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Posts Tagged ‘love’

As much as I talk about myself, I know I don’t always often tell people much about my past. I don’t usually get down to the nitty-gritty especially when it’s a sensitive topic. I think I feel especially sensitive about a lot of my past. So today’s post may be a bit unusual, but I’m drawn to write it out anyway.

Today marks the 19-year anniversary of a car accident that claimed the lives of my parents. I was 17, nearly 18, so this particular anniversary means more of my life has now been lived without my parents, than with them.

Here is the story of that day:

We were visiting University of North Carolina, Greensboro. (I had applied based in part on an areal view of the campus- all that green drew me in.) I’d been accepted and offered an academic scholarship, so we were going through the motions of making the final decision. But it had really been made, because without a scholarship, I knew we couldn’t afford college.

We had toured the campus with our separate groups (kids with kids, parents with parents) and then run into each other in the quad- when each of us were supposed to be listening to some lecture inside and instead decided to duck out and explore. This apple didn’t fall too far from the tree, I guess. We wandered around together, and all knew it was the right place. We went out to dinner to celebrate.

On the way back from dinner, after getting off the interstate, my dad made a wrong turn at a confusing intersection. He incorrectly turned across another lane exiting from the highway. Our car was broadsided by the rig of a tractor-trailer. I remember seeing the headlights and then waking up with a blooming Forsythia coming in my window. The car had been catapulted across the road and down an embankment.

When emergency personnel arrived, they asked me to wiggle my fingers and toes. Neither of my parents were conscious. My mother died in the car. I remember the EMT checking her pulse and speaking with someone outside the car, saying she had died. I don’t think they were going to tell me. I started to scream and cry. It just couldn’t be happening! How could this be happening? (I still wonder sometimes.)

My dad and I were transported to a local hospital. He died within a couple of hours. I was badly injured but was able to give the emergency phone number that had been drilled into me since I was a little kid (our neighbors, who were also my parents best friends.) My brother and sister were at home in Pennsylvania. Someone had to tell them what had happened. My sister was 19, my brother 22.

It took a long time to really absorb that they had died. I was in denial for a long time, a really long time- with occasional breakdowns in between. I made it look like I was moving on. Appearances were very important to me back then. Everyone else’s life went on and I felt like mine had been irreparably broken. After 6 months people stopped asking how I was- so I figured I was supposed to be ok by then. I didn’t want people to know I wasn’t ok. I didn’t want them to think there was something wrong with me, that I wasn’t better yet. And I wasn’t anywhere even close to better. I was broken.

It took years to get my life on the inside shaped like a life I wanted to live. Even after I met and married my husband, I hadn’t healed completely. But when my daughter was born, something inside me shifted. I realized the love I felt for her, how powerful it was. I knew in a way no one could have explained that love was more powerful than anything else- even death.

Becoming a wife with my parents absent, becoming a mother without my mom around to help- these were bigger challenges than I knew going in. I still find it hard to explain sometimes when people tell us we should get away for the weekend & leave the kids with our parents. (Jim’s mom died shortly after we were married.)

Every day is not a struggle like it once was. But some days, and some milestones, are hard- even after all these years.

What I am most grateful for within this experience is that I know better than to let issues with friends go unresolved, thinking to take care of it later. I don’t wait for the right time to apologize. And although I do wonder and worry sometimes about what people think, I know there isn’t enough time to please everyone- so I listen to my heart.

I’m glad to have found my heart again. I’m glad it wasn’t broken beyond repair. I’m amazed at how much love is birthed with such a tiny baby. And I’m more than grateful to understand the gift I’ve received.

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When I was 17 (and she was 46) my mother died suddenly. (My father died the next day.) It was one of the most difficult times of my life. I still choke up, just thinking about it. And I still cry and mourn my loss.

When I got married, it was really tough. I had friends who loved me like family and helped fill the gap for me.

But when I got pregnant, nothing prepared me for how sharp the pain would be. I had done my best to grieve over the years and I was surprised by how raw it still felt. I was angry too, that my joyful pregnancy was somewhat dulled with this nagging ache. I thought I had worked through all this before! I didn’t want to hurt anymore. I didn’t want to feel it.

Partly it was my surprise- the grief sneaked up on me. I thought it was behind me. It had been almost 13 years and I had become very independent. I learned how to rely on myself. And I couldn’t rely on myself to hold it together now. Now I just wanted my mom.

I wanted to ask all the questions I had never thought to ask: about her pregnancy with me, her labor, parenting. (A typical teen, I thought I knew everything then- I’d never asked.) I wonder now what it might be like to call my mother and talk about my wonderful children.

Being a motherless daughter (and finding Hope Edelman’s book) shaped much of my adult life. And being a motherless mother shapes who I am as a mother. In some ways I am more present, because I value every moment like it might be the last. But living on that edge (and doubting the future) is precarious and I’ve chosen to consciously move from there to more solid ground.

As a motherless mother, I’ve learned to adapt. I learned so much about opening to love through mothering. I didn’t know how much of my self I had closed off until my daughters began to open me up. It doesn’t hurt to love. It hurts to resist love.

I’m no longer aching, but I will continue to grieve- probably for the rest of my life. And when I get choked up I allow the tears, and I allow myself to love.

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Today I remember again a truth of parenting consciously.

Before you became a parent, before you were pregnant, even before you were born, you chose the lessons you wanted to experience in this lifetime, just as your children did. As you selected the lessons, you chose the parents that would best suit the experience you were trying to create, just like your children did. Your parents were perfect: because they taught you through experience of what to do, and what not to do, and more, exactly what you needed to learn and experience to be just where you are today.

And your children chose you in the same way, for the same purpose. Your job is to be perfectbut not the way you think of perfect.

You are perfect when you are exactly who you really are. Your children chose you because of your unique imperfections, so now is not the time to pretend they are not there. Certainly, you still need to “be all you can be” but not if it isn’t real. Your kids know when you’re lying. They can still feel the difference between truth and a lie, and your job is to be truthful in expressing yourself in a way your child can understand.

I cried yesterday. A friend died recently and I’m hurting. I don’t have to pretend everything is ok, because my kids will know it’s not true. I can help them feel secure with their feelings by honoring mine. I also create security by avoiding incongruity in my feelings, words and actions.

They don’t have to wonder what I’m feeling and thinking if I can find words to express it to them gently. And by sharing with them, I offer an opportunity for them to act with compassion, giving love, as I openly receive what they freely offer. It is so beautiful to be part of this.

So go out there and be perfect- the perfect, authentic you that your children signed up for. Just remember they signed up for the you “in progress” so don’t forget to progress, too.

Happy journey to you.

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