With Us Always
She died 33 years ago
She was only 51 years old
As I was leaving the home of a patient, I took a wrong turn, and then another wrong turn and somehow managed to end up at a stop light, a few feet away from the cemetery where my mother is buried. Even though I have lived minutes away from there, I have not been to see her in about fifteen years.
Moments before the light turned green, while I stared at the cemetery entrance, it felt like time stopped and I was frozen. I was not afraid, or maybe I was, I am not sure what it is that I was feeling, but I knew it was time to go in. I made a U-turn, I pulled into the cemetery, and I drove the longest way possible to get to her spot, parking about twenty-five feet away. I sat in my car waiting. I was afraid. It had been so long, and I had changed so much, and I knew that the person I was today is not the same person who visited her gravesite all those years ago, and I think I was feeling guilty for being so angry back then... and for taking so long to come back.
When I finally got up the nerve, I drove my car a few feet away from where we buried her thirty-three years ago. I found her stone easily, even though it was faded and difficult to read. I sat down at her gravesite, and I started to cry. Not soft gentle cry, but full blown ugly-cry, where tears kept falling, soaking my face and making everything hurt. In between my sobbing, I apologized for taking so long to come back.
I looked up at the tree that must have grown twenty feet since I was there last. She chose that spot because of the tree. It was so beautiful and so big, and as I stared at it, a light shined through and with every ounce of my being, I knew she was there with me. And I was really, really glad she was.
I looked down at her stone which said “1937-1988, With Us Always.” And then I did the math; she died thirty-three years ago, and she was only fifty-one. I am older than she was when she died. She died way too young. And then I started to think about everything that happened in my life since she died. I was so young back then, so angry at her for not being the mother I needed, or the mother I wanted, and I think I was angry because she died. Even way back then, underneath all of my anger, I think I knew that one day, if given the chance, we could have been really good friends. We missed out on so many things we could have done together, so many things I could have shared with her.
Thirty-three years later, I am no longer angry, I am just sad because I miss her. I miss what we never had, and what we could have had. So, I sat there for a while, and I told her all about my life, about my amazing kids and my beautiful granddaughters. I told her about becoming a nurse and the work I do. I apologized for the crappy things I did and said when she was alive, for not being there when she was sick, and I forgave her for everything.
Time has a way of passing us by so fast. So much has happened in thirty-three years. I think the only regret I have is that I carried that anger with me for so long. I allowed it to get in my way, and while I think I did okay and ended up turning my life around… I can’t help but think it might have happened sooner if I didn’t have that darn chip on my shoulder. But rehashing that isn’t healthy either. So instead, I told her everything about me, and we got caught up, and I promised to come back again soon.
As I started to walk back to my car, I felt the wind blow around me, and the leaves in that big old tree rustle. I turned around and looked up at the light shining through the tree and I swear I heard her say, "I love you," which is not something I heard often when she was alive. I needed to hear those words, my heart needed to hear those words. I smiled, and I said, “I love you to mom” and I meant it, and that felt really, really, good. For just a moment, I was a little girl, who just wanted her mommy to love her, and for the first time, in a very long time, I felt it.
Life is unpredictable, there are no guarantees, and we are not promised a certain number of days or time spent with those we love. I can’t go back, we can’t go back, there are no do-overs. What is my take-away? Time goes by quickly, and I don’t want to waste a moment of it holding onto anger or thinking about things I should have or could have done. Instead, I want to really live right now. I want to love and be loved fiercely, to play and to dance and to laugh and to remind everyone in my life how much I love them. I want to make more memories to leave in the hearts of people I will say goodbye to one day, perhaps crazy stories that they can share, allowing for my legacy to live on in a way that makes people smile. That is how I want to live my life moving forward. That is how I want to encourage you to live yours.
Hey mom… it was really great hanging out with you today… thank you for reminding me what really matters. xo