom” now. I was the number he wants to have in case of storms. I am the mighty oak, perhaps just with a bit more flex.
I recently met with my retirement advisor, a task I’ve been putting off because my choices—to be at home for a few years with my kids, my divorce—put me in a catch-up position for savings. Or so I thought. I was pleasantly surprised to realize that if I can just keep this apple cart from toppling, and kick my savings back into high gear, I will be ok. Not because of my ex. Not because of anything I took from our marriage. Because my own twenty-something self saved my ass. She didn’t make much but she put the maximum percentage away and invested aggressively. That has made all the difference.
So many of us look outside of ourselves for support. Why do we do that? I guess it’s nice to think someone else will take care of things—and us. But I’ve found at the loneliest times in life—divorce, death, grief—we are all alone. Even if surrounded by people, no one else can take the journey we’re on. They can’t take the pain from us, or the work.
So I know that I can’t solve things for my friend. I can’t “rescue” her. Neither can the men she keeps turning to blindly. My sisters, even if they had showed up, couldn’t have lessened what I had to face. I still sometimes long for a parent’s protection or a spouse’s support–but life served up something more valuable, if less pretty. Life served up events that would lead me to my own rescue. My own strength. A strength I really never knew the depth of until the past decade. A strength I’m sure was born because when my mother died, a part of her essence stayed with me. Linda Hogan, a native American writer, put it beautifully: “Walking, I am listening to a deeper way. Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.”
I think my friend will find her strength. I certainly hope so. I still wish us both loving friends and family who will be there to open the bottle of wine, do the dishes, cry with us, laugh with us. And maybe they will the next time. But then again, if there is a next time we will not need them to so desperately–at least if we’ve absorbed the lessons storms can teach.
So now, when I see “Mom” in my contacts list, I smile. I think of the solidity and comfort inherent in that name for my son. And I realize, I’ve earned those. Thank God. Because now I can provide them in spades, right?
It took me eight years to face what I needed to face. It’s hard to be a woman who doesn’t have a mom to call anymore. And it’s hard to be a woman who has to financially support her family while trying to save for her own future well-being. Society still isn’t sure what to do with that latter group. We don’t pay them enough.
I faced these bits just as I faced the much harder bits over the past decade. My friend will do the same; I’m sure of it. And knowing so many of you who read and comment on this blog so kindly, I am sure you will do similar in your own lives with your own bits.
Our days are filled with the ordinary. We swim in it. Occasionally, life gives us a chance—a choice—to be extraordinary. It’s usually ugly and messy, and so are we for awhile. But then, we emerge.
All thanks to the love of thousands.
50 Comments Add yours
Beautiful, K. And tender. The thing about grief is that people can console, but the huge gaping hole inside is something one has to deal with by oneself. And it takes time. And if one allows it, inner growth will take place. Maybe grief digs the hole, and we provide the soil and the seed for our own growth. With the help of God and our loved ones, but it starts with us.
Wise words, Cynthia. I don’t think as a society we deal well with grief. We’re about as a deep as a puddle. So, I agree it’s God, our loved ones–and us. I hope that changes . . .
Beautiful, heartfelt and somehow sad without being…’sad’. 💜 Would you call it nostalgic, you think?
Well it struck me that way. I truly enjoy your moments of “ahh-ha” and rumination.
Thank you. I sat with the raw grief for so long that I think I moved through it fully. And that’s what you feel/hear here. I’m glad it moved you.
Come here so I can whisper this…a man missus his mom, too in a different sort of way than he misses his dad, but he still misses her. Letting it all go is difficult, even for a grown man. Okay, we can talk normally, now…😉
Aw, I hear you. Your secret is safe with me :-). I think when you lose your parents, no matter what age you are, it takes you back to feeling a bit like a little kid again.
Beautifully written 👌
Thank you! Glad this one resonated:).
What a sweet post! And what a great way to see you have grown into a might oak! Love it! Stay strong, sweet friend!
Thank you—glad this one resonated with you 😀
Beautiful post, Kay. My mother died nine years ago and she’s still in my contacts list. I suppose it’s not yet time to delete although there are days I wonder why I haven’t done so already.
I understand completely. I think I’d reached the point where it made me sad to see her still there. It was a reminder that I seemed unable to let go–and I had to remind myself instead that she’s really always with me:).
This was a beautiful and comforting read, Kay. I can only imagine having to finally press delete, the sense of finality, but knowing that you had inherited her strength:-)
Thank you:). I was surprised that is was so tough after all of these years. But it really felt like cutting a final cord. I guess no matter how old we are when we lose a mother, it feels like we’re a child again.
A beautiful post Kristine. Moving, honest and strong. We do face these milestones of pain and joy alone, but to know we are loved, supported and guided from beyond makes all the difference! 💕💚
It certainly does. Thank you for the kind words❤️
Either the strength lies within us, or the strength is non-existent. It certainly does not lie outside ourselves. I have seen many people breaking down and getting defeated when faced with difficult times in life, but those who emerge on the other side, always derive strength from within, not from the support system around them.
From my own experience, I have also realized many people prefer to stay away from those who are facing problems in life. May be they think these problems are contagious, as you say. Recently, one friend had lost her mother and she was finding it difficult to process the loss. It happened very often that during conversations, she would suddenly break down. It happened with me and also with many other friends. I was surprised to learn that it made almost everyone very “uncomfortable” and they stopped calling her…apparently they “did not know what to say”. Although it may sound like these people are just self-centered, shallow type, I know they are not like that. This is just a very common human reaction.
