In celebration of Mother’s Day here in the states, I’m sharing an excerpt from Waking Up in Winter about my mom. This was a journal entry I wrote after enjoying an overnight visit with her and her best friend, Theresa.
Mother’s Day is always a tricky holiday. While in this lifetime I made the decision to forgo having children, the grief still visits on days like today. As I imagine it does for so many women.
As I reread the following excerpt, I’m filled with gratitude for the women who came before me – some with children, some without – all women with fewer choices who set the stage for the life I get to live today.
This morning, Mom and Theresa joined me for breakfast and we talked about how a woman’s life today is different from the way it was when they were younger. Both shared stories about preserving food in an icebox, using a wringer washing machine, and the importance of ironing cloth diapers after hanging them out to dry in the cold air. I had no idea how hard they worked in the “good old days.”
Listening to their stories, I felt such appreciation for the advantages I have today, and for the women who helped build the foundation upon which my life now rests. Women of my generation need to know more about how our ancestors emotionally and physically muscled through a challenging life. Our conversation is certainly an eye-opener for me.
We enjoyed two wonderful days together, and as Mom and Theresa were leaving, I closed the front door and said a silent prayer, asking God to guide them home safely. Tears welled up in my eyes as I thought about an exchange between Mom and me about getting older and the limited time we have left together. My first response was to tell her we have plenty of time—a typical default reaction intended to keep the conversation on safe ground—but Mom wouldn’t have it. “Cheryl,” she said with a hint of steel in her voice, “we don’t know how long we have, and I want to tell the truth about that.”
A truth we all do our best to ignore.
What I didn’t tell my mother is that I’ve been thinking about death a lot lately. I think about it as I watch her walk down the steps toward the car. I think about it when she calls to sing happy birthday with my dad and then sings another version from her two cats, meowing at the top of her lungs. I think about it with every thank-you card I receive from her in the mail, its passages underlined over and over again to emphasize the message. And I think about it when my mother tells me stories about her life, because I know that someday these stories will slip through the cracks of time, and I’ll miss them for the rest of my days.
Today I bow to my mother, an inner acknowledgment of her courage and strength, of the sacrifices she’s made and the wisdom she’s gleaned from years of making the care of others her biggest priority.
As I think about my mom, and all the women I love, I remind myself to stay awake, to be present to the time we have together. It’s precious… and limited.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, Pat, and all the women who give so freely of their time and energy in the hopes of making life better for others. Thank you .
P.S. – You can order Waking Up in Winter: In Search of What Really Matters at Midlife here.
P.P.S. – I’ll be back on Facebook Live this week on Tuesday, (5/15) at 6pm EST/3pm PST. You can find me here.
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