It is Mother’s Day weekend and I’ve been thinking an awful lot about it this week. It’s funny how perspectives change. It used to be all about me. Thinking it was my day and dictating how the day should go with the kids. Would they remember? How would they treat me? How would they act in church? Where would we go for lunch? Silly Missy. I don’t care about any of that anymore. Although I did ask for a $22 pair of binoculars and they’ll get them for me if they know what’s good for them.
Mother’s Day this year is not the same. It feels very different. For 46 years, I’ve had a mother. And while my mother is still alive, this year I do not have her. On Tuesday, I spent the morning watching her and trying to help wherever she needed me. At one point, after getting her settled back into her chair, I put my hand on her shoulder and said, “You know Mother’s Day is coming, Mom. On Sunday.” She didn’t respond. Not a word. She turned her head slowly toward the Price is Right and didn’t even look at me. I sat down in the chair next to her and tried to absorb that moment. I tried to process the fact she literally cannot care anymore. Sitting only 3 feet from her, I’d never felt more alone in a room. And for the rest of the week, I walked through my daily tasks with this hollow feeling inside, wondering what to call it. I finally found the word. Just now.
For weeks I’ve been carrying around this need to tell her everything I want her to know before she actually physically leaves me. I thought through it. I planned it. I convinced myself the opportunity still existed. And then I searched for it.
But on Tuesday, I finally accepted the fact that we are past that point. That ship sailed and I’m standing at the shoreline, wishing I’d done things differently. I wanted to tell her I’m proud of who I am and thankful for her part in that. She taught me so much. She made me strong. She gave me my faith. What better gift is there? I wanted to tell her I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the times I made the angry face behind her back or trashed her to my best friend on the phone. I’m sorry for not trying harder to bridge the gaps between us, when they presented themselves. And I wanted to tell her I love her. She was a good mom. She gave us everything she had. Everything she had.
She can’t have this conversation with me now. And she can’t receive from me what I so badly want to give her.
I had to just let that sink in. I had to just sit in my house and accept all of that. And I cried. All day. When I had to go out, I put my sunglasses on and hid nothing from anyone, though I gave it a shot. The pretense made me feel slightly more in control. At one point, sitting in my parents’ parking lot, I grabbed two warm, dirty pennies from my cup holder and stuck them on my eyes. My internal self-talk from that one was fun. What did I hope to accomplish with that? Tea bags might work. Frozen cucumbers might work. Warm, dirty pennies won’t work. They are not a swollen-eye remedy. All you get with that is smelly, puffy, copper eyes. Nice.
Wednesday continued like that all day. I functioned when necessary, but whenever the world got quiet around me, I cried. Again. And I went to sleep that way, sinking into an exhausted slumber with puffy eyes and an aching head.
At 4:30 a.m. Thursday morning, my lungs filled with air and my eyes snapped open in the dark. I had awakened from a dream. But it was more than that. I had been visited. Comforted. I sat up in the pitch dark bedroom and wrote it down using the light from my phone. I couldn’t risk waking up an hour later with no memory of this dream.
I was sitting in a circle of people. We were in a tiled classroom, sitting in yellow, plastic chairs like you see in every elementary school cafeteria ever. We were studying the Bible. A man was in the center of the circle facilitating but I couldn’t see his face because he didn’t matter to the dream. My mom and dad were in the circle, as were my children. My mom, who knows the Bible better than anyone I’ve ever known, raised her hand to make a comment. After she said her piece, she raised her little New Testament in the air and said, “Missy gave me this Bible.” It was the navy blue bible I had given her over 10 years ago. And then she stood up, walked over to me, and wrapped her arms around my neck in one of those hugs you don’t let go of. Like we both knew it was good-bye. It was the good-bye I needed. It was the conversation I’d been hoping to have, but couldn’t.
“I love you, Mom,” I said, still holding onto her.
“I love you, too,” she replied.
And that was that.
Today, life goes on as yesterday, except for one thing. I had a dream. And that dream gave me peace. Now I know. And I’m counting on the fact that somehow, some way, she knows, too. So, while Mother’s Day is different this year, I received a very special gift: the perfect goodbye. It would never have been my choice, but it’s enough. This year, it’s enough. (Plus the binoculars.)