“Keep Looking Toward What Makes You Happy”

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Mom and me 10 months before her death

Sunday–yesterday–was the third anniversary of my mom’s death.  I started this blog a couple of months before she died and those early posts helped me wade through the initial raw grief.

I’ll always be grateful that my first readers didn’t head for the hills to escape my emotions.  Ever since I was a little girl, writing has been therapeutic.

As an adult, I admire transparency in a person; as a woman in long-term recovery, I’ve learned that the more I let you know what’s really going on with me, the more you can tell when I’m out-of-whack.  It’s sort of like giving you permission to hold me accountable.

Sad but okay

I talked to my dad over the weekend and we had a good conversation about how we’re both feeling now.  I told him that I feel a deep sadness of missing her but that the grieving had become easier with the passage of time.  He agreed.

At this time in 2011, we were all still traumatized; last year just felt miserable and forlorn.  But this year is different and Dad–who does not enjoy talking about his emotions–understood.  It was good to hear the little catch in his voice and clearing of his throat when he said, “yeah, that’s how I would describe it too.”

I just miss her face so much, along with her hugs and her occasional goofiness.

What else do I miss?  Word games, Hostess cupcakes in a bowl with milk and badminton in the yard.

I’ve noticed that the more time passes, the more I appreciate the qualities she left behind in me, yes, even the not-so-good ones.

Her wit and charm are two traits I gratefully inherited.  Then, her appreciation of natural beauty along with a penchant for celebrity gossip (although I try hard to deny that one!)

I love that I have her spirit of adventure and a willingness to press on when the going gets rough.  The biggies–an insatiable love of reading and her unrealized dream of writing–these are the ones I play with every day as I imagine her smiling.

A life well lived

For many months after Mom’s passing, I fought anger over what I determined was a life filled with disappointments.  She dropped out of flight attendant school to marry my dad and promptly began a series of six pregnancies, losing four babies.

Life with Dad wasn’t what she thought it would be, although they managed to find their way, celebrating 50 years together before she died.  Her firstborn–me–challenged her from the git-go and has as an adult, brought her two pieces of news that no parent probably ever wants to hear–first that I was an alcoholic and second that I was gay.

The highlights of Mom’s life looked dim to me.  But time has a funny way of flipping things around as it passes by.  As I look back now over the nearly 50 years that I knew her, I see that she lived life just the way she wanted.  I know this now because Mom wasn’t big on regrets or should-have-beens.

One of the best pieces of advice she gave me came during the last year of her life–the year I turned my family’s world upside down with a relationship breakup and move to another state.  I returned to see her about every three or four weeks during that year’s time and on one occasion, I was lamenting the way I handled that move.

She said, “None of that matters.  What’s done is done.  You just keep looking toward what makes you happy.  You can’t live your life for anybody but yourself.”

Thank you, Mama, for that advice and for the sweet memories I cherish today.  They keep you close to me.

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