I can’t help but wonder how different I would’ve been had my mother not died when I was nine; one forever-lasting effect is I never presume a child has both parents when I meet him for the first time.
Sometime after Mama’s death, I remember having my hair cut. It was my first visit to this salon and I didn’t know the stylist. In an attempt to get to know me, she asked about my parents, specifically what my parents did for a living. Because it’s not “normal” for a nine-year-old not to have her mother, and because I didn’t want to make her uncomfortable for asking, somehow I circumvented her question, withholding the sensitive minefield surrounding my mom’s battle with cancer. To answer would have reduced me to puddles.
It was not until college that I could talk about Mama without crying. Though I’ll never know for sure, I’m convinced my desire to insulate others from the pain of my loss led to an unhealthy pattern of people pleasing and peace keeping. During a Beth Moore Bible study a few years ago, I learned the distinction between peace keeping and peace making–the latter involving true reconciliation and resolution, whereas the former addressed issues only superficially.
Now, I’m a recovering people pleaser having learned that “being nice” isn’t always the best solution to conflict.
You’d think I could remember more about Mama, but aside from a few images captured in photograph, there are less than a dozen concrete vignettes I can recall. They aren’t necessarily “happy” memories, but I cling to them with a white-knuckled grip–the time she looked like royalty to me, dressed in a purple formal, a fancy up-do and lots of sparkly jewelry…when she shared the “facts of life” with me and my sister…the time she boiled shrimp and how much I hated the smell and wouldn’t try them…when I poured milk in my peas so I wouldn’t have to eat them, but she made me anyway (!)…the fiesty-but-love-filled relationship she had with her sister…and other remembrances I should probably keep to myself….
The oddest thing I hold dear, however, are my report cards she signed; her scrawled signature is recognizable from a mile away. When I hold those cards in my hand, I’m again connected to her…I’m touching something I know she touched. I don’t have anything else written by her–no cards or letters–if those ever existed, I wasn’t smart enough in my youth to understand I needed to keep them, and I guess no one else thought to, either.
I suppose all this is one of the reasons I blog; in some way, it’s capturing a “piece” of me, a way for my children to know me in a way they wouldn’t otherwise. It’s allowing them a portal to my thoughts, perhaps a chance for them to see through my eyes how I see them at times.
Discovering all this about me, is it any wonder why I’m compelled to champion The Mother Letter Project?! If TMLP is new to you, it’s the brainchild of Seth Haines, husband to Amber and father to three sons. After a visit to a village in Africa, Seth was forever changed; one evidence was his family agreed to create Christmas presents for one another last year and to donate what they would’ve spent to that village. Seth’s gift to Amber was The Mother Letter Project blog, a collection of reader-submitted “open letters” from mothers to mothers.
If you didn’t know about TMLP then or didn’t submit one of the 600 letters for the Christmas edition, guess what? Based on interest and feedback, Seth and Amber are publishing a MLP Mother’s Day Edition! This time, there’s an added bonus: readers are challenged not only write a letter but also to pledge their financial support to Compassion International’s Malaria Intervention fund. The MLP site has more details, but please I’m asking…strongly encouraging you…to write a letter and make a contribution. In so doing, mothers’ lives will be changed by your words, and lives will be rescued from your generosity.
And speaking now as a daughter who desperately misses her mother, who would relish her written words of wisdom or humor or struggle or inspiration–this isn’t just about Amber and Seth, it’s not just about nameless faces on a continent who need your rescue…it’s about preserving your heart in written form, providing your children a window to your soul, as you share your own mother story.
It’s the one that matters most to them.