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.
Thank you so much, not only for supporting the project, but for speaking some truth about your life. These are the posts I love–the ones that, although about you, speak so personally.
This part of your story is beautiful. Thank you for sharing.
Robin! This is amazing.
I love you so much.
I know it was all over the place and way too long, but…I kinda-sorta
didn’t want to help it this time, ya know?
I am thankful most of all for TMLP because it brought you into my
life….that’s just the cherry on the icing on the sundae of all the
wonderful things about Seth’s initiative…. Plus, it’s not just blessing
you or me but THOUSANDS who hear this story.
Pass it on, lovie xo.
Somewhere in all the junk I’ve accumulated, there’s a letter my mother wrote to me when I turned 13. She brought the letter into my room and read it to me (through tears) and then gave it to me. I really need to find that letter and put it in a safe place. My mother is still with me but I’d rather know where it is now than wonder where it is later.
Thank you for sharing , My son’s father passed away shortly before he was born , I kept a box of his meager few belongings , i gaurded them and kept them safe , I wanted him to have things that belonged to his father.
I wanted to be able to foster memories of who he was.
I was horrified when My Aprtment building caught on fire and I lost everything save myself and my child.
I understand you I do.
Thank you again for sharing.
This was absolutely beautiful, Robin – you brought me to tears! I have so many thoughts swirling in my head now, but can’t seem to put a coherent sentence together 🙁 (I’ve actually been preoccupied lately with thinking about the whole mother/daughter relationship thing and why some have to live their lives w/o it, etc.)
I am thankful and grateful for every.single.moment that I have with my mom. I can’t imagine living a single day without her wisdom, her insight, her unconditional love – I have been immeasurably blessed.
I’ll definitely check out TMLP. Thank you for sharing this story.
“…because I didn’t want to make her uncomfortable for asking…”
This speaks incredible volumes about your strength of character, specifically your degree of empathy. Your mother’s influence clearly took root so early in you.
“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.”
I often think in terms of legacy, of what those left behind have to hold onto after we’re gone. My words and images always have been, and always will be, my legacy. As they are for you. One of the reasons why so many simply can’t get enough when you share of yourself in this way.
I didn’t lose my mother until adulthood, and I can’t imagine losing her when I was so young. Still, I treasure anything with her handwriting, just as you do — any piece of her that remains. I’ve kept every card and letter she sent me. I recently found a card she wrote shortly after she visited after the birth of my second child (who just turned 16). It talked about what a lovely visit we’d had, probably her longest ever, and how we really should do it again.
What a treasure you’re giving your children in blog form! I had intended to contribute to TMLP the first time; I’ll try harder this time. Thanks for the nudge, and for another great post.
I was out with my mom today, something we dont do often, infact over the last year even though we are only 45 min apart by car, I see her at family stuff. Today was nice it was just me and her. We went for lunch. Hope the car repair by the way didnt do too much damage.
By the way you are a blogger I write about today over at my blog.
I had children of my own when I lost my mother — but you should see me when I open my “Farm Jounral’s complete PIE Cookbook”
where on the inside cover, she wrote a note.
“From Evelyn, to her spoiled gal Pam, May 4 ’80”
I touch it and linger — and then bake a pie in her favorite old green pyrex
I get your heart behind this now. I get it. Thanks for sharing. Your pain is a powerful instrument in the hands of God.
Wow, I didn’t know that about you.
In some ways my mom died when I was 10. Left in the middle of the night on my 10th birthday, never wanted anything to do with me ever again.
This struck me more in how I view my relationship with my daughter (vs. my relationship with my mom) and you absolutely caught me off guard. I wasn’t even emotional before I pulled up your page, and here I sit in a puddle of tears, thinking about the importance of relationship, and that we really don’t know how many days we have to build on those. Thank you for this pertinent reminder. You are so gifted. Thanks for sharing!
My mother died four years ago and I still miss her so much. I can’t imagine what a loss that was for you Robin, especially at so young an age. After my mom died, we found letters to each of her children in her Bible. It is such a treasure to keep forever. I cried when I read mine. She told me how proud she was of me and lots more I won’t share. This project sounds very good.
That was powerful. Thanks for sharing your story.
What a touching story, Robin. I don’t think I ever realized that you lost your mom at such a young age. That’s something that I frankly can’t even imagine. My mother’s mother just passed away about 14 months ago (at 101 yo!), and my father’s mother is still alive so I’m not so good at losing the women in my family.
Blessings today! (And ps-have a fab time at the concert!)
Thanks again! And to all of you contemplating joining the project, please do. I cannot wait to hear your stories and your voices. The project is incomplete without them.