As you know, my mom died this summer.
It’s taken me a long time to type those words. It’s hard to keep my fingers moving on the keyboard even six months later.
I am still learning how to navigate life without her.
I am well aware she is gone. It seeps into almost every part of my life. But I still pick up the phone to call her a lot more than is reasonable. I still consider her my best friend. I still know she is the one person who was with me and who will be with me for my forever.
My mom endured a decade-plus of poor health, and her body just could not take the stress and pain anymore. She was only 62. She was too young and too special to have battled the insurmountable issues she did. It’s as difficult to think about how hard she fought just to get through a day as it is to think of her death.
She was a force of nature before she got sick. I miss her profoundly.
I write this to let you all know how deeply I understand that I am not the same person I was before she passed away. I am less. I am less of a friend, less of a mom, less of a wife. I have more good days than bad. But, man, I have bad days.
I am overwhelmed much more easily, and I mentally check out as a means of self-preservation. I actively choose to scroll through social media instead of engaging with my husband and kids. It is distant and mindless, but it is also distracting enough to keep me out of an emotional place. I’ve been short and disengaged with the people I care about most.
I have ignored a lot of my responsibilities, like volunteering at my daughter’s school or writing a blog post each month.
I have left cards and calls and messages from loved ones go unanswered because I just cannot bring myself to respond. I don’t want to bring anyone down and sometimes, I just don’t have the fortitude to behave in a way that is considered socially acceptable.
I have made thoughtless comments about a friend who did not deserve a word of it. I took out a lot of my grief on my sister, who was also grieving.
I am not proud of any of it. I wish I was one of those people who can keep an even keel despite hardship, but I am not. I never have been. I am even less equanimous now.
But, despite all of this, you have stood by me. My dearest friends.
You have given me so much grace. Sometimes I don’t understand it or feel I deserve that level of kindness with no expectation of reciprocation or even acknowledgment.
You heard she was really sick. You spent the night at my parent’s house to lay next to her on the bed and hold her hand. You stayed the next day and helped us clean her room.
You noticed me the morning she passed away on my run (because I didn’t know what else to do but run) and asked me if I was okay. You waited for me every single morning thereafter to hug me and let me know you were there in case I needed anyone.
You overwhelmed my family with support.
You filled my dad’s refrigerator with food and his pantry with treats within hours of hearing the news of her passing. You came over the night she died with super tacos, peach pie, and legendary tales of my mom. We laughed until we cried. And then we just cried.
You sent food, cards, wind chimes, memorial markers, texts, Facebook messages, heartfelt, and handwritten letters. You sent tiny furniture to put in the dollhouse we built to replace hers that my movers broke.
Those of you who have also lost a parent choked down your own sadness to reach out and let me know I wasn’t alone.
You helped me to understand that eating ALL of the food people sent was not going to make anything better.
You brought enormous bags of activities by my parent’s house to keep my kids occupied.
You drove five hours to sit quietly for the entire day in the back row of the funeral home without even telling me you were coming.
You brought good coffee.
You quietly and steadfastly took turns standing by my side as I spoke to what seemed like everyone my mom had ever known in her life.
You kept my kids quiet, fed, and virtually unnoticed at my mom’s service.
You resolutely yet endearingly delivered the eulogy my dad had taken a week to write. You smiled as her favorite songs played at her service. You shared such lovely memories of my mom. You filled an entire floor of the funeral home because you adored her as we did. She would have loved to have known what a good showing she had. Because that’s what mattered to her. Her people. Her friends.
I’m finally realizing that was her last lesson to me. That throughout hard times, sickness or tragedy, you can feel like less than you know you should be but also like the most fortunate person in the world because of your people – your family and your friends. And I do.
This letter is to thank you, my friends. All of you.
I want you to know that every single small kindness was recognized and remembered and keenly appreciated. Although I may not have reached out to thank you for each one personally, it’s important to me that you know your thoughtfulness and effort are meaningful. It mattered when you sent a quick text or message. It mattered when you let me talk about my mom a little more than I probably should have. It still matters. Thank you for being there for me and standing by me, especially when I don’t deserve it.
You were my friends, in the best way possible and during one of the worst moments. Thank you.
I know I am different now. My dad and sister and girls are different. We have to keep on keepin’ on. It’s not fun or happy some days, but damn it if we aren’t lucky to have you in our lives.
With love and appreciation,