Today I’m going to do something I’ve needed to do for a long time. I think I’m finally ready. I’m going to write a letter to my mother. Just start typing and see what comes out. I’m sure it won’t be everything I want to say to her, but it will be a start. Here goes…
I was looking through the pictures on my phone the other day and came across the ones of you in the hospital during the last few days of your life. There were videos too. I didn’t watch them. I’m not ready for that yet. I was reminded of the day when I grabbed your hand and told you that I forgave you for everything. I’m not sure if you heard me, you were full of morphine at the time. I wish you could have responded. Maybe you would have told me you were sorry. I wanted to hear those words for such a long time. I never did. Yet, you were my mother and I loved you still.
I’ve been thinking about our life together and all the memories I have.Happy memories. Sad memories. Angry memories. All of them. I can’t help but wonder where it went wrong. When did it start? Was there something I did to change things? When I was little you were the best mommy. I adored you and you adored me. You were beautiful and loving and we did stuff together. You poked holes in the bottom of eggs and let all the insides drip out. Then you painted the shells with your acrylic paints from your art supplies and when they dried you smashed them. We sat together gluing the shell pieces on paper, making mosaic pictures. This is a fond memory. And potato prints. You took the time to carve shapes into potatoes so we could dip them in paint and stamp them on paper to make art. That’s a fond memory too. So is the memory of watching you paint your paintings, and giving art classes to kids after school in our kitchen. I even sat in on the classes. I tried but I was never very good. We dyed Easter eggs and made Christmas cookies.. And the fondest memory of all was you tucking me into bed every night. You would sing Jesus Loves Me, and Jesus Wants me For a Sunbeam, and Jesus Loves the Little Children. Every night. All three songs. Then you would pray with me, and stroke your hand over my forehead, around the side of my face, and down to my chin. When your hand passed over my ear it sounded like the ocean. Did you know I still do this myself when I am sad or anxious? When I really need soothing? I rub my hand over my face the very same way and it always calms me down. It reminds me of you. You were my mother and I love you still.
I’ve tried to figure out when it all changed. I really can’t pinpoint the exact time. Things were definitely different after we moved from New Jersey. Maybe because you left everything you knew and your whole support system. That couldn’t have been easy. But it started before that. I remember when I was 7 and that mentally disabled man pulled me into the bushes at the park and tried to molest me. I ran home terrified. You didn’t do anything. My big brother tried to go beat him up, but you wouldn’t let him. You said the man was disabled and didn’t know what he was doing. I think this was the first time I felt like I didn’t matter. Then when I told you about the family member that was sexually abusing me. You didn’t believe me. You didn’t do anything. I didn’t feel like I mattered. But you were my mother and I loved you still.
Then after we moved to Kansas, when I was raped and got pregnant. I was 14. You told me you couldn’t hold your head up when you walked out the front door because I was pregnant. Even though I was raped. You never comforted me about that. Where was that loving mother who tucked me in every night? She was gone. It was like you were two different people. That mother from early childhood was dead and gone. She never came back. I missed her. I don’t think I ever really grieved her loss. I’m just realizing that as I write this. Sometimes I think you even blamed me for being raped. I convinced you to let me keep babysitting after they moved away. You didn’t want me to, but I begged because I wanted the money. You gave in, but said only the wife could drive me home. Yet I got in the car with the husband. Is that why you were ashamed of me? I don’t know. But, you were my mother and I loved you still.
When I was 14 and pregnant and needed you most, you weren’t there for me. You wanted to send me to a home for unwed mothers in Oklahoma. Again, I didn’t feel like I mattered. Not to you at least. I mattered to my sister who took me in and showed me the love that you couldn’t. I thank God for her every day. I cannot imagine how I would have survived that horrific year of my life without the support of someone who loved me. I know you loved me in your own way, but I needed support. You didn’t give it. Yet, you were my mother and I loved you still.
When you committed the ultimate betrayal and had sex with my husband I didn’t feel like I mattered. You told me God ordained it and you would do it again if you had the chance. You shattered my trust in you and in God in one fell swoop. I didn’t think it was possible for you to hurt me more. When I divorced him and you married him and you started treating me like the evil ex-wife –threatening to take my kids from me and swearing that he would never pay child support — you proved me wrong. You could hurt me more. I knew at this point that I didn’t matter. Yet, you were my mother and I loved you still.
As the years went by I started to see glimpses of a mother who cared again. We talked on the phone and carried on casual conversation, sometimes I even trusted you enough to talk about my problems. I don’t know why. I guess it was because you were my mother and I loved you still. When I got the phone call that you were in the hospital and not doing well I dropped everything and went to Kansas to be by your side. Even though you were often not there for me, I needed to be there for you. You were my mother and I loved you still.
When you sat up in your hospital bed and cried “This is serious! I might not recover from this!” you were terrified. It was the first time you realized you might die and my heart broke for you. When you spoke your last words on earth, you spoke them to me. “Air!” you begged, “I need air!”. It was heartbreaking then and it still is now. I can’t imagine what that was like for you. I didn’t want you to suffer like that. You were my mother and I loved you still.
When the funeral home came to take your body away and I almost got in a fistfight with my husband who was trying to make me leave so I didn’t have to watch it.He was trying to protect me, but I wasn’t about to abandon you. You were my mother and I loved you still.
In the year and a half since you’ve been gone, I’ve done a lot of thinking. I feel sad that your life ended the way it did. Not just the actual illness that took your life but the many years that led up to it. The loneliness. The isolation from your family. The Italian side that abandoned you. Your son who you didn’t see for 30 years before he came to the hospital. Your grandchildren who lived so far away. Your husband, who used to be my husband, who left you a widow. Your financial struggles. Your physical struggles. Your emotional struggles. Your undiagnosed and untreated mental illness. Everything that made the last half of your life so difficult. I wish you would have sought treatment for your mental illness. I wish you would have apologized for the things you did to hurt me. I wish. I wish. I wish. But this isn’t a fairy tale. Saying it three times doesn’t make it happen in real life. There is one wish that I still believe can come true, though. I wish I had more time with the mother from my early years. I believe that’s what will happen when we are in heaven together for eternity where there is no pain or illness. I’m looking forward to that day, because you are my mother and I love you still.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. -Psalm 34:18