A Celebration of Life – Ann Dawson White

Today was amazing in every way. Everything went just as I prayed it would. I made it through the day without the ugly cry. That’s been the last several days. But not today. Not yet. I believe my big moment is coming. The moment I realize what I had and what I’ve lost. It may even happen later tonight. But for the moment I will just reflect and wear yoga pants and try to fall asleep before 1 a.m. and bask in my gratitude. Gratitude that my mother was who she was and that SO MANY PEOPLE loved her. Gratitude that her friends and my friends came out of the woodwork and worked like carpenter bees to clean and cook for me and take care of the business of death so that I could take care of the business of saying goodbye.

Gratitude and grace.

I know the live stream didn’t work today and so many wanted to join in that way. I haven’t determined if they recorded the service successfully, but I’ll update once I know. For now, I will post the thoughts that were read in the service by my Dad, who did speak on his own and did a really great job, me, Bart, and Todd. I am also pasting in the program we handed out and a link to the Slideshow. Anyone who wants an actual program, message me your address and I’ll send you one. We have plenty. This is a long post, so consider yourself warned.

Thanks for loving all of us.

________________________________________

PROGRAM FROM MEMORIAL

Ann Dawson White

Thoughts from my Dad:

First I want to thank this wonderful church, and all of you and the people at Angels Senior Living where we live for all the support.  It has been amazing and so helpful.

Some of you have heard this story, but it has to be told.

I met Ann when she became a dental hygienist for my dentist in Tallahassee.  I was in a dental appointment with my dentist when Ann walked into the room to tell an elephant joke:  “Why did the elephant wear tennis shoes?”  That is all I remember.  She was the prettiest person I had ever seen.  I immediately scheduled an appointment with her for the next day.  At the appointment I couldn’t talk with her because she had her hands in my mouth.  But afterward, coming down the hall, I said, “How about going to a movie Saturday night?”  She said, “With who?”  If she were here she would explain why she said that, but it isn’t important…it makes a good story.

Ann wasn’t naturally an adventurer, but she was a real trooper and became an adventurer with me.  We sailed lots of boats in all kinds of weather.  Our first boat was a little wooden sailboat, bought just before we married.  We took it to the Gulf, got it all set up, two sails, ropes going everywhere.  But I didn’t really know how to sail and was worried about a pier just to our right; I didn’t know if we would miss it.  But we jumped in and off we went.  We just missed it.  She was a trooper to get in that boat; but only to a point.  Another day we were in the same little boat, out on the Gulf, and we were going nowhere; the wind wasn’t blowing.  She said, “Take me to shore and I will walk back.”  I had a little paddle with us.  I said, “But the wind will start blowing and we will have a great sail.”  “No, take me to shore and I will walk back.”  So I paddled her in, but just before arriving to shore the wind starts blowing.  I said, “Great.  We can sail.”  “No, take me to shore; I am walking back.”  She walked back and I had a great sail.  She could be definite….and we  hiked; she was a great hiker, always getting there first.  Rain, mountains, cold…she was good with it all.  We hiked all over the Tennessee and N.C. Mountains.  She wasn’t athletic, but she was a hiker.

Ann’s memory was amazing.  She knew most of your birthdays, and your children’s birthdays and even some where we were living.

It was a real blessing, a privilege, for me to serve her, and the Lord, these last few years. I am most thankful and have been blessed by God over and over.  I needed that opportunity and loved it….and I loved her.

Ann was as good a person as I ever knew.  She did what was right and lived her life for the Lord.  Now He is blessing her.

________________________________________________

Thoughts from Bart:

I remember my mother, Ann White, not for the last few years when disease took her health.  I remember her for the things she said and did during times of good health, things which mean so much to me and others.  My mother spent most of her life working hard at something, whether it was helping my dad at his business, being a devoted stay-at-home-mom, or just generally helping those in need.  As for the “mom” part, she was a staunch believer in the old fashioned homemaker approach, insisting, among other things, that my sister and I have a homemade hot breakfast before leaving the house every weekday morning.  In fact, thanks to mom I am fairly certain that during those formative years I consumed more strips of bacon than any other person in history.  My mother’s outlook was that if there was something she could do for us that would benefit us in a way that would help us to grow in body or spirit, she was going to do it, even if it was hard.  I am grateful to God for her and all she did for me, and am sure I didn’t tell her often enough how much I appreciated her.  More than anything, I am thankful for her dedication to the Lord, which she instilled in me continually.  She taught God’s word to me, my sister and many others, with a strength and sincerity that was formidable.  For that and for everything else, I owe my mother a debt that could never be repaid.

