Saturday, May 7, 2016

A mother's legacy

My mom would be so mad if she saw how many times I'm going to refer to her as mother in this post.

My mother once told me that a sign of a great leader is that the leader's work continues and people continue to succeed, even when the leader is gone. My dad reiterated that to me years later, as I was leaving college. I think about that bit of advice almost daily, especially in my job.

I'm not a mother. I'm not sure if I will ever get that opportunity. Only time and God will tell. But I've been thinking about motherhood a lot lately. My best friend had her first child this year. She lost her own mom, like I did, years ago. I was invited to the hospital to wait for her little one's arrival. I can't tell you the feelings that took over me as I stood in the hospital room, holding my friend's little girl for the first time. I was in complete awe. I was so proud of my friend and her husband, calm and collected, smiling and laughing as they introduced the baby to all the people that loved her even before she was born. It was such a happy moment.

I started thinking about my nieces and nephew, how much they had grown, how quickly time had passed. And as I drove home, I thought about my brother and my sister. How did they do it? How did they handle careers, kids, relationships....anything, without our mom? 

I wondered how long my friend's family would stay in that room with her. I wondered how long the baby would sleep that first night. I wondered what it felt like to be a mother. And in an instant, I was overcome with grief. My heart ached, knowing that my friend's mom couldn't be there. I wondered how she'd do it.

She just... did. I've watched her become an incredible mom over the past months. I've listened to the stories, seen the pictures, and actually cried real tears when they sent me the video of their baby eating solid food for the first time. Who doesn't cry at that?  I finally got to see them a few weeks ago. My friend wore that baby like a champ as we shopped, talked, and caught up. I thought many times, I'll never be able to be a mom like her.

I wonder if our moms thought about us becoming mothers? We were both young, but I assume it had crossed their minds. I wonder if they were nervous or scared for us? What I do know is they probably both expected to be here for these moments. That may be what hurts the most, still, after all these years.

But my best friend, she's incredibly strong, and despite the sad moments, she really has owned motherhood. And she's simultaneously helped me stay sane as I've battled a difficult year without my own mom.

My friend is lucky. She had a great mom, just like I did. I'm not a mother, but I wonder if being a great mom is similar to what my mom told me about great leaders. Like somehow my friend, my brother, my sister, and even myself have managed to continue to grow after my mother died. We haven't been perfect. We haven't always made the right choices. But somehow, after 13 years being gone, I still feel her love and still hear her voice when I'm making decisions. And that's the part of her that I know I'll share with my kids if I ever become a mom. Not the times that she fed me ice-cream for dinner, yelled at me for no reason, or picked me up from school an hour late. Because let's be honest, she had her moments. But does any of that matter if I'm able to grow, succeed, treat people with decency and just live...even after she's gone?

I believe that you make a lot of choices in life that lead you different directions. Some are good and some are bad. My mother is not the  person responsible for my success or failure. But she did equip me to be able to make decisions on my own (good or bad) and held the promise of unconditional love, even when she couldn't show it. I feel like that is what counts, so I can forgive her in the long run for forcing me to eat meatloaf that caused me to throw up at the dinner table.

I've been wanting to hear from my mom the past six months, even knowing it's not possible. I miss her. Thankfully, I have my family and my friends that are like family to get me through the hard times. I bet she wondered how I would turn out, if she had messed me up royally. I hope she can see where I've been and where I'm going. I hope she can see how totally incredible my brother and sister are. I am just part of my mother's legacy.When I get really sad, or think about the bad times with her, instead of the good, I pull out the letters she sent me at camp in 2002 that remind me what a good mom she was and how much I was unconditionally loved.

An excerpt:

Carmen actually rode the horse today. I didn't stay for the lesson, but I guess everything went okay. She's not dead of anything. LOL. She said the horse was slobbery. 

We got Grandpa a pair of shorts today to mow his lawn and your dad is going to give him enough money to pay for his upper dentures.

Larry and Julia are going to St. Luis this weekend. The Royals play in St. Louis. I hope they beat St. Louis in their own stadium--that would be so awesome. 

Aunt Vickie went crazy when I told her you aren't allowed to call. The more I think about it, the sillier it seems t not let you call home. They could have designated times for doing that. If you decide to go next year, then we'll have to talk to someone about that. 

Time to turn in. Wish I had something interesting to tell you. You take care and don't drown yourself. Hurry up and come home. Okay?


Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there. You're doing a good job.

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