Happy Birthday Mother


This picture was taken 30 years ago August 13th—the day of my wedding. Mother was 50 years old. Three years later she would lose a short but ravaging battle to cancer…at the ripe old age of 53, exactly how old I am currently.

She was as shy as I was gregarious. Her eyes a brilliant blue to my often changing green. Her southern accent was so rich and thick that it dripped and oozed off her tongue. If you’ve ever read any of my posts regarding my growing up and my family (Forgiveness one step at a time), you should then know that Mom was not the happiest person as life had not been easy nor overtly kind to her. Such is the life of a parent who lives with a mentally unstable violent child—in this case, my brother.

Mother died several years before my brother’s suicide. I often wonder how that would have affected her. I’ve lived with how it effected Dad but I think Mother would have handled it differently….but then again, who is to say? Mother gave up long before all of that anyway.

She was very pretty, the type of pretty girl whose dance card would have always been filled, as the boys always seemed drawn to her sweet, quiet, beautiful blue eyes. Even as my parents aged, I always noted how the men seemed smitten with her. But don’t get me wrong, Mother was not flirtatious or coquettish–she was too shy for such. It was just a quiet sweet demeanor and her strikingly ice blue eyes.

Despite all of her southern charm, which seemed to draw suitors to her as honey would a fly, she chose Dad. Go figure as that’s one for the record books!! But then again I’m being unfair—if Mother was still alive, I’m sure Dad would not be the dad I know today… and it should be noted that he was quite a nice looking young man.

Mother would be 80 years old today. As I noted in last week’s post “Mother the moon looks lovely tonight”—Mother turning 80 is hard to wrap my brain around because to me, Mother is in the above picture–trapped in time in a single image. I thought she looked so pretty that day in that dress—sadly three years later, we buried her in that dress.

It was not my intent to be morose or so sad in my reflection today—I had intended this to be short and sweet and joyful for this birthday tribute—but as I began typing, I was reminded of how much I have missed her.

Living more of my life without a mom than with a mom has not always been easy—as those out there who have also lived without a mother can testify. There are just certain little things a girl, and yes, even later a grown woman, misses without a mom to guide and direct–even if it is quietly from a sideline as if guiding by example only.

I lived with a great deal of anger towards God as I watched the cancer slowly and cruelly rob her body…there was a great deal of pain that was difficult watching. Then there was the anger of simply losing her—my mom. I was too young to have to take care of Dad plus she and I, after my moody angst filled adolescent life, we were just becoming good fiends. As a young married woman myself and young teacher, my own life was not in a good place…I was wrestling with my own up and down life when I was suddenly having to play grown up—

I look back on that time and of me as that younger girl—oh the things I wish I could say to her, to me, myself, from the perspective I am blessed having today. I lived with a great deal of anger for at least 8 years that I was cognizant of harboring. There was lots of self loathing. There was tremendous anger, anger that I kept a tight lid over.

My anger was directed at mother for giving up, at my brother for what I thought was his actually killing her—actually driving the life out of her. There was anger with my husband for not being supportive. Anger at Dad for not being strong and brave as I so desperately needed strong and brave. And there was anger at God for it all—for not healing her, for not stopping the pain, for letting Ed be Ed, for not letting Dad be the strong dad I needed.— for not taking me in His, God’s, tangible arms, which is what I so wanted from Him, my heavenly Father–all I wanted was so very much to be tangibly held by Him, my God….oh the list goes on….

It is thankfully on this 80th birthday for Mother that I can look at her picture and know that the anger is gone. No longer am I mad or angry at anyone for the loss. I have learned and grown so much since that time. I know that Mom has been with me all these many years, just in a different capacity.
I learned to forgive my brother, dad, myself, Mother and even God. Do I still get sad, perhaps even cry? You bet I do! There are days I miss her terribly, all these 27 years later…but there is also a peace—of which I cannot explain. Maybe that just comes with age–I’m just thankful it came!

When I was in the classroom, I often had students come to me seeking solace due to a crisis or loss. There was the usual anger over what was happening, several often verbalizing their contempt for God—I would say to them that God could deal with anger, as He is indeed a great God, being bigger than anything we could throw His way–He will not turn away, He’ll quietly wait. All this allowing me to then share my own battle with my anger and my own struggles with God with my hurting students—I explained how it was not God who had taken mother, but rather the cancer. Ours is a fallen world, and yes there is sickness, sin, bad things… but God, by way of His Son, has spanned the chasm between life and death….there, in the end of it all, is true Life—as I was living proof of such.

