My mother died from cancer four years ago, but I find her sprit when I love and care for others.
My mom left behind a very precious gift that I have learned to love with all my heart. Since her death, I have been raising my youngest sister, whose father died when she was an infant. She was a wild-eyed wisp of a nine year old when I became her guardian. At the age of 26, I was barely able to manage my checkbook, much less a household.
Those first months were so difficult that when I think back on them later, it’s hard to remember how I survived them at all. I spent my days fighting grief so heavy that knocked me to my knees. During the sleepless nights, I tried to answer a child’s questions that have boggled theologians for centuries: “Why would God take away a little girl’s mom and dad? Why would God want me to be sad?”
More mornings than I can count, I would have never gotten out of bed if I didn’t have to pack lunches for a girl who seemed so much braver than me, because she got up and dressed herself for school. And when I tried to comfort her during those long, painful nights, when I told her that our mother’s one hope is to see her children love and live life fully, I partially convinced myself in the process.
I never figured out why life was created with suffering, but I did manage to learn to stock a fridge with food, and turn the school forms in on time. Attending parent-teacher meetings and carpooling the volleyball girls to practice seems more normal than extraordinary these days. I held a job, never forgot to put on shoes for work, and managed to fall in love and marry.
I now feel closer to my mother in moments of happiness and love than in moments of despair and pain. Everyone who knew my mom approached me after my wedding last fall to tell me that they felt her radiating presence during the ceremony. As I watched my now teenaged sister get dressed to attend her first high school homecoming dance, standing taller than me even without her shoes on, I knew my mom was weeping with pride and awe right along with me.
I miss my mother ever day, and as the holidays approach, my heart throbs and my arms ache to give her a hug. I’ll always mourn her death, and wish she were here. But she has left me to honor her life by living my own the best I can. And I know that when I reach out in love to my family, my spouse, my friends and my community, she reaches out to me. This, I believe.
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