My mom passed away on a Tuesday morning.
My older brother's voice quivered as I spoke to him on the phone. "Mary, honey. Are you sitting down? Mom passed away this morning."
We're never adequately prepared to hear those words, are we? Even though my mom had just (the day before) been admitted into hospice care, we thought we had a little more time with her.
The very next week I had a plane ticket to visit her. I thought I would have time to say so many things to her I had been planning in my mind for the past month.
Now she was gone.
So many things left unsaid. So many hugs I had been saving for her. So many gifts I wanted to thank her for.
While I knew it was a blessing she had died peacefully in her sleep, I didn't feel so peaceful - I simply felt hollow, deflated, and defeated.
How do you cope with losing your mother and your best friend?
Just Buy the Swimsuit
As we tried to go about our day (I had so many errands to run before we left for Florida, where we would go to be with my dad and plan my mom's memorial), I found myself distracted, hazy, and walking around almost in a dream.
I know it sounds silly, but I wanted to look pretty. My mom was always an incredibly stylish person - way more stylish than I ever was! I knew she would appreciate my need to look spiffy at this moment.
As I was trying on dresses in Target, I overheard a woman in the dressing room next to me. I heard her telling her husband she hated the way she looked in a suit, but that she really wanted to swim with the grand babies when they came to visit.
I quietly went to her and said "Buy the suit. Swim with your grandkids. They won't remember the suit or how you looked, but they will remember you swimming and having fun with them. My kids lost their grandmother today and she always got in the pool with them when they came to visit."
When I arrived home I began pouring through boxes of photos for her memorial. This gem jumped out at me.
My mom never ONCE mentioned how she looked in a swimsuit.
When her grandkids asked her to swim she always had an exuberant "Of course!" and let them lead her by the hand to the pool in their back yard. There she would push them around in floats, lay with them on rafts, deliver snacks poolside, and engage in silliness with pool noodles and other splashing games.
I'm certain my kids won't think of how grandma looked in a swimsuit - they will just have the beautiful memories and such warm and happy feelings of a grandma who loved them to pieces and who loved spending time with them.
Finding that picture gave me a huge feeling of PEACE, and a sense that I was going to survive this.
Take Time for the Little Things
If there is one lesson I'm taking away from the past few weeks it is this:
Do the seemingly "small things". Do them with joy and a smile - as if they are the BIG things, because they really are big and not little.
Bake with your kids, read to them, allow them time with their grandparents, laugh more, be silly, love BIGGER than you thought you could.
It is so cliche, but life is short, and at the end of your life you want your legacy to be one of love, kindness, patience, and a gentleness of spirit.
Every time my mom came to visit she had some fun project to do with the children.
(In the picture above she had brought the kids the book "Me First" and she created a special chef's apron for Anna and they baked a sandcastle cake to go along with the hilarious story. I can still hear her reading the book to my kids. What a GIFT that memory is.)
When she would leave I was inspired to be a better mom - a more patient and present mom - a mom who cared less about the messes and more about the hearts.
Somehow I never learned that lesson fully, but I think that's where grace comes in.
God knows our hearts and his grace is sufficient to cover our weakness.
The ache from losing my mom is still fresh.
I am told it will always be there, but the days will get easier as time marches on.
I keep the picture of mom in her bathing suit front and center to remind me that life is for LIVING, for making memories, and for loving those around us fully and well.