When my mom passed away, people often told me that she would "always be with me" and would never be too far away. I loved the sentiment and was always grateful to those who expressed it, but I honestly wasn't sure if it was true. I believed that my mom was in heaven--I just wasn't sure what that meant. Do people in heaven have constant access to the people they love? Do they see everything? Can they watch over us at all times, or is that privilege reserved for special occasions such as weddings, the births of our children, and especially difficult trials? I always felt that my mom would be with me for milestone events, but I wasn't sure how often she would be by my side during the dailiness of life.
Since becoming a mother myself, I've become more certain that my mom is aware of me and is probably nearby much more often than I realize. I always knew that she loved me when she was alive; but now that I am a mother, I realize for the first time just how much she must have loved me. It's amazing to think that she must've loved me--imperfect, flawed me!--with the same intensity that I love my precious Noah. And just as I would never leave Noah behind, I know she would never leave me behind either.
This past winter, we were staying at my in-laws' ski cabin in Idaho when Noah started screaming in the night. I usually ignore his fussing when I can tell he is just going to settle back to sleep, but this was a different kind of crying. I could tell he was terrified, most likely because he was in a new environment and was confused and didn't know where his parents were. I ran to him, picked up his quivering body, and held him close. He was sobbing and clinging to me. As I shushed him and calmed him, I kept whispering, "I will always be here, Noah. You don't have to be afraid. I will always be here."
As I said those words, a thought came to my mind: "How can I really promise that? What if I were to unexpectedly die in a car accident? Can I really promise him that I will always be here?" And just as quickly as the first thought had come to me, another followed: "YES. You are his mother. Your role in his life is eternal. Whether you are here or in the afterlife, you will always be his mother, and you will always be allowed to be with him." I felt such peace. I felt like this was a message from my Father in Heaven about the eternal nature of families, and since that night, I no longer doubt that my mom is with me when I need her, just as she would be if she were still living.
I think of her so often. I mentioned in my last blog post that I recently got very ill from a medication I was taking, and through those rather terrible couple of days, I kept thinking about my mom. She was so sick for so many years, and she had to take countless medications that affected her physically and emotionally, and yet she somehow continued to mother us with love through every day. I remember her telling me that when she was only 35 years old and in the midst of her first round of chemotherapy and throwing up much of the day, my then three-year-old little sister would come into the bathroom and say, “When you’re done frowing up, Mommy, can you play a game with me?”
That story absolutely breaks my heart, and it makes me want to go back in time and help my mom. I want to make dinner, clean her house, and take care of her kiddos for a few hours. Thank goodness she had so much support from my dad, my aunts, my grandparents, and our church community. She couldn't have made it through without them.
That story also makes me feel something a little unexpected: It makes me feel grateful. It makes me appreciate my life and my health. It makes me appreciate normal. Sometimes I really--and I mean really--hate cleaning my house, doing laundry, and making meals, but having the health and ability to do those normal, mundane things is such a blessing in its own way. I’m sure when my mom was in the hospital for three months recovering from her bone marrow transplant, she wanted nothing more than to go home and resume her everyday responsibilities as a mother—mundane cleaning and all! It’s good for me to remember that, and sometimes it does help me to adjust my attitude when I think about it. I turn on some music and dance around the kitchen a little as I'm doing dishes and notice how healthy and strong I feel. I am so grateful for my health, and I hope I never lose it.
This is the photo of my mom that I have framed in Noah's room. I tell him that Grandma Sally is in heaven, and she is watching over us. When Noah was born, he had a birthmark on his forehead. Some people call those birthmarks "angel kisses," which always makes me think of my mom. If there was an angel in heaven kissing Noah on the forehead before he came to earth, I'm sure it was my mother.
I hope there are beautiful sunsets there in heaven, and I hope my mom knows how much I love her and miss her on her birthday and every day. I'm grateful for the knowledge that she was not just my mother for 19 years--but will be my mother forever and always.