I lost my mom at the end of 2016. Those that knew me growing up, knew that the relationship had always been strained even with my many attempts over the years to be close to her. I had invited her to my wedding, new home, my children’s births, all to be met with either a phrase that she could not make it, or just no response at all. After one particular Christmas I remember deciding that I would no longer reach out as much as I had up to that point. It was too much for me any more. I had to focus on my own family and not take it so personal any more. I always loved my mother and because she was my mom I was always respectful, but it was decided that I needed to distance myself as some sort of self preservation.
There was a time when my family moved away to another state and I really dove into learning more about gardening. It helped me to work out some internal struggles inside of myself. The physical labor was an outlet and the anger in me about a lot of things, slowly melted, like the water melted into the soil. As I looked through the seed catalogues, deciding what I wanted to plant, a pretty picture of a flowering bush called “four-o-clocks” was on the page. My mind flashed back to the few moments she did make for me in her garden. She had taught me how to harvest the hundreds of tiny black seeds that came out of those flowers that grew along the side of our house. She taught me the same with marigolds. I wondered why those were the only times I could remember actually being “together.”
I picked up the phone to tell her all of the things she said or did that hurt me and that I forgave her. I thought it was such a relief. I thought we could start fresh. She politely said she didn’t remember any of those things and ended our call. I was so angry: “What does she mean she didn’t remember any of those things?” ” I guess that the drinking made her forget.” My cousin called me shortly after to tell me that mom had told her that I had called to say I was sorry. I clearly did not call to say I was sorry. My heart hardened even more. I share this not to blemish her in any way. She was my mother and I loved her. I still love her.
I remember a time when I was very young that people would tell her how beautiful she was and there was a happiness about her, but somewhere along the line, her happy smile had disappeared. Beautiful was always the word they used to describe her. You see it wasn’t her with the problem. It was me. I was so caught up in how she hurt me that I didn’t realize that my pride kept me from truly forgiving her. Maybe if I hadn’t spent so much time judging her, she would have felt safe approaching me. Maybe if I hadn’t always been so fast to point out all of her faults, like she had done to me, that I would have been a safe place for her. I was anything but.
Shortly before she had her stroke, I had come into town and with some convincing, I decided to try one last time to reach out. The visit was short and awkward. As I left I gave her a hug and told her I loved her. Again, no response back. That was it, I told myself. I was done. Why was it my responsibility to make amends? I’m the child here. But I wasn’t a child, I was a grown adult who was working on myself and thought I had my priorities in line.
I lived half way across the country when she was ill and could no longer move or speak due to the severity of the stroke. I refused to come. I ached and I justified to myself. But what I didn’t do was have mercy for the person who birthed me. After she passed I was at work one day when an older gentleman came in with his much younger grandson. The grandson pushed him into the office in his wheelchair roughly without regard to his grandfather’s discomfort.
I had been thinking about my mother that morning, deeply disappointed in myself for my actions, and non actions. The grandson was so very disrespectful towards him any time his grandfather would try to impart nuggets of wisdom to the boy. I sat there in disgust thinking about what I wouldn’t give, to have my grandmother back and how ashamed he should be of himself. I sat there in my judgment and in doing so, overheard something else that pierced me right down to my soul.
Someone had called the man for solace and he was quoting word for word a scripture verse about Gods forgiveness for our sins. Sins that we knew about and sins that were unknown to us when we committed them. Sins that were seen and unseen. At that very moment the word “pride” flashed upon me and I had to get up and go into the bathroom before tears flooded my eyes. Mom, I am so sorry I was so prideful. I didn’t know. I didn’t see my own pride. But I do now, and for that, I am so sorry. Yes, you are right, I am the one saying I am sorry now.
Love you mom. I pray that whatever I ever I did known, or unknown that you forgive me and I know you are in a better place now.