I do not understand fleeing from someone in pain. I have removed myself from situations where people were smothering me with their pain when it became unhealthy–but true pain shared for support is part of what we owe each other here. It’s authentic. Interesting, your point re: strength being non-existent in some. I always assumed it could be found in there somewhere. I’m going to have to chew on that one . . . you gave me something to ponder:). Thanks.
Yes, Kay, to your sons, you are that mighty oak. And quite worthy.
Thanks, Mark. Kind words😊
I know how hard it is to let go. My mother passed away 15 years ago and I’m still holding on to afghans that she crochet, I don’t use them I just have them, because they are a part of her. I’ve been thinking for a long while now that I want to give them away to others who can use them, who a blanket will give them warmth. I’m getting closer to doing so, I know my mother would like that. I think we all have times in our life, storm to wheather and hopefully with each one we become stronger and more able to deal with what’s next. Thank you Kay.
Oh, I can relate. I still have an Afghan my mother crocheted for us. I will sometimes wrap myself in it on the sofa. And I saved those she crocheted for my boys when they were babies. I am hoping somehow that their babies will be covered by the same some day. I love the generosity you show in even being able to think about giving those to someone else. That takes a very big heart :-).
Well I haven’t given anything yet, when I was pregnant with my first son my mother knitted a baby bunting to bring him home in and my other two sons came home with that same one, and my grandchildren also, I now have it waiting for my great grandchildren 🙂 and hopefully yours will be used like this as well. ❤
Oh, I love that. From generation to generation. Beautiful❤️
What a lovely read Kay. Your words echo my sentiments, about mom, about facing life after divorce, being your own anchor and oak. I wrote an article about my mom
In response to the Marie Kondo mania.
This appeared in the Straits Times, the national newspaper in singapore where I live.
You used to follow my blog 5 years ago when I wrote about Starting Over. I now write at http://www.storyartisan.com. I look forward to all your life affirming writing as a devoted follower
Welcome back! And thank you so much for giving me the information on your new home. I will definitely check it out, as well as the article that appeared in the Singapore newspaper. Congratulations on that! That is quite a feat.
There aren’t many people I’ve met in person, whose strength is as formidable as yours is with your thoughts and approach to life on here.. I don’t know if that makes any sense to you but it does me. You are one bad ass lady and I say that with great respect and the highest compliment.
I’ll take it👍🏻. Thank you, George. But who knew carving that strength out could look anything but strong? There were days. . .
First I must tell you that by accident I deleted your delightful comment on my poem about finding a brand as an old woman. Bother! Waiting for a train, I just hit the wrong button. More important, I am slowly absorbing your post. I imagine meeting you for a chat (unlikely!!) because how much can I say in a comment?
I hope you got to read it before you deleted it:). If not, we’ll just have to discuss when we meet some day! Perhaps one of us will have a whirlwind book tour and we’ll sit with our tea, scones & champagne to finally have that chat in the same city . . . wouldn’t that be nice?!
I do read it and I so agree. Hm, I could quickly write an international best seller. No problem. Let me know when you are on your way to New Zealand!
NZ is so gorgeous, I may visit without the international best seller:). But, here’s to one of us writing one, at least!
Dreams are free, and NZ awaits you.
So well said. I lost my mom, my mighty oak , over 30 years ago and a day does not go by that i don’t miss her. However, I don’t doubt one bit that she has always had my back! I also know that you are now that mighty oak for your boys!
I know that changed you, but I believe you’re one of the people who allowed it to make you better, deeper, stronger–rather than bitter. And that says something, right there!
Love your insights and reflections about challenges, loss, fears, stark realities and how you find ways to burnish the treasures you discover along the way. Sometimes, especially during tax season, I get discouraged about the way my numbers are adding up — or not. And then, from somewhere, sometimes by reading your posts, I understand the value of the truly intangibles. Today, I find your words filled with warmth and goodness.
Oh, Kathy, you don’t know how that warms my heart. Tax time is not fun for any of us–I’m sorry it’s got you down. If my words helped in any way, I’m honored. That’s what we’re here for, right? To help each other, even if through the ether:).
It’s true that we don’t know how strong we are until that strength is tested. It sometimes seems that one disaster or tragedy turns into another until that’s almost a way of living – or perhaps that’s just the way life is as we get older. It began for me 18 years ago now with the death of my dad and then one thing seemed to happen after another – we wait for a ‘good year’ but I think perhaps good years are mythical things, this is just life, after all, and we’re strong enough to deal with it.
Isn’t it amazing how you still miss a parent decades later? No one ever loves you the same way . . .
Good for you, Kristine. You have my admiration!
Thank you:). The real victory was earning my own. I had some self-ascribed ninny in me for many years . . .
And as one of those thousands I bow to your journey ‘mom’, to an inner love created from the storm of life ❤
Thank you, Mark. Learning how to sail this ship!
And doing very well young lady 😀
Kudos on stepping up to be your own might oak.
Thank you 😊. I can’t say it was a choice I relished :-). But it’s working out OK.
I’ve had a similar path the last few years. Maybe we’re finally becoming adults. 🙂