______________________________________

Thoughts from Missy:

I know every mom is special, simply because they are yours. But my mom was SPECIAL. Not just because of what she was to me, but because of who she was to everyone else.

I have been thinking about my mother for a long time now. I tried to recall every speck of every detail as I witnessed her disease stealing her from us. The more dramatically she disappeared, the harder I had to focus. But you can’t just erase someone like Ann White. She made an imprint on the heart of everyone she encountered and she certainly made an imprint on me.

My mom laughed a great deal. When she laughed, her dark eyes vanished into little crescent moons. She couldn’t laugh with wide eyes. When her mouth laughed, her entire face got involved. She wasn’t usually the one telling the jokes. Sometimes, because we were all a little strange, she didn’t even understand the jokes. She thought Far Side comics were completely stupid. But she laughed anyway. She laughed at me. She laughed at my brother. She laughed a lot at my dad, in spite of the fact that she was always telling him to “knock it off.” Even in her final days, when she was just a shell of her former self, my dad could still make her laugh. But I think the thing most notable to me was her ability to laugh at herself. She never got her feelings hurt when we made fun of her terrible, terrible dancing that we would sometimes walk in on in the family room with no music even playing. She didn’t mind us mocking the way she tried to speak Spanish in her thick Kentucky drawl. She didn’t care that we corrected her version of Minuet in G, which she always whistled in 4/4 time. She called us music snobs and kept on whistling it exactly like she wanted to. She always laughed right along with us, completely comfortable with the fact that sometimes she was the best joke of all.

My mom smelled like a perfectly southern mix of light perfume and Aussie 3-minute miracle. She worked crosswords and watched Jeopardy daily, never needing our help for anything but pop culture references. She knew everything. Remembered EVERYTHING. Every date. Every fact. Every Birthday. Every anniversary. Every address or phone number. Every child’s name and blood type. Every medical diagnosis. She diagnosed my Bell’s Palsy my junior year at FSU before the doctor did. And she had the nerve to take a no-cell-service Fall Foliage cruise to New England when I was curled up with Salmonella, wondering what to do. I broke down and called the doctor on call at 2 a.m. when I really just wanted my mom.

I can hardly remember a phase of life when Mom wasn’t singing. After an 8-day trip to Kauai, in July 2000, I hummed Melikilikimaka for more than a month, thanks to her.  For every occasion, there was a song. When I was young and she wanted to engage me in some way, she would sing her made-up song, “Sister Suzy Q White,” which is what she called me. I begged her not to; begged her to reserve this song for family only. But when the spirit moved her, she sang. From out of season Christmas songs to church hymns to made up songs using every family member’s name she could think of, she sang. We didn’t always join in…or ever. And we took every opportunity to make fun, but our world was full of music. And the nice thing about music is that the songs live on even after the singers have closed their mouths. Even here today, her song still fills the air.

There were countless times in my life growing up and even as an adult, when I wondered why my mom didn’t have more hobbies. More outside activities. She worked with my dad. She sewed when she needed to. She exercised. Played Solitaire. Alternated between Karen Kingsbury novels and true crime stories that made us all a little nervous. Researched her family history. But she never took off to do her own thing. She never went to dinner with friends, leaving us to fend for ourselves. Never took a weekend away. I wondered about that until recently when the truth of the matter came to me.  We were what she did. We were where she wanted to be. If Bart had a band concert, she was there. If I had a softball game, she was rooting from the stands, even when 7 innings turned into 22, which we eventually lost late that night. If there was a gospel meeting or a church picnic, she was there. Supporting us was her thing; her only thing. If we had enough…if we had everything we needed, then that was enough for her.

