For the Daughters of Mothers

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By Lisa Southard

My mom was not perfect by any means. In fact, many times she drove me crazy, but today, I would give anything for her to be dancing on my last damn nerve just one more time.

My mom was my best friend, and she died. I fully realize not everyone considers their mom to be their best friend. Some women may have had a horrible relationship with their mother: abusive, hurtful or non-nurturing. Some may not know who their mother is. Losing my mom has been the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced.

My parents divorced when I was 11. Mom was blindsided and devastated, because my father was the love of her life and our family was her world. She struggled to provide as a single parent and eventually she went back to school to become a nurse. Her heartbreak festered into bitterness and resentment for the betrayal she experienced, alongside the neverending struggles of raising two children alone. As a young teen, I adopted a worldview that mirrored my mother’s. Later, as a young adult, I sadly experienced a similar heartbreak and betrayal, and ultimately found my need for Jesus, and for healing.

I began working hard to separate my identity from my mom’s. I viewed her control, insecurity and criticalness as negativity she was choosing, and I no longer wanted any part of it. I had very little compassion for the way she navigated life, and just wanted her to stop being so negative and bitter.

Then, years ago, I heard a young mom share her story of growing up. Her mother never wanted to be a mom, and subsequently, this young lady grew up feeling rejected. She decided she never wanted to become a mom either. As I listened to her story, I was struck with deep conviction. My mom may not have been perfect, but there was not a day I didn’t know she loved me. In that moment, I knew I had to tell my mom how grateful I was for her. I had to speak the words.

Eventually, I got mom on the phone and told her about the speaker. I thanked her for being the best mom she knew how to be. I thanked her for loving me well. I expressed gratitude for knowing I was loved. Tearfully, I apologized for every way I’d ever made her feel like she was not good enough. I apologized for acting ungrateful and critical. I asked forgiveness for making her feel like she wasn’t doing a good job as a mom.

Silence.

When my mom finally spoke, she said she’d always thought I’d say something like this to her one day. She’d just imagined it would be on her death bed. She also felt like something had “lifted off” her. She was so grateful for my words and thanked me, over and over again.

I’d spent years harping at Mom to seek healing from feeling insignificant and critical. I realized that all those years, I’d held a key to unlocking my mom’s prison. God used my spoken words of gratitude to set her free.

Over the next couple of years, my mom’s behavior didn’t really change all that much. What changed, was my heart for her. I’d always loved her, but now I had a divine measure of God’s heart, compassion and patience for my mama. I had the privilege of loving my mom exactly where she was. This was an incredible gift for both of us. Love significantly marked the last year of her life. At the time, though, we did not know it was her last year.

Mom had been dealing with health problems for many years. Even though she was a nurse, she didn’t always make the best patient. She wasn’t keen on diabetes management guidelines and didn’t want anyone telling her what she should or should not eat. Eventually, this took a significant toll on her health.

She began dialysis, and stayed in our guest room so I could help care for her. As she sat at my kitchen table one morning, she looked at me and said, “Honey, I am just so sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

I did then what I always did: I gave her the pep talk, reminding her she was getting stronger and that everything was going to be okay.

Later that afternoon, I woke her and my two-year-old son from their naps. Sitting on the edge of her bed, Mom was very weak and her breathing was extremely laboured. I called 9-1-1. Paramedics arrived and rushed her to the hospital. Upon our arrival, my brother and I were ushered into her room. Mom was alert, on oxygen, but struggling to breathe. Doctors explained they needed to intubate to establish an airway. She nodded that she understood, we kissed her and left the room for the procedure.

Too quickly, a nurse came to us and delivered devastating news: During the intubation, Mom had gone into cardiac arrest. They performed CPR, but this was a catastrophic event. She was unconscious and on a respirator. We understood she was not going to wake up.

My brother and I also knew our mother never wanted to be on life support, so we called family members to come say their goodbyes. Telling a doctor to turn off the machine keeping your mother alive, is beyond awful. Those were the hardest words I ever had to utter.

Family circled her bed, wept and kissed her lifeless body goodbye. One by one, everyone left the room. I stood there staring at her face, caressing her hands, kissing her cheeks and weeping. I laid on the bed with her, crying out to God, begging, pleading, praying. I knew this was the last time I would see my mama and I could not bring myself to leave. It felt unbearable.

Walking away, knowing it was the last time I would ever see my mom, was brutal. Those were the hardest steps I ever had to take.

I only had one mama, and now that she’s gone, she’s gone.

As a motherless daughter, I tenderly offer this: by the mere fact that our mother gave us life, she is worthy of gratitude. Our mothers did not have to choose life for us and yet they did.

Saying thank you, changed my heart towards my mother. Do you have a mother you need to thank for giving you life this year? Even if it’s the only thing she gave you?

I’m so grateful I did.

_________________________

About Lisa:

I’m a wife, mom to an incredible man-child, and lover of people, especially women and children! I love Jesus, and living life, advocating and helping others. Feeding people, be it with food, words of compassion and understanding, or big hugs is my love language! I’m a reluctant writer, resurrected dreamer, and now navigating life unapologetically in the fullness of who God created me to be.

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