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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Valentine

And after her mother died

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.

-Lao Tzu

Aretha Franklin died last year. Her songs set the soundtrack for many through the years. I enjoy reading biographies. Learning a person’s journey is such an important component of appreciating where they currently are in life. In Ms. Franklin’s bio, they gave a description of her early days and then noted “and after her mother died”. Reading this I knew that her life took a tremendous shift. The foundation of your life changes after the death of a loving parent, no matter how old you are.

I had my mom for most of my adult life. She was here to see all of her grandchildren born, graduations, weddings and other life achievements. My mom suffered from bipolar disease so some periods of time with her were tumultuous and some taciturn. Even in the times when she wasn’t loving, I knew that she loved me. In those times, she taught me how to distance myself from destructive situations without totally severing myself from certain people. I am now more educated about how mental health impacts people, but then, I was very critical of her behavior. Why couldn’t she be like everyone else’s mom? In my young mind, the drinking and poor judgments were character flaws that could be remedied by better decision making.

Now that ten years have passed, I am still perplexed about the things I have kept that belonged to her. I have a bag with several of her wigs. In certain states, you can’t donate wigs like you do clothes. My mom started losing her hair in her 30’s. Back then, everyone was wearing wigs so it wasn’t unusual, but why am I holding on to them?

Sidenote: It is very sobering to know that after you leave this life, your things get divided among your family or donated to strangers.

Back to the post mom shift – the change is very real. There is an emptiness that no one can love away. My mother’s mother died from tuberculosis when she was a young girl. That experience stayed with her and if I had a dollar for every time I heard her say “The next minute is not promised to us” I would surely be rich. It kept us focused on the here and now. We took extra time to greet each other coming and going…even when we were just running to the store and expected to return in a few minutes, or going next door to visit with our neighbors.

This time of year makes me grateful for the time and the pictures she took to capture the memories. We are used to taking pictures of our moments because our camera is in our phone. My mom was a Polaroid fan. I doubt anyone came to our house that we don’t have a picture of. It didn’t have to be any special occasion. You were visiting – smile for the picture.

I am happy she is no longer concerned about the cares of this world. My motive in missing her is strictly selfish. When you get right down to it, we never grow out of wanting someone to care about us. I can image my mommy saying “Stephanie, are you alright?” “No mom, I’m not alright, but I know that you are so I take great comfort in that.” As we go through our normal days, let’s take a little time to be thankful for our current space and time.

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