As a mother, myself, I marvel at each of my three daughters on a daily basis and at the rate at which they’re growing into their very own human being. Each morning as I march through bedrooms, turning off unattended alarm clocks, turning on lights and reciting my usual, “Feet on the floor (insert girl’s name here), it’s (insert time here),” I realize the days of this ritual are numbered. I’m in the midst of “Mom Season,” and although I adore this season of my life, I still submit to the fear that can creep into our Momma-hearts. The one that makes you second guess every parenting decision you’ve ever made. The one that suggests that, well, maybe you haven’t really done your job after all.
My oldest daughter is a senior in high school. She’s such a sweet girl. As we wade through the senior activities like capping, rehearsals and graduation invitations, I can’t help but think back to the way things were when I was her age. This senior year experience has also sent me back in time to the year my mother passed away. It was Mallory’s senior year of high school. The November before her June graduation to be exact. The day after Mallory’s 20th birthday. Mom was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer in September, and it had already metastasized. It was in her lungs, her spine and the base of her skull. She never left the hospital. She never got better. She was put on a ventilator within days of being admitted, and after late September we never heard her voice again. Even when she was still with us – we were forced to communicate through pen and paper, and the morphine took that away after a few weeks.
I’m anxious for the day I can see Mom’s face again in person. But the truth is that day isn’t today, and the struggle of balancing motherhood without my mom around for advice, a career (the job that writes ME a check as I sometimes joke), a start-up that I wish I could spend all of my time in but can’t afford to (yet), my sister, my marriage, aging in-laws, selling a house…you know…human stuff…is more than I can handle at times. The simple thought of my mom handling all that life threw at her like a boss stops my struggle bus dead in its tracks. My mom was a single mother with three young children, peanuts for child support from an ex-husband a state away, working a factory job and still holding down a home. She never let on that she worried until days before I heard her voice for the last time. I wish I had said more. I wish there had been more time. I wish I could have asked more questions. All we really mustered seemed to be all that needed to be said, “Take care of Mallory,” and “Of course I will.” But there was so much more to say. Maybe that’s why the daunting task of putting words together escaped me right up until the day she died. I would lay in bed and pour my heart out to my husband through gasping tears, but return to the hospital the next day to simply sit and hold my mom’s hand hoping she knew all the things I wasn’t saying. Most of all, I just really wish I could thank her and really know that she trusted me to take care of her baby.
If I could rewind the clock, I would have said a little more…
I hope you know that you’re the reason love existed in our family. When I think about my sister and the feelings of love and pride wash over me, I hope you know that you planted those seeds. I hope you trusted your own ability to foster kindness and humility in your children. I know, as a parent, we tend to doubt our own abilities, but I really hope you know that this was one thing that you did very well. Yes. I will see to it that Mallory has a good life. But even more, I hope I continue your legacy far beyond our little family. I hope the tiny steps we take in your memory today create a ripple that becomes a tidal wave of inclusion long after we’re gone. To know that the world is a better place because you were once in it should be the goal of every human on this planet. I can sincerely say that it was, indeed, the accomplishment of one of the greatest humans I’ll ever know. I am honored to be called your daughter.
I love you, Mom.
Tiff (& Mal)