My mom died 4 1/2 years ago. Her cancer was something I never really processed. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, living each day like everything was normal. I went to work. I spent time with my friends. I organized a huge benefit for her. I kept going because I knew that if I stopped, I would fall apart. I stuffed my feelings down my throat and washed them down with another beer.
The day before she died, I tried to tell her how much she meant to me. That I was thankful that she always put the cap back on my contact solution. That I appreciated her cleaning out my bedroom when I moved home from college, only to tell her the day I got there that I was moving in with my boyfriend instead. I tried to tell her how much I learned from her patient demeanor and her “tell it like it was” attitude. I tried to tell her how much I loved her.
But it was too late. I don’t know if she knew….
I watched my mom love me, and my brother, and my sister, and my dad in different ways so that each of us felt special. And I watched her find enough love to raise literally 100 kids in our home through her daycare. She taught me that love has no boundaries, but that it’s hard work, too.
I watched her organize penny carnivals, dance contests, and crafts, and then sit back and let the kids take over. She taught children how to be independent, how to solve problems, how to work together as a team.
I watched her work three jobs without complaining. And then I watched her find the energy to volunteer tirelessly as the leader of our 4-H club. She taught us the importance of helping others and giving freely of our time for those in need.
I watched her look on patiently as she taught kids how to crack eggs and most of them went onto the floor. She taught us how to cook by smell, and sight, and taste. I learned how to take a little bit of this and a little bit of that and make a delicious meal I call “concoction.”
I watched her wash baggies and reuse tin foil and find uses for toilet paper tubes and scrap paper. I saw her be frugal and “green” before “green” was cool. I learned how to stretch my budget and live on less.
And I don’t know how she did it! I never had a chance to ask her how. How did she teach these things?
How did she find the energy, the compassion, the time? (How do I continue to give so much of myself without burning out?) How did she make such a huge impact on so many people without ever raising her voice? (How can I advocate for Jax and for other preemies in a way makes a difference?) How did she get 10 kids do what she asked? (How do I get my toddler to do what I ask?)
It wasn’t all rainbows and fairy tales; my mom wasn’t perfect and I know she didn’t have all the answers. But it’s days like these, where I’m just so tired and frazzled and unsure that I wish I could pick up the phone and ask my mom for advice. How do I stop my baby from waking up 4 – 8 times a night? How do we deal with scary possibilities? How can I be the best mom I can be for Jax?
But it’s too late.
I wish I would have asked her how…