I believe that what Mama says, matters.
“Mama Always Says…”
That’s what I always say when I want to share Mom’s words of wisdom. As it turns out, that’s a lot more frequently than I ever knew. I didn’t realize how often I used that phrase until this past month. Now I’m learning that I’ve used it far too often. And I’m learning it all too well.
Wednesday marked one month since Mom said, “I love you.” That was the last thing she said to me – and I to her. I’ve reminded her countless times since then. She just can’t answer me anymore. But if she could answer I know what she’d say.
“I love you, Mama-Bear.” – “I love you too, Sallie.”
I can almost hear her. Almost. But almost isn’t quite enough.
Becuase I put so much stock into her words of wisdom, I now find myself in awkward situations. I’ll converse about some problem at work, with friends, or with my children and instinctively I’ll offer some of her words as advice. Without even thinking I hear it come out of my mouth…
“Well… Mama always says….”
Yes, Mom did offer the gems of advice following this repeated introduction. But that was then and now, well, it’s now. Mama doesn’t “say” anything anymore. Now, she “said” things.
So, several times a week, I find myself halfway though that same homey phrase when I seize up and literally choke on my words when I realize that what I really need to say is, “Well, Mama always said…” And it stops me stone-cold in my tracks to have to convert to the past tense when I say those words… that “Mama Always Says – I mean Said.”
It reminds me that she’s really gone; that I miss her with an anguish and intensity I never imagined, and that she’ll always be gone. Always. And always is a long, cold time.
We had our conflicts in the olden days, but that was in my arrogant, self-absorbed youth, when I was incapable of seeing my mother for who she really was. I could only see her as Mom, not as Shirley. But, thankfully, as I matured I developed a great respect for the amazing person she was. In time, she even told me secrets that I don’t think she ever planned to share. She became my best friend.
Thinking back on that transformation in our relationship, I’m stunned that I could ever be so selfish, or that she could be so forgiving. For both of those things to happen and to end up with the bond we had is nothing short of a miracle.
There’s a long list of things I’ll miss about my dear Mama-Bear, but I think what I’ll miss most of all is her unconditional love. She was my greatest supporter, my most devoted fan. No matter how thoughtless, stupid or irrational my actions, Shirley always believed in me. When I needed it, she believed enough for both of us.
When I was lost, she was my touchstone – when I was certain, she was my question mark. When I was on fire, she was my balm and when I was stumble-numb, she was my jolt. No matter how absurd the circumstances I could turn to her, not just for advice but for real wisdom, whether I realized it at the time or not.
So now, methodically, I trudge through my days, missing her desperately; wishing I had done more and asked less; freezing halfway through my sentences when I talk about what Mama used to say – and crying when I least expect it.
I cry because I was so lucky to have had her, but now I don’t. Then, I cry because there are others who were never blessed with a Shirley of their own. I cry because she was so wise, and because I may not be.
As the days, weeks – and now the months – go by, I’m learning that I miss her more every day. It isn’t getting easier. But, I know without any doubt that it will get better in time, if I just give it a chance.
At least that’s what Mama always… … said.
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