Happy Birthday Mom.

Today she would be 67.  Born Linda Dianne Hawkins, she was my mother for 33 years of my life.  It seems so short when I type it, and seems rather unfair.  But, through some very dark long years, I have made my peace with it.  I dare not wallow in the why because I will never know.  

In her memory, my brothers and I all have an angel tattooed on our chest, over our hearts.  I'm not sure she would like to be memorialized that way, but she is our angel.  There have been times when I have heard her speak to me very clearly.  Not in an outloud kind of way, but in a spirit to spirit kind of way.  Think that's weird?  Yea, so did I.  

We think we have things all figured out.  But after Mom died, I realized I had very little figured out.  And most likely never will figure most things out.  One thing I did figure out: I could no longer live life as I had been.  Everything changed.  The building of my life imploded and I had to pick through the rubble deciding what to keep, if anything, and what to rebuild.  This has been a very long and sometimes very painful process.  

They say time heals all things.  I don't think it's just time.  Many people have had lots of time and are still bitter about what has happened in their lives.  I also think it's a choice.  I knew that bottoming out and spiraling into that deep dark hole of grief did nothing to honor my mother's life.  At times crawling and scratching, I made my way through and out of the darkness.  

I scan my heart for remnants of pain.  Yes, I miss her.  Yes, I would give pretty much anything to have her back, even for a day.  But the fresh pain is healed over.  I don't exactly know when, but I know it has.  My emotions carry a huge scar, a reminder, but I don't live there anymore.  I know the story, but I don't live the story.  

Dark nights of the soul are part of us, but they don't need to define us.  I am thankful for all that she taught me. I am grateful for the many people she impacted in her life.  I am honored by the love she bestowed on me while she was here.  I could not have had a better mother for me.  I carry all the love with me that she generously gave to others, while never making us feel neglected.  

I always thought she balanced between the physical and spiritual worlds more than any person I knew.  She lived in the light and was not afraid of the darkness.  I saw her walk in and rescue people from the dark many times.  She never gave up, not once.  She always believed in us.  When she talked to you, she knew you.  She knew the mailman, the grocery clerk, the homeless man in the park.  And she prayed.  Always and forever praying.  

Our home was filled with warmth and laughter.  Though we did not have a ton of material things, she was always there, and we always had enough.  Things got difficult during her sickness for our family, but the one thing I remember is that she and Dad were friends.  No matter what happened, that never changed, because they always loved each other.

If you would have told me twenty years ago this is how my life would unfold, I would not have believed it.  Living life without a parent is difficult, I'm not gonna lie.  I can't tell you how envious I am of people who can call their parents and go to lunch.  I don't have that luxury anymore.  No matter how amazing Mom was, she is physically gone.  And that cannot be undone.  

So in honor of her, love.  Dream.  Find the beauty in the world, because it is there.  Listen to the music, because she always did.  She instilled a fierce independence in us, and never held back on her love.  We should not either.  If she had something to say, she would tell you, no matter if you were the CEO or the janitor.  Make sure the ones you love know it.  Live your truth and be authentic.  

I remember her voice, her warm hands.  That crazy curly hair.  Her love of snow.  A warm, tidy home, with something always cooking or baking.  Her love of words, and writing.  Daily music in the house because she constantly played the piano and sang. She loved antique jewelry and old books.  She was firm, never raised her voice, but kind.  What she said, she meant.  She left me with so many words of wisdom, I keep many of her notes close at hand to read when I need some encouragement.  

I wish I could hug her one more time, or see her smile.  I wish she could know her grandchildren, and her great granddaughter, Audree.  Little miss Audree is the first girl to be born in my immediate family since me.  I have a suspicion this little one may carry some of the essence of my mother's spirit with her.  In her little face, she carries the wisdom of the ages.  

Of all the cards we received at her memorial, this is the one I still keep with me to this day, and how I choose to remember her:

Happy Birthday Mom!!  I love you!  

 

My Mom WAS the Shit.

I don't like this day.  There, I said it.  A constant reminder of what I don't have, and what everyone else seems to have, their mom.  Now, I know that is not true.  But, on days when pop culture wants to rub it in your face every chance they get, that is exactly what it feels like.  

Now, moving on.  My mom was the shit.  Period.  If I could have had 30 more years with a person half as awesome as she was, I would never trade her.  Not for anything.  She taught me about the most important thing in the world: LOVE.  Not only that, she taught me a lot of other important things too.  So, I'm going to share some with you.

1.  Say sorry.  Even if you have done nothing wrong, sometimes you need to say sorry anyway.  That apology builds a bridge towards the other person.  I experienced her doing that, and watched her do it.  And it worked. 

2.  Find out why someone is reacting the way they do.  A person's reactions are never what they seem to be about on the surface, look a little deeper to find out why.  She did that with us often.  She listened to understand. And again, I watched her do it with others.

3. You may never pass this way again.  One of my favorite things she used to tell me, when trying to figure out if I should do something or not.  And often this helped me make the choice.  If I never could do this thing again, would I regret it?  

4. Jump the fence.  Another gem.  Basically, get through the limits you might have set for yourself and don't be afraid.  Go for it!

5. Do what you have to do, do what you need to do, then you can do what you want to do.  I learned so much about how to prioritize my life this way. Some things we just have to do, so get those out of the way.  And do them well, no matter how small they seem.  Then do what you need to, like laundry or groceries.  And then do what you want.  

6.  Do something you love.  Whenever I was restless, upset, mom always encouraged taking a pause to do something I really enjoyed.  That might be reading, watching a movie, taking a walk.  She taught me the joy of simple pleasures.

7.  Practice your craft.  Every day.  I rarely remember a day going by that she did not play the piano and sing.  Music always filled our home.  She read and she wrote too.  TV was usually reserved for the evening, maybe a few shows.  

8.  Share.  I cannot tell you the amount of people who cycled through our home, and not just our relatives.  She always found a way to share what she had, whether it was food or the space of our home or herself.

9. Start fresh.  We can always start right where we are.  Even if yesterday or 2 minutes ago we messed up, right now, this present moment is new.  I cannot count the amount of times she told me this.

10. How to love.  She was love.  Mom was no regarder of persons.  She didn't care if you were the CEO, or a checker at the grocery store.  I watched her look at people, not through them.  If you met her, you knew she loved you instantly, there was no guile.  She was strong, and never afraid to say what she felt. She loved through difficulties, disagreements, even in spite of her own feelings, still she loved.  I watched her take meals to a homeless man in Grant Park day after day, take care of our neighbors, while never once making us feel neglected.  She gave the best hugs and had the warmest hands.  

Julia Cameron says art alchemizes our lives.  And that is exactly what happened today.  I never know how I am going to feel on Mother's Day.  It started a little rough, so I sat down to do morning pages.  And about half-way through, my attitude shifted, ever so slightly, about this day.  I still don't like it.  But, I choose to write about what mom taught me, and how much I love her.  I am sad that so many never got to be in her presence.  She truly was magic. My hope is that pieces of her live on in me, my brothers, my nephews.  This is how we share her with the world.