Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Missing Mom

Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of my mom's death. I spent it helping out at a funeral. I didn't know if that was going to be okay. It totally was. It was a good thing to do. I stand in a room full of mourners now and I look around and I know, "I am one of them." I am not separate or apart. I have been there. I understand. 

It was a good day to remember my mom, the kindnesses of others during that time, and to take the morning to pay it forward. 

In remembering her, in thinking about this somber anniversary, I had two small breakthroughs. One will sound dumb to you, but it told me some interesting things about me. Yesterday would have normally been a day where I would decide I had an excuse to overindulge in either food or shopping. "This is a sad anniversary. I think I'll eat a bunch of crud." Or "This is a sad anniversary. I'll buy new shoes to cheer me up." But I didn't have time to do that. Because I was busy helping others. And it felt better than new shoes or pigging out would have. And just like that, in a rough moment, I walked away from two emotional crutches I've leaned on heavily in the past. It wasn't even conscious; those things just didn't matter as much as the other things that needed doing.

I had another realization, too. I wondered what my mom would have thought about my big announcement on Monday. My dad would have been busting buttons and telling everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, that his daughter has an agent, that she's a writer, etc and so on. But my mom wouldn't have. She would smiled and rubbed my arm. And if I said, "I learned how to make bread," she would have smiled and rubbed my arm. And if I said, "I made honor roll," she would have smiled and rubbed my arm. Because it was all the same to her. In a good way. She was not more proud of me when I did more impressive things. She just loved me, whatever level I was at. "Mom, I won the Nobel Prize in Literature." She'd still just smile and rub my arm.

I keep a bookmark in my scriptures with her picture and obituary on it. James stole the one I used to keep upstairs. I read it to him, and we talked about her and shared a couple of memories. The conversation wandered to memories of other things. He wanted to know the funniest thing he'd ever done. He wanted to know about the time he was really sick when he was little. And so on.

It was good to talk about stories from our family. It was good to reminisce and remind us both of where and who we came from. I like that something little every day can become part of my story. I believe so much that our stories matter, that when we share them we grow closer. Stories connect us. 

I used to run a scholarship competition for 8th graders. I organized it for a simple reason. Yes, it gave them experience in essay writing and resume writing and interviewing. But more importantly, it taught them that the winner wasn't the kid with best grades; it was the kid who could tell their story best. That's who the judges connected to and awarded a scholarship to, every single time.

I know you've heard about the Story at Home Conference March 9-10. The info has been floating all over the internets lately. Check it out. It's sponsored by Family Search and Cherish Bound. I'd look hard at the schedule; there are so many great storytelling tracks, for people who think they aren't born storytellers. Guys, it's cool. Super cool.



Becca said...

Love love love. When The Big Anniversary comes, I feel anxious - the HUGE need to "introduce" my kids to my mom. And now, as the years get longer, I like to laugh at silly things I do or say and tell them, "That was me channeling my mother. That was exactly what she would have done right then." And then she doesn't feel so far away - she's right here inside me.

Kazzy said...

I just have warm squishy feelings toward you right now and want to give you a hug, as much to comfort you as to soak in some of your strength.

Kazzy said...

OK, Bec, now I want to hug you too. sigh...

Donna K. Weaver said...

Lovely post, Melanie. I'm glad you found another comfort. I've always like a quote attributed to President Kimball: If you don't like your lot in life, build a service station on it.

Andrew & Sarah Clawson said...

Loved this post. Glad that you were able to pay it forward.. and be in a place to help others. You made me smile about the arm rubbing- THAT is exactly how I remember her! I'm smiling! I feel so honored that I got to know your parents, and through them, you! xoxoxo

Barbaloot said...

Next time I feel the need to indulge in food cuz it's a crummy day, I'm going to look for opportunities to serve. Thanks for learning that and passing it on.

Karen Peterson said...

This was a beautiful post, Melanie. I'm fortunate enough to have my mother around and this just made me want to drive to her house and give her a hug.

And I really want to go to Storytellers, but I'm not so sure it's in the cards. Oh well.

wendy said...

oh my.....sorry, you have me in BIG tears right now
Perhaps, because it is only 13 months since I lost my son. (seems like an eternity ago...and yet, just yesterday)
I wonder how I will feel in 5 years.
I LOVED LOVED LOVED the part, that no matter what you did, you mom, would just rub your arm..and say good job.
simple gesture...yet so full of love
for simple things, she did not NEED BIG things from you
your simple accomplishments
any move forward
things that made YOU feel happy and accomplished
were good enough for her
as a mom....I sooooo Get That.

you did a great thing today by providing SERVICE on this day.
what better way could there be to honor your mom
she....would rub your arm and say
good job daughter

oh my

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

Becca and Kazzy's comments just added to the, as Kazzy put, "warm squishy feelings." I think one of the things your Mom would smile and rub your arm about is the awesome women you have supporting you.

It's a wondrous thing, those changes in perspective - the way they slip in without you even realizing at first. So glad you're see and appreciating the gifts you're being given, it's an amazing feeling.

Charlotte said...

I need to remember this next time I feel like relying on my crutches to get through emotional times. I always forget that service is better than OD-ing on chocolate.

Linda said...

Love you!!!!

meradeth said...

Lovely post. It always does help to reach out to others--it never ceases to amaze me how much that ends up helping me more than anything.

And because I haven't had a chance yet, a big congrats on your agent! :)

L.T. Elliot said...

I love hearing posts about your parents. They seem to me like people I would have very much liked. Your mom--well, I envy you having had her. What a woman, to be able to celebrate every accomplishment with satisfaction and with the calm assurance that she always knew you could do it.

So glad for you for that day of peace. So proud of you for being someone else's shoulder. So happy for you for so much.

Maggie said...

Awesome post about your mother and how you spent the anniversary. And now I have to go read this news of yours!