It’s been 3 weeks since my mom passed away. I have been deeply introspective, remembering her and the gift of having her as my mom. I’ve been even more in tune with beauty around me- sunsets like I’ve never seen before, the radiant glow of the moon, light bursting from clouds in the most touching way, even a visit from a beautiful grasshopper…signs of her presence everywhere.
With tomorrow being my daughter’s first birthday I felt called to write; Honoring my mom on my daughter’s special day. The two of them shared a bond that to witness it you could see the twinkle in not only my daughter’s eyes but my mom’s too. Her only granddaughter brought her the biggest joy this last year.
Anyone who is going through a long-term, chronic illness, like my mom had, is a warrior in my eyes. Those who may have discovered a late stage condition and going through the fight are warriors. All my sisters around the world going through infertility challenges are warriors. I am an IVF warrior. Interestingly enough my high school mascot was even a Warrior- an Arapahoe Indian Warrior. YES. I believe in signs and they are here to guide us.
What my mom went through in her struggle to breathe is something I wish for no one to have to endure. The simple act of breathing became her biggest challenge. She described this moment-to-moment essential part of life much like “breathing through a straw.” In her early 60’s she was diagnosed with bronchiectasis and then at the age of 70 a test confirmed a rare gene linked to cystic fibrosis. The amount of medications and breathing treatments she had on a daily basis is just more than most can imagine.
As I reflect on the lessons my mom left me, (and she’s still teaching me every day), I feel full of gratitude for the incredible person she was and how I still feel her presence guiding me as I move forward in life.
One of the things I know my mom had a hand in is the strength she passed down to me. Being the example of a strong woman is probably one of the single, biggest gifts a mother can give her children. I know I got much of my strength from her. Fortunately I was able to tell her how much I admired her…how much she was loved. Not everyone gets the chance to do that. Somehow I was able to stand strong and give her eulogy at her memorial service and I couldn’t have felt prouder standing at the pulpit, with my husband by my side and honor my mom as her only daughter. One of the stories I shared was about a Christmas gift I gave her in 1997. It was a blank journal in which I asked her to share anything- favorite things, what she’d learned, and to one day give it back to me. She wrote an entry and it was dated on my 21st birthday. We chuckled as she wrote only 1 entry, but the message she wrote, (four pages in all) can apply to anyone at any stage of life.
“If there is one thought I would share it is –
It’s not what happens to you in life- it’s how you deal with it.
You have a lot of inner strength – use that to guide you.
Take responsibility for your own life.
No one can do to you what you won’t let them.
Be your own person but be open to learning from each new experience.
Life is full of change, growth and new insights!
Remember that happiness comes from within.
What is most valuable is not connected to material things. Your good name, feeling proud of the way you live your life, valuing friendships of those who are important to you – this is what brings you peace and contentment.
Life can be simple or complicated- I choose to keep it simple- and fulfilling!”
How thankful I am to have found this journal in her closet before she passed away. I read it with her and believe that was a gift from above. She lived a very fulfilled life and was the best example of that for me. One of the things that stands out most on how I benefited from having a mom like her is the way she handled her illness. Her attitude of positivity, perseverance, and even some acceptance when one is faced with a challenge was truly admirable; She dealt with it the way a warrior would.
In thinking about my IVF journey, I recall times where I could have let fear take over. It would have been easy to surrender to a limiting belief mindset, but I chose not to. I stayed focused on the outcome I envisioned and knew what was waiting for me. I did not lose hope on our one viable embryo; Now that sweet miracle of ours turns one tomorrow.
There is change in the air- the leaves turning color, the weather turning cooler, celebrating my daughter’s first year of life, and starting a new chapter of life “without” my mom. I put “without” in quotes because I know deep down that she is always WITH me; It’s just a different kind of presence. Not the physical kind.
There is so much of my mom’s gifts left to discover. I treasure the books she inscribed to me with personal, heartfelt love notes. As I look back these books connect the dots in my life- different stages growing from childhood to adulthood. Especially now with my daughter, she will continue to be a guiding presence in my life. I hear her voice saying, “Livy has part of me in her.” My mom does carry on in my daughter and she lives on in me. A true warrior who lives on forever in the hearts of all who loved her.