I think I owe her for the fact that I married Todd. We had been dating only a month when I went home for Christmas in December 1990. I remember sitting on my kitchen counter, talking to my mom about him. As usual, I was wishy washy. Should I or shouldn’t I? She stopped me in the middle of a rambling and looked me in my eyes and said, “Missy, please don’t mess this up.” My mother knew something I didn’t yet know. As usual, she was right. And never have I been more thankful for her advice that day than I am now that she is gone.

Of all the things she provided for us, what she knew we needed most was God. No one was more equipped to guide us than my mother. She knew more about the Bible than any person I have ever known. But it was more than that. My mom had the uncanny knack for instilling it in others. She was fantastic at teaching young people and getting them excited about it. Her favorite age to teach was the 1st through 3nd graders. Not too clueless, but not too big for their britches, either.  She had ways of remembering things that were mostly foolproof. Occasionally one of those would backfire. One day, while trying to tell Todd how she remembered the order of the kings, Felix and Festus, in Acts 28, she said, “First you feel it and then it festers.” And then she stopped in her tracks and said, “Or is it, first it festers and then you feel it…?” And then she went and looked it up and we just let her because we figured if she knew it, we didn’t need to. My mother’s mind was amazing and her heart was always on doing the right thing. That’s how she lived her life. The beautiful thing about my mother, though, is that she managed to impact so many people with her service and her faith. Scores of people have contacted me, telling me how my mom changed their life. She changed the world one person at a time. She left the world better than she found it. And she has exchanged this world for her true Home.

I had a conversation with a friend recently about her own mother, who was slipping away into the dark world of dementia. She said this: “I dream about my “well” mom sometimes, the simplest of dreams, where I say something and she laughs. It’s a sweet reminder that this is a very short phase of a well lived life.”

If I had been given my wish, my mom would have lived another 20 years and died peacefully in her sleep of natural causes. What a shame that she was gripped by something that twisted her into something she was not. But even so, she was so much to so many for so long. And that’s enough. Because she taught us how to walk and set us on the path to Heaven where we’ll see her again someday. She’d like it to be a grand reunion and she lived her life trying to make sure of that. I’m thankful for the sweet reminder that this was a very short phase of a well-lived life.

_______________________________

Thoughts from Todd:

I wanted to take this opportunity to just tell a few memories I have of Ann (or “Dear Mother-in-Law” as she forced me to call her)

The first memory I have of Dear Mother-in-Law is walking into the bustling Tallahassee office of Mike White Realty. She sat right inside the front door and helped manage a rag-tag group of agents who bought and sold a lot of real estate. Within a few minutes my thought was “She is holding this thing together.” What I came to realize over time was the she was SINGLE HANDEDLY holding that thing together. But always in a humble and thoughtful way.

That was really a good example of how she did things. When she was involved, everything was handled. Quietly and thoughtfully managed. Consummately prepared.

I didn’t realize how much I would miss that, but I do. And the moment that her illness took away her ability to do that. Everybody missed it.

There is no question that Ann’s top priorities were God and her Family but the rest of the list goes something like this:

  1. Florida State Seminoles
  2. Tampa Bay Rays, (don’t jack around about the Rays)
  3. Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake,
  4. Price is Right,
  5. Creepy Dateline Murder Mysteries,
  6. Strawberry Pretzel Salad,
  7. Saving and Reusing her (and other peoples) Plastic Cutlery after Every Party,
  8. and two words: ORNAMENT PARTY.

I need to give credit to something else very important that Dear Mother-In-Law gave me. If you want to know a major factor that brought me from the 6-foot 165 pound boy I was when I met her and made me the man I am today it is this: Sour Cream Poundcake.

The last thing I wanted to mention is probably the most important. Rarely does a year go by that I don’t meet a person or a family that Dear Mother-in-Law took under her wing at some point. Almost always they were an outsider, or lonely, or even an outcast in need of a friend. And then they met Ann and they were never an outsider again. They were family. To me if anything this is her legacy.

…..

Goodbye and Godspeed, Mom. I’ll see you. Until then, you’ll live on in thousands.