I had turned away, at least internally for at least 8 years—I had been what I thought was a strong Christian, and yet I went to a self imposed desert where I had many lessons to learn… all under the watchful eye of God my Father, who patiently waited—I went through the motions of life but I knew deep inside that I was not in a good place. I almost self destructed. No one knew any of this but for myself, as I carried on in my daily life as if all was rolling right along just fine—

I sought direct pray from my Godfather, an Episcopal priest. I had sunk so low in my soul that I knew I needed healing for my very core or I was doomed… I was slowly dying at my own hand by not letting go of the anger, the loathing and of the very deep hurt. The climb back up was not instantaneous—I’ve never been of the “poof” variety—slowly but surely, step by step….until I got to where I am today—blessedly so.

So Mother, it is still with a great sense of missing you in my life, it is with the knowledge that you have been with me every step along this long hard road, and it is with a now humbled heart that I wish you a very happy 80th birthday—
Thank you for my foundation, thank you for always loving me, even when I was not easy to love (ode to a teenager), and thank you for being my mom……

6 comments on “Happy Birthday Mother

  1. Lynda says:

    How honestly you have shared your story, your vulnerability. When we are able to share in such an authentic manner, it is then that God is able to use our story to help others on their journey. Thank you for your courage in sharing.

    • Well, I hadn’t intended on being as “heavy” as the post became. I was just going to say a happy birthday and move on—but, like I say, I just started typing and out it came—I did (and still do) always believe that the tough times we live through allows us to share with and support others down the road–in my case it was my kids at school, my high school kids…so many have such very heavy burdens to bear…no matter the socioeconomic background or race—today’s kids seem so much more “burdened” than we did…..with very few places to turn…
      Happy weekend Lynda–

  2. When my mother died, some five years ago, one of her friends who had fallen out with her a bit showed up at the wake just in between viewing sessions (deliberately so planned, I believe), and she and I went alone back inside the funeral home and had a conversation. Did you leave anything big left unsaid? she asked me. Did she leave with the important things resolved? Sure, I said, there were no major lingering issues. Of course I was lying. She offered me some words of encouragement. I have not seen the lady since.

    I think of how I would like to have this conversation or that with my mother. It’s a devil of a thing to have in any way (and I’m sure your experience of this and mine are different of course) lingering uncertainty or regret or unresolvable anger of any kind. I rest assured at least in the knowledge that my mother’s own affairs are in their proper order between her and God. I expect I’ll find out what that order is one day. I bear no grudge against the dead and little active shame over my own misdeeds prior to her departure.

    Forgive me for piggybacking on your heartfelt post with my own subjective thoughts. My best to you on the occasion of remembering your mom.

    • You know Virgil–our relationships with our parents are complicated at best. My anger at mother, at the time, was anger over how easily she had given up—no fight. I tend to be the fighter and seeker of the positive—no pollyanna mind you, no Eeyore ( my dad is eeyore…”oh no, well never make it” monotone)— I think whenever we lose a loved one– there just seems to always be lingering questions spiced with a bit of guilt– issues of one sort of the other—and maybe that’s part of the mystery of death….the lessons we are left behind to learn.
      No, I bear no ill, one way or another, to, as the church so eloquently states, the dearly departed–I learned to let that go as it serves no one positively. I do miss and can still hurt from the loss—and that can be that small child deep down inside that can still ache for ones mom.
      The things said or unsaid, resolved or unresolved are but a moot point–as they only seem to plague and vex those of us who remain I suppose.
      I cannot begin to say I understand the transition of life and death. I do believe in my heart that my mom is, yes, in a better place. I can only hope her relationship with God was such that she is indeed “home” with Him. I do feel as though she knows I’m ok and that I turned out ok and yes, I find comfort in that. I cant begin to presume how it all “works” but I do know that God loved and loves mother and He loves me—I don’t think it would be His intent nor His desire that I mourn our relationship in a negative fashion–fretting over details that only He knows and ordains as I was quite keen on at the time of her death. But age has taught me much.
      All we can do, those of us who remain, is to do the best we can—to seek forgives from our Heavenly Father for any particular issue that perhaps we feel is unresolved— then to move forward, doing the best we can to serve Him with our lives…..
      And know that you may piggyback any time my friend—-blessings Virgil—Julie

  3. Tricia says:

    Wow, Julie this was the perfect read for me after analyzing the emotions I’ve been struggling with over these past 2 years since my dad dying for today’s post. Your authenticity about your anger and the disappointments you felt with her and the family members really paints a good picture of your experience, thank you for that. I’ve felt a lot fo that myself in different ways.

    It’s hard for me to imagine you stuffed to the gills with self destructive anger, but I guess it’s a great testament then to God’s unyielding grace and love that you’ve moved so splendidly on from that difficult time.

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