I miss my mom. My graduation announcements arrived in the mail yesterday, and all I could think about was that I couldn’t mail one to her. I had dreamed of celebrating my doctorate with her, and now – that dream is gone. I picture walking across the stage to receive my diploma and my heart catches. No phone call to celebrate, no card in the mail, no mom to rejoice with.
I miss you, Mom.
In my dissertation dedication, I wrote:
In memory of my mother, Nancy Bibb Ring Vreugde, who unexpectedly passed away at the beginning of the last year of my doctoral studies. Never wavering in her support of me, in our final conversation she told me how much she loved me and how proud she was of me. Thank you for loving me and believing in me. I love you, Mom.
Sixteen months have passed since she died. In that time, I have come to realize that I did not know my mother well. Reading through my parents’ letters to each other as they courted, I discovered a woman who was happy, beautiful, fun and funny. A woman with the world ahead of her, standing at the threshold of a myriad of possibilities of a full and joyful life. I did not know this woman and I grieve that now.
In my adult life, I always lived across the country from my mom. Visits were infrequent due to circumstances, fears, responsibilities and side relationships that were tricky to navigate. We struggled at times to understand each other, as do most mothers and daughters. Mitigating factors included my father’s alcoholism and my need to find my own way out of a very difficult childhood. I blamed my mom for not protecting me, for staying with my dad, for not being what I wanted and thought I needed her to be.
And yet, she was the one to whom I ran when my marriage fell apart. She was the one I called when, as a single mom, I couldn’t pay for house repairs. She grieved for my loss and she encouraged me to keep going. She became a vital rock in my storm.
I saw my mom for the last time two years before she died. My father was gone by then, and she was living in Houston near my brother and his family. I can say that it was because I was working full-time, going to school full-time, and had several children still at home – that was why I didn’t visit more often. Mom didn’t fly and didn’t want to make the long train trip – and that is why she visited me even less often. No matter – I regret that we were so far apart and that I didn’t take the time to make her a bigger priority.
Underneath, there is a complexity of relationship that remains a mystery to me. It circles in a room in my heart that I have not yet wanted to examine. The swirl of failure, heartache, grief, anger, disappointment and deep mother love. Unanswered questions and loss, vast and murky, as yet unplumbed. I plan to go there, but not yet.
For now, another Mother’s Day is here. I will miss calling my mom and telling her how much I love her. I will enjoy talking with most of my children and spending time with those nearby. I will blend my joy and celebration with my sorrow, knowing that this is part of my story in God’s bigger story. I know there is more to follow in this journey with my now-in-heaven mom, more to follow on my own mom-path. I am grateful for the lessons God is teaching me about being a mom, about growing older, about being joyful and anticipatory as the future unfolds.
All my graduation announcements will go out this week, with one exception. Addressed to my mom, tear-stained, stamped and put into my box of little treasures, that one will stay with me. I love you, Mom. Wish you were here for this one moment in time. Thank you for loving me and believing in me. Happy Mothers-in-Heaven-Day.