 

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Words and stains

My current word count sits at 43,664. The last 10,000 words have been a little like weight loss: At best, hard. At worst, just not happening. There are moments when I look back over a section for reference and think, “huh, that’s not terrible.” And there are times when I look back over it and think “is this a book about snakes or grief recovery?” In other words, it’s easy to get lost in it just trying to get it done. I do think I departed from my synopsis a little, but I think with an editing cycle, I can find my way back. I like my characters and I have loved the project. I do not find myself dreading the task of getting the words down. I find myself dreading the stuff that keeps me from it.

But all that said, today I was in a spot. I really could not figure out what I wanted to do next with a scene. The scene needed something. My 9 year old has been very interested in all of this. She really likes writing herself. So, when I said, “Tell me what happens with Henry and Mort in the parking lot,” she walked out to do some thinking. Then she walked back in 5 minutes later with her finger in the air and pitched me an idea. And I was surprised at the awesomeness of it. Done. I know what happens next. She walked out of my room again and returned again with more details. Her details were even better. They were both horrifying and funny. And now she’s vying to be in the dedication. I’m probably going to have to consider it.

I was really feeling positively toward the 9-year-old until I found her COVERED in purple slime. Do other moms hate slime or is it just Control Freak Me? Borax, Gallon jugs of glue, glitter, food coloring. And after it’s made, there’s the playing with it. Bubble making. Stretching. Oh, and dumping it on your clothes. Shorts AND shirt. So, I told the 9-year-old to shout the shirt and throw it in the washer. This was after 30 minutes of picking slime off the shirt. Use VERY LITTLE detergent I said. I just went to check on the shirt, which was the only thing in the single load of wash we did. I’ve never seen so much soap. Ever. Like, it’s enough detergent to wash everything I own. Twice.

Just went in to check the shirt again. The stain came out. Joke’s on me.

Tonight’s goal: 45,000 words.

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

Monday

The current word count for the Nanowrimo novel stands at 34,308 with at least 500 more words pawing at the gate right now. I’m already in bed with my computer. I would feel pretty good about the rest of my evening except for the sounds of the Chinese thumb guitar coming from the room next door. My son bought it in Chinatown in San Francisco over the summer and plays it. A lot. Of all the things he cannot keep track of, he has never lost this instrument. It is yet another joke the Universe plays on me daily. Just in the last 45 seconds, he has learned to play chords on an instrument with only 5 pieces of bobby pins sticking out of it. What are the odds?

The writing over the weekend was abysmal. Just abysmal. I woke up both Saturday and Sunday at 5, but wasn’t disciplined enough to get out of bed and write then. I struggled to find the time, began to question whether my point of view had jumped the tracks somewhere–like 62 pages ago, began perusing grammar websites, wondered if I hate my main character, and rewrote the same paragraph 4 times.

But starting last night, I got over a hump and words started flowing again. I take a lot of hot baths when I’m writing. Steam tends to erode the damage done to my mind by Chinese thumb chords and I can temporarily think straight. If I had a hot tub, I’d probably be halfway through a sequel already. I know. Too much information. If you are bored enough to read this blog, you surely know what you’ll be getting here.

I walked away from the book over the weekend and returned a few minutes later to the following paragraph:

On the ride back, Henry hit the last two neighborhoods on his watch list before he was almost too drained to coast the last of the highway before his final turn. He thought to himself, hmm. He thought a lot. That was what he did. One time he saw a good rooster. He said “ look a good rooster.” He also liked it when his mom made dinner. He liked to eat meals.

When I read it and then looked up, Brady was sitting across the room from me, making eye contact and smiling like he’d just bought a winning lottery ticket with someone else’s dollar. If things go south, I may have to put that paragraph in just to keep my word count.

Tonight, after dinner but before putting the girls to bed, I was typing in the living room when my oldest boy came out of his room and walked in where I was. This boy is special. He’s not like the rest of us. He’s an introvert and very guarded with his things and his words. He is funny, but chooses when and how to unleash his humor. He is extremely organized and never, EVER loses ANYTHING. I can’t tell you how Brady and I wish we could steal just an ounce of whatever that recipe is. He is 16 and learning how to navigate the world of grownups while also trying not to smack his siblings when they violate his personal space or just get all up in his face at the wrong moment. I get a lot of one word answers from Andrew. He is succinct. Our texts, if analyzed, would primarily consist of the words “here” and “ok.” But tonight, when he wandered into the living room, he sat down on the ottoman next to me and said,

