Dear Mom

When someone asks you where you come from, the answer is your mother. . . I did love my mother, but I didn’t know how much until she was gone.

Anna Quindlen, One True Thing

Mom, you would be 91 today, but you were only 55 when death took you suddenly and unexpectedly so you’re forever young in my mind.  Yes, young. I’m older than you ever were. Isn’t that mind- boggling?

We talked on the phone almost every day. I’d call you or you’d call me and we’d chat about nothing in particular. Then one morning I called, and you didn’t answer. I tried again later, and later again, but there was still no answer and there was never an answer again.

For weeks, months maybe, when I was overwhelmed with the business that death demands, I’d pick up the phone as I had so many times before and dial your number. My mind knew you weren’t there, but my heart wondered what if?  I’d lift the receiver, allow my fingers to dial the familiar number, imagine the yellow telephone on the kitchen counter ringing, and wait in anticipation. Willing your hand to pick up the phone.

It’s hard to think about those years in my twenties when I stumbled through losing Dad, then you 18 months later. I had already lost my first mother when I was born (I know. You didn’t realize I thought about her, but I did. My wondering about her took nothing of my love for you.). Losing you, the one who poured herself into me and remains alive in unexpected moments that catch me off guard even now, crushed me.

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.

C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Those years of loss and grief, feeling tossed to and fro until I finally grabbed onto a brass ring to steady me, are still painful to remember. I was young and truly lost. I’d like to say it was my faith that lifted me out of despair, but that was still a few years away.

School was what did it for me. Post-secondary education gave me purpose, a sense of accomplishment, hope for a ticket out of an abusive marriage, and set me on a trajectory toward things I could have never imagined. The divine had a hand in it, sure as anything.

And while the years of study and all-nighters and doing it all while raising two children and coping with a violent and abusive alcoholic spouse were hard ones, they were good ones too. Because in them I found the confidence I had lost and built up the strength I needed to enable me to make hard choices down the road.

The death of a beloved is an amputation.

C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

And, Mom, you knew none of this.

The woman who emerged from the overwhelming grief wasn’t the same as the one who walked into your silent, empty house one day after (the rest of my life was forever divided into before and after) and, seeing your light green spring jacket on the back of a dining room chair where you’d left it, felt the permanence of your absence.

Grief changed me. It changes all of us. It never really leaves, we just learn to live with it.

There was no sudden, striking, and emotional transition. Like the warming of a room or the coming of daylight. When you first notice them they have already been going on for some time.

C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

So many times, over the years, I’ve thought about you. I’ve longed to talk to you. Sometimes you come in the gift of a dream and I wake with the most bittersweet ache in my heart. Even now, as I tap out these words, I feel tears welling. I’ll never stop missing you.

I wish we had taken more photos. I wish I had asked you more questions. I wish we would have talked about some of the things we skirted around. I wish I could have asked your advice about some really hard stuff. You might not have had the answers but I know you would have been in my corner.

I wish you could have seen my children grow up. I wish you could have known Makiya, your great-granddaughter. Oh, how delighted you’d be with her!

I wish you had more than 55 years.

Happy 91st Birthday, Mom. Sure miss you. Still and always.

Love from your daughter, Linda. xoxo


I’m a writer, reader, and creative. I thought by now I’d have things figured out, but I keep coming up with more questions. I think that’s okay. I’m here most mornings pondering ordinary things and the thin places where faith intersects.
  1. You look so much like your mother, Linda.

    1. I’ve heard that so often, Marian, and it always delights me. My mom and I share no DNA but it thrills me to think that there is some of her in me, nonetheless.

  2. A lovely piece with so much rich detail. I am blessed I had my mother so long but I grieved even when she was alive the things of the past that had damaged our relationship. We kept at it and forgiveness came, but it was a long slog. Then when she died I grieved harder than I imagined I would. I really don’t allow myself to miss her. She was nearly 102 when she died and it was time.

    1. The mother-daughter relation is so complex, isn’t it? I think we miss our moms no matter how long (or short) we have them with us. Their absence in our lives leaves a void that, to some extent, will exist always.

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