A Mother’s Beatitudes
“Blessed is the mother who understands her child,
for she will inherit and kingdom of memories.
Blessed is the mother who knows how to comfort,
for she shall possess a child of devotion.
Blessed is the mother who is never shocked,
for she will receive confidences….
Blessed is the mother who answers simply the startling question,
for she will always be trusted. “
I sat down today to map out a plan for this blog, with a large monthly calendar in front of me (ahh… you can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you can’t take the planner out of the teacher!)… Then I realized that my thoughts today strayed far from the path I had laid out so carefully. If anything, though, isn’t this the core of the grief journey? Grief isn’t linear. It never follows a plan. As much as we think we know about the Five Stages of Grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) that were identified by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, nothing can prepare us for walking the journey on our own. Even David Kessler, Kubler-Ross’s favored student, will tell you that no one moves through these stages in a straight line. We are always circling back into and out of stages. So I will try my best not to ramble in this blog, and will attempt to just provide some insight into my journey as I walk it.
My mom was my very best friend. I realize I am blessed to be able to say that- many of my friends don’t have the same relationship with their mothers. I honestly don’t ever remember NOT wanting her around. This is a little grain of irritation as I enter adolescence with my own daughter… how did my mom do it? How did she parent in a way that each child felt her/his needs met, individually? How did she become the mom that our friends gravitated towards, and envied us for the relationship we had with her?
After she died, I began reflecting on these questions even more. I had always assumed she would be there as I raised my own family, and planned on relying on her for these answers as we went. Over long coffees at daybreak on Sundays, I pondered her parenting style with my two best friends. Katie and Carrie have been in my life since we were freshmen in high school. They KNEW my mom. She took us on spring break to Florida our junior year of high school. She drove us to the bar (and came in, AND got hit on!) for my 21st birthday. She was there for all of us (my friends and my brothers’ friends) through moves, parent divorces/remarriages, teenage angst, puppy love crushes and first love break-ups. She was a guest at their weddings. She was a fixture in the lives of her children AND our friends.
One thing that stands out in my mind is that my mom listened without judgement. I could really tell her anything, because I knew she wouldn’t condemn or punish. She understood what it was like to be a child, and then a teenager, and then a newlywed, and then a new mother. She just got it. Maybe it was because she grew up fast (by today’s standards) and was married with her first child at the age of 24. I remember her 40th birthday party clearly, because I was headed to our Junior/Senior Fall Ball dance. I am now 41, and can’t imagine being as insightful, calm and mature to my own children as she was to me. But no matter what, I grew up feeling respected and loved unconditionally.
Katie and Carrie both remember that she was always there. She stayed up late, smoking her Winstons and needlepointing belts, waiting for all of her children to come home. Maybe this was why I was such a rule-follower? I knew she’d be there waiting for me after a long night. Either way, my brothers and I remember coming home after a night out and sinking into the couch to rehash it with our mom, like an old friend. She didn’t judge stories about what our friends (never US!) had done that night. How she remained calm and unaffected, how she made us feel safe and heard, is still a bit of a mystery to me. But I think that much of her legacy has to do with her presence. She was always there.
I am learning to incorporate a bit of this in my own parenting style. I remember, as a child, going in to talk to her as she paid bills at the kitchen table. I remember long conversations in the station wagon on the way to ice skating practice. We had the same, more adult-version, type of conversations when I was in high school. I’d come in to the family room while she worked on the computer or folded laundry. She was slightly distracted, and it was a good time for me to spill my heart out without making eye contact. I always felt heard. She was there and available. She later told me this was intentional- kids are more open when you are there but not TOO focused on them. Either way, I try to be available and physically present as much as possible for my kids.
I often wonder what my mom would think of my life know. In a way, I KNOW she is right there (I will share more of this in future posts), but it’s not the same as being able to pick up the phone or run over to her house for advice. I try to listen to the still, small voice in my head that seems to take over at just the right time… I know this is her guiding me. She’s the voice that tells me not to worry too much about screen time, the Fortnight obsession in our house, the lack of vegetables in my son’s diet, and the general state of our laundry situation. She reminds me that everything has a phase, or a season. She’s the voice that tells me not to judge myself so harshly for wearing the SAME “dressy” yoga pants two days in a row (see above laundry situation), or for not fitting into last year’s yoga pants, or for not wanting to volunteer for grade school field trips (seriously, what former teacher WANTS to go on field trips??). She’s the voice that tells me to pair down my calendar and focus on what makes me happy, not what I should be doing.
My relationship with my mom has blessed and shaped every aspect of my life as a woman. If you are still reading this, I hope it gives you a glimpse into what a special person she was. My family chose “A Mother’s Beatitudes” to be printed on the back of the program at her funeral (see my favorite excerpt above). Afterwards, so many of our friends commented that the quote fit her perfectly. I know she’d be satisfied that this was her legacy. Please check back often to learn more about how she continues to act in our lives.