“Are you working on your book?”
“Yes,” I answered, stopping what I was doing to pay attention to the exchange.
He looked over my shoulder to see the page I was on and looked over the margins.
“How many words have you done?”
“About 34,000,” I said.
“Chapter 21,” he said, raising his eyebrows. “How many chapters will it be?”
“I’m not sure yet,” I said. “But I’m nowhere near finished.” He got quiet for a second and then said,
“What if it became a bestseller?” He smiled at me and I said,
“That would be so great, right? But I can’t worry about that. Right now I just need to finish it.”

He nodded and then said,
“Can I have some ice cream?”

And that was that.

In a pinch today, I blew out the van again with the battery operated leaf blower. It’s my new favorite thing. I probably sacrifice a little on quality, and I’m pretty sure I’ve lost a few receipts this way…but all in all, I’m killing it.

 

 

The current situation

There are days.

And then there are DAYS.

I’ll let you weigh the facts and decide which way this verdict goes.

Here’s the 8 x 10 glossy evidence of my current situation.

Picture #1 is yesterday’s gas station bounty. Todd hates the game I play with myself. It’s one part “how low can you go” and one part “whoops.” At some point, I’ll run clean out of gas on a dark road full of pit bulls and hairy drunk guys, but in 20+ years, I haven’t. So I guess I’d call that a win. Yesterday, I got pretty close. But it was daytime. And there were no dogs or hairy guys around.

currentsitch2

Picture #2 was my situation this morning. After many weeks of abundant paper towel supplies, we ran out. And I’ve been to the store 67 times since realizing there were only 3 paper towels left on the roll, but have forgotten paper towels every time. There were only two super important things on my Target list today: 1) Paper towels, and 2) a 20″ bike tire tube. I came away with the bike tube, but ONLY because my son called me while I was in the store and reminded me. He did not remind me about the paper towels.

currentsitch1

After the longest, least successful, and least fun trip to Target ever in the history of spoiled modern day Americans, I drove home with steaks, which I have no business grilling on my own, and without paper towels, which–as you can see–we badly needed. Fortunately, I have a tribe that loves me and saves me on occasion. And one of my tribe was picking up my daughter not long after.

erin

I now have paper towels. Thanks, Erin.

I know I need to clean my task bar on my phone. Move on.

The final picture is the package of Kings Hawaiian Sweet rolls that served as the buns for tonight’s sliders. The package was open at one end. Like totally. Totally, totally open. It even appeared to be open. There was no way for anyone to think it was not open. And yet, an unknown and unseen child–whom everyone who knows us will guess–ripped into the top of the bag like a puma at a campground.

currentsitch3

Also, my neighbor came over while I was at Target and told my oldest son she needed to see me when I got home. I almost jumped in the river. But I didn’t. And I went next door to talk to her.

Maybe I’ll save that one for another time. Or not.

And after wasting your time and mine on this post of 456 words, I’ll go write 1000 more on nanwrimo.org. Because maybe all’s well that ends well.  And if that’s true, I need to go work on my ending.

 

16,343 reasons not to blog

My nanowrimo word count on November 2 sits at 16,343. I am pretty happy with how the book is coming along. I actually know most of the major plot points and the ending. There is still plenty to make up along the way. My 11-year-old daughter was sitting across the dining table from me today doing homework while I was typing away. She interrupted me and asked, “Who is the book to, Mom?” I thought she was asking what audience I was writing to, so that’s the question I answered. “No,” she corrected. “Who are you dedicating it to?” Then she cocked her head and winked at me and gave me the dorkiest grin I have ever seen.

I guess I’m dedicating it to Lucy. As if we need to worry about dedications right now.

At any rate, I plan to get to 17,000 words before I sleep, which will be a whole lot easier now that the Astros are world champions. For crying out super loud, I got nothing done last night.

Before I could write tonight, I needed to clean off my camera’s sd card so that I could have a clean slate for a school event tomorrow.  So I popped that puppy into my laptop and starting flipping through the pictures. I came upon last Christmas and had to pause and take that in. SO MUCH has happened since last Christmas. My parents moved into a nursing facility so that my dad could better care for my mom. My mom went from communicative, while slow, to almost unresponsive. And last Christmas day was the last time my mother was in my house. It’s really the last time she went anywhere, unless we are counting the hospital. And who wants to count that? On December 29, everything changed.

