I try very hard to live with no regrets in my life. I work hard at communicating with the people I love and telling them that I am proud of them and I love them. There will always be 10%s but I work hard at seeing the 90%.
My Mom and I never had a perfect relationship. But is any relationship perfect? We had a rough start. My Mom got pregnant with me at 16 years old. My Dad raised me in the early seventies. My Mom remarried twice, had a family of her own and I only saw her on holidays. I always wanted to be closer to my Mom but it was like we never knew how to be close. When I was pregnant with our first child I knew I needed to talk to my Mom about my feelings. I was 31 years old and I had never had a real conversation with my Mom. I was so worried I would bring some of my unfinished “10%” feelings into my own motherhood role. I really did want to be closer to this woman I felt I hardly knew.
I invited her for a visit and a walk. I was very nervous as we started walking and I told her that my hope for this walk was to be closer to her. I wanted to get to know this woman and hear her side, something I had never heard. We walked for hours. For the first time in my life, I was having a real conversation with my Mom. She told me stories of hard it was to leave me, her fears when she lost her leg in a motorcycle accident and her journey with breast cancer. We laughed, we cried, we fought and we bonded. I will never forget that walk.
Shortly after, she sent me a letter saying she would try hard to be my Mom, but to be patient because she really didn’t know how to be. She wrote she would give as much as she could but didn’t know how much that would be. I wrote back promising her that I would try not to have unrealistic expectations. I would meet her where she was at, not where I wished she would be. I would see her through my 90% lens. It was the start of a much closer relationship. It wasn’t always easy being her daughter… but sometimes it wasn’t easy being my Mom either.
This summer was the best. I have never felt so close to my Mom. Our visits were full of love and laughter. Watching all of her amazing grandchildren in her yard made her the “happiest woman in the world”. Her grandchildren all call her “Umma”. I never left our visits without a hug, I love you and she ALWAYS said, “You know I am very proud of you right?” I left our last fun summer visit with a bag full of unripe tomatoes from her garden and I feeling like I was finally connecting with my Mom like I always prayed I would.
A week after our last summer visit my beautiful Mom died suddenly. She was only 59 years old.
There are layers of lessons I could write about. A lesson in communication and how important it is to be brave enough to say what we need to say to those we love. And a lesson in expectations. Sometimes we expect a relationship to be how we want it to be; in the meantime, we miss out on all the 90%s. A lesson in forgiveness. I wrote in my book that “My Mom taught me forgiveness. Life is too short to carry around the burdens that do not bless your life or the life of others”. Every time I came home from our visits this summer I would say “Wow that is the best visit I have ever had”. Thank God for those peaceful happy memories.
I went my Mom’s funeral feeling that nothing was left unsaid. I came home to her unripe tomatoes. My girlfriend said “If I could choose the way I might leave this world and my loved ones, it would be with nothing left unsaid and tomatoes ripening on the counter.”