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Letters To My Mother: Letter Six

Updated: Jul 28, 2023

Dear Mom,

I recently stood in front of a crowd, with you next to my side, and proclaimed that when you told me about your diagnosis a couple of years ago, “I knew you would be teaching us a valuable lesson. If we pay attention, we are about to learn from you once again.” I am learning from you as you face death. I am an attentive student, listening with eager ears and swallowing every word of every conversation that we have. We can learn a lot from the dying. Though, I have learned so much from you throughout my life. The modeling and conversations and allowing your son to respectfully challenge your own thoughts and engage in meaningful dialogue. We don’t talk about superficial things. It often goes deeper, but this only happens when we are alone. When there isn’t the heaviness of entertaining a crowd.

Yesterday, we sat looking at your volumes of journals. You have told me for years that you wanted me to have all of your writing. This is important to me, as I hold your words, your experiences, your truth, and your pain close. I will admit, it took a lot not to break down when I knelt on the floor, you next to me in your wheelchair, and me holding it all in my hands. The words that hold your life. You said that many of your thoughts will be hard to hear, but as I have always said to you, “What do we have if not our truth?” I can handle your truth and I know there will be many experiences and thoughts that I may have to sit with for a while, and that is okay. I have no problem finding out more about my mother, even parts that may be difficult.

I started to think about what I carry that is yours.

I carry your eyes. The shape and size and the inquisitive look. Our eyes can show love and they can show anguish, and there are times when our eyes hold a similar glare. Our eyes see truth and filter out the bullshit that stands near. You have said I carry your Daddy’s eyes, along with his temperament, which is being patient until there is no choice not to be anymore.

I carry your face. You and I have talked about this many times after we have taken a picture together and looked at the photo. You will say, “Well hon, you certainly are your mother’s son. For better or worse, the older you get you look like your momma.” I am proud that I have taken on your features because we hold some of the same pain, the same darkness, caused by the same man.

I carry your stubbornness. Now, I often tease about your famous stubbornness, but be mindful that it is enduring because it also can be defined as determination and grit. That stubbornness has helped me become resilient over the years and endure many struggles so I have the ability to pick myself up, dust off my boots, and keep moving forward. It has also allowed me to put up walls when needed, though that is easier for a son to do than a mother at times.

It is true, I carry your depression and anxiety, and you carry mine. We are both very aware of the dark angels that come to greet us from time to time. They stand close, placing the heavy chains around our wrist and ankles, and make us look deep into our souls for what is causing the darkness to visit. It is something that I write about, talk about, and have accepted is apart of me. In your eighty-four years, you have accepted it as well, which allows us to share with one another when our mind crawls through the mud.

I carry many of your values. I may have gotten off course in my life, and that is okay, because I now realize that we all must drift off our path in order to experience all that life has to offer. However, my value system has always been sound, and has grown as I have tried to develop myself and continue on my own journey. One of the greatest experiences that you gave me as a child, which built a strong foundation, was helping you at the nursing home where you worked. To be around older people, especially people that are in their last stages of life, started to build a base of compassion and empathy. It also built a foundation of wanting to hear their spoken word and listen to stories. Our old people have so much wisdom to offer us. The respect you demanded from us for old people came naturally. I often have thought that what you did for us, keeping us near old people, sometimes pushing them in their wheelchairs, helping them take a sip of water, and simply listening to them, should be a required class in school for all young people. However, I was lucky enough to have a mother who knew that the school was not responsible for my upbringing so she took it upon herself to lay the groundwork.

I carry some of your weight on my shoulders. It is what good sons do for their mother.

I carry so much of you with me and I will always carry it all, for the remainder of my life, and do it with pride. At your celebration of life last weekend, when I stood up to say a few words, I spoke about your teachings and legacy. I mentioned how I do not have my own children, but I have hundreds upon hundreds that I have encountered through my work. All of my former students, from when I was a teacher and an administrator, will carry you with them as well , and without ever knowing it. I have included you in all of my teachings to them. Certainly, there was no set curriculum, but to me, most of the best teaching comes from life experiences, values, humility, and building sound integrity. My students now carry a part of you with them, and I am certain, they will place it on someone else’s back along the way to carry along with them. That is your legacy. It will be carried on in ways that none of us will ever know.

I carry your love. I always will.



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Unknown member
Aug 26, 2023

May your mother’s journey be peaceful and beautiful …knowing you are by her side.

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