If I had known everything was going to change—and that quickly—you can be sure last Christmas’ pictures would have been far better than the ones I took. In fact, I only have one of my parents from that day and my camera chose to focus on my dad in the foreground. But though the quality is subpar at best, it is still a picture that gives me pause. And I am still thankful I took it. And it does remind me of when I could speak with my mother and she would speak back.

I had no idea how much I would miss that.

The holidays are approaching. Mine will be vastly different this year. Blessed, still, because God has given me so much. But bittersweet in the sense that Mom is no longer even an echo of who she was. I can’t shop for her. I can’t tell her the latest thing Jenna said to insult me. I can’t tell her that I’m 16,343 words into meeting a really massive goal.

But I can meet that goal and she is part of every word I type. She is in me. She is all around me. I am proud of that.

I think I know who I’ll dedicate the book to.
But don’t tell Lucy.

IMG_9835

The top of the list

Well.
I almost couldn’t believe that it had been 6 months since I wrote. That seems impossible. Impossible that I’ve not posted since May. Impossible that it’s been almost 6 months since May.
I’ve become a cliche in the way I discuss and lament the passing of time.
I’ve also discovered you can rein it in and make it work for you if you really try. It seems to be all about priorities. What you decide will get done, gets done. Other stuff may not. But the thing you put at the top of the list gets done. I guess it becomes all about what’s at the top of that list.
The top of my list has been a moving target. The kid that needs that day’s attention. Dry cleaning (Todd will disagree that this one has ever made even the top 3 of my list). Scrambling to get to the store because I didn’t pre-plan dinner. Scrambling to make dinner (it’s not my gift). Spending time with various important people in my life. Etc.

There have been goals in my life over the course of the last 20 years that have been super important to me emotionally, but clearly haven’t been at the top of my priorities list. That means they really aren’t that important. It also means they don’t get done. I’ve been “trying to lose 40 pounds” for about 9 years. I’ve also been wanting to get a book published. When discussing the latter dream with Todd, he said,

“You know what you need to get a book published?”

“No, what?” I asked.

“You need a book.”

Huh. Well, that’s oversimplified, but quite a true statement.

I needed a book, but none of this was at the top of the list.

Life went on.

As some know, I lived in the country for 3 years. For 3 years, I drove. And drove. And drove. And I met strange folks and wonderful folks. And a dude named Paul burned what had to be something illegal in burn barrels out front. And I ran into more than 1 angry pit bull. Per day. And I dreamed. As I drove or biked or walked, I dreamed. About who was in the houses I passed. About who would have THAT MUCH trash on their porch and THAT MANY geese in their front yard. About the man who constantly sat out in front of the Shell station in his camp chair with his cooler.

From that, came an idea. That idea turned into a conversation. That conversation became chapters 1-5 2 years ago. And then those chapters got pushed aside.
Not at the top of the list.

3 weeks ago, a college student posted that she was taking the leap and signing up for Nanowrimo.org. That stands for National Novel Writing Month. In the month of November, people sign up to write 50,000 words. You don’t pay anything and you don’t really win anything. The prize is completion. The prize is that you finish something.

When my friend posted that she was doing this, a bell went off in my head. It felt like a sign. Like it was finally time.  So I signed up and pulled out the ideas I had sketched out before. And I started writing again. The challenge runs from November 1-30. Here it is November 1 and my word count is 13,820. This morning I figured out a big piece to my puzzle. It is all I think about right now.

It is the top of the list. It is the entire list. At least until November 30.

Because of that, I get creative with other items on the list. Last week, I cleaned out the van by opening all the doors and using the leaf blower. Because vacuuming wasn’t on the list. And I gotta tell you…it’s not the worst idea I’ve had.

So if your dream is on the back burner, decide if it really is your dream. If it is, rewrite your list and put the dream at the top.

See ya in 35,000 words or so…or in 6 months.

My Mother’s Day Gift

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.

Abandonment.

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.)