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Lessons learned from my mother: from mental illness to cancer

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I was in the middle of moving/unpacking 1 husband, 2 kids, 1 dog and 9+ years of stuff last May (2013) when I got the news: the mother I lost to mental illness 32 years prior had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. I hadn’t seen her in 26 years, but knew in that moment that I needed to go see her one last time. As I was making flight arrangements, we had a flood/sewer back-up in our new basement. The next week our electric panel caught fire.
 
All I could do was just breathe. Cry. Talk. Sleep. Ask for help. Honor what my mind, body and spirit needed so I could heal, and learn the lessons I needed. And eventually get back to dealing with the rest.
 
I made it in time to say goodbye. She passed away the day after I left.  This is what I read at her service.
—-
Dear Mom
 
It’s so hard at times to know what to say. What to do. How to make things better. How to help.
So we try to muster up the right words. Find the right answers. Ask the right people.
And sometimes the answer is simply to do nothing.
To surrender the pain and invite in love and light and spirit.
 
I saw this in your eyes just two short weeks ago… its a memory and a lesson I’ll carry forever.
Because you never stopped fighting until you knew you’d be safe…. and I’m forever grateful I got to hug you and comfort you and say goodbye.
 
And while your spunk and passion didn’t always serve you….It’s what got you through.
So thank you Mom. For being strong and driven.
For always having dreams and hopes and visions.
To make things better. To create positive change. To release pain.
 
I know in my heart that these were your gifts….
Not everyone was able or ready to see and accept these gifts, including me…..
but I know they allowed you to find some pockets of light in your life…
To build a career and marry. To bring your two children into the world….
And then to keep going even when reality escaped you.
 
It dawned on me recently another time you truly surrendered.
Thank you for loving us enough to let us go too, Mom… so we stood a chance.
 
I could never fully process or grieve this loss until becoming a mother myself.
I now know that letting us go must have been one of the most painful things you ever did.
And the most loving.
 
And while many of us spend our lives seeking love, joy and purpose….
maybe our entire purpose is to simply choose to be loving and purposeful day in, day out.
To surrender to the journey, but to still show up and make a difference in whatever small way we can.
 
It’s a choice I made when I realized that there was nothing I could do to help you.
Tough choice for a child.
So I’d say hi when you’d call…(and yes sometimes it’d be years in between your calls)
I’d try unsuccessfully to find meaning or logic.
And then I’d hang up feeling all your pain.
I’d cry. I’d wonder why. I’d grieve.
And then I’d commit myself to honoring the life you gave me: finding the lessons and blessings in everything and everyone and doing my best.
 
And most people don’t understand… How could they?
But as I told you in our goodbyes…I know you did the best you could.
So did I Mom. So did all of us here.
Because we didn’t know what to say. Or what to do. Or how to make things better. Or how to help.
So we tried to muster up the right words. And ask the right people.
 
But now we’re surrendering too, Mom.
Surrendering your pain.
Surrendering your suffering.
Surrendering to light, love and grace as we release your burdens and purposefully carry on your gifts.
 
Goodbye Mom.
 
—–
Shari Beaudette, MBA. Certified EQ Assessor and Co-Author of the International Best-selling book: Finding Fulfillment in the Spiritual Age. Shari helps busy moms get more done with less stress through self-care, emotional intelligence and mindfulness over at SpaTimeLiving.com
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Comments
  • comment avatar Amber Johnson May 10, 2014

    I received notes from many women saying they could not write an essay about their favorite mom memories because of their complicated/estranged relationship from her. Your words are inspiring because, despite your own hardships, you were able to see beyond that.

  • comment avatar Maddie May 10, 2014

    This touched me so much. My own mom struggled with mental illness and it has been a difficult road to come to terms with who she is. Thank you.

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