My kids and I have a nightly dinnertime routine. As I am doing one of the twenty-five tasks at hand, one of my little darlings will inevitably ask me for a twenty-sixth.
By rote I reply, “Mommy is not a…
“… Fairy or a genie, she is a mommy,” one or more of my angels reply, sounding as if they were programmed by some mad woman.
My reminding them of my lack of super powers does little to change their idea that in fact mommy can do everything and anything.
Truth be told, I’m 45 and I still think my mother has her super cape ready to grab whenever one of my sisters or me need her. It’s hard for me to admit it, but to my children I am a supermom.
I am able to cure most ills with a kiss and a hug. Unlike daddy, I know you can’t mix chocolate Turkey Hill ice cream with chocolate Haagen-Dazs. I know you have to pretend to give my youngest food on his plate, even if it is full, because if his sister or brother gets more to eat, he feels left out.
I know that if you sing, “I’m going to wash that man (or girl, if it’s my son)” when you take a shower, it’s not as scary. And, I know that when my special-needs daughter says, “I can’t get out of the tunnel,” it’s her way of saying she needs help getting dressed.
No parenting book teaches that stuff.
My skill set is filled with the tricks of the trade I have picked up being a mother of three precious children. They may get mad, or wish they could trade me in, but I am mom. I am the center of their universe.
Pretty heady stuff. Pretty scary too. Sometimes I can’t help but wonder what would happen if I was not around.
I don’t like to dwell on this thought, but this month marked the fortieth anniversary of the death of my husband’s mother. My husband was 12, the age of our oldest son. My mother-in-law was 44, a year younger than I am now.
I have always looked at my mother-in-law’s death through the eyes of my husband. Her loss was devastating, something I’ve wished I could erase with our own happy family memories.
But recently I have been seeing her death through my own eyes, that of a mother of three children of her own. I wonder what in the world my mother-in-law must have went through once she learned her cancer was terminal. She knew the pain her children and husband would suffer once she died, and she had the pain of knowing they would go on without her.
My husband’s sisters were on the cusp of starting their own lives. One was a junior in college, the other a senior in high school. My mother-in-law had finished her own degree a few years before and had a career as a school nurse. My husband, her youngest, was going to start high school soon. She was coming into a wonderful phase of life where she would see graduations, careers launched, marriages, and grandchildren.
She must have had plans with my father-in-law about their future once their job of raising children was done.
My husband was so young when all this upheaval happened, he really didn’t know what his mother was thinking. Through the years, and my penchant for asking questions, we have learned a few things.
My sister-in-law shared that her mother had her daughters pick out their china patterns even though marriage was not in either’s immediate plans. Knowing that she was not going to be around, she wanted to insert herself, even a little, into their futures.
We now know that the reason his mom was so hard on him toward the end of her life is that she was making a conscious effort to make him more independent.
The pain of the cancer must have been nothing to the pain of knowing she was not going to be around to help him grow into adulthood. Or, that she was going to miss all the wonderful things her own future could bring.
I honestly feel that my family would fall apart if I was not around. Especially when I think of my daughter and all of her needs. And, in the beginning, I’m sure it would feel that way to them.
But, like my husband’s family did, I have faith that my own family would eventually survive, even thrive, without me. I’m not planning on that ever happening though.
My father-in-law often visits his wife’s grave. I always found this both beautiful and sad and assumed that the visits meant he was still grieving and missing her.
Some time ago, I started wondering if there was another reason.
Visiting the grave may be the one way he feels he can share all the good things that have happened without my mother-in-law. Seven wonderful grandchildren ranging from 31 to 5. The success that their own children have had in their marriages and careers.
He had to do it all without her, but at least he experienced it. The pain and the pleasure. He got to see the graduations, the weddings, the births. Life went on without her. Just like she must have known it would.
Next time I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders and bemoan all the chores on my to-do list, I am going to take a deep breath, and then say, “Thank you for another day.”
sandbox gems says
This was so touching, Kathy! Every mother harbors that thought of what if something happened to me? I think the best we can do is give our kids life skills and lessons and courage and a can do attitude to lead them into every phase of their lives. The other thing I keep telling myself each day is instead of all the things we “have” to do, what if it were all the things we “get” to go. Because we are here and because we are able. I am meaning to write a post on this sometime when I am feeling a bit more somber and thoughtful. Blessings!
Beautiful post! My mom’s mom passed away from cancer when my mom was 29. She found out she had cancer the same week I was born. My mom was a single mom taking care of a baby and her terminally ill mother. I get so worried that my mom is going to get cancer and that I’ll lose her. My mom means so much to me and even though I am on my own now and married with a baby, I cannot imagine not having my mom around.
And I also worry about what would happen if I died. I cannot bear the thought of my 7 month old losing me and never getting to know her mom (obviously she knows me now but she wouldn’t remember me). I love her so much, and she just isn’t old enough to remember me if I died. That worries me a lot. Plus the fact that death is my number one fear doesn’t help, I’m sure!
Kathy, That was a beautiful tribute to your mother-in-law. Very insiteful! Very moving and touching. Death is a fear of all mom’s and although I am now 67 and am blessed to have seen you all grow up and now raise your children. I still feel my journey is not over. I now want to see all my grandchildren grow up and have children. I know that will not happen as my oldest grandson is only 12. It is just a dream. I am happy for every day. It is a gift and I really know why it is called the present.Because it is.May God bless you and please continue to use your gift of writing. You make so many people think when we read your blog.
It is scary to think about and I can’t imagine losing my mom at my age now – much less when your husband lost his. So heart breaking. I’m always worried about losing my husband (he doesn’t take very good care of himself) but have never been very worried about me going first – eek. I can’t imagine what would happen! Moms are just so much more different than dads.
This was a beautiful post, Kathy! Thanks so much for sharing!
Thank you all so much for your lovely and thoughtful words. It is so hard to imagine that the world can go on without us, thankfully we don’t have to ponder that too often!
I do like what Sandbox Gem said, all we can do is give our children the life skills and the can do attiude and knowledge that they are loved.
As for my mother’s comment that she is not going to be around to see my children have children, I don’t belive it!
Thanks again for the support!
SoMo Mom says
Wow. You brought tears to my eyes. I am sometimes torn when I write things like “I’d rather have a babysitter and a bottle of chardonnay” …. because truly, what a different perspective you would have on life and your children if you had a terminal illness. I do try to celebrate the days much more the older I get. Life is too short! Thanks for putting it all into perspective!
I love that comment about the babysitter and the chardonnay! I feel that way so often! But as I was thinking about Joe’s mother the other side also surfaces, how great it is just to be here and have the challenges! Thank you for your kind words and support! I love your blog, thanks for making me laugh!
Life Lessons, Halfway Through says
So glad to find your blog and this post was so moving. I miss my mom every day, but was lucky that she was with me into my 40s. My friends who lost their moms at a young age have such a struggle. Thank you for sharing your story and glad to follow you!
Every Day Products & More says
newest follower from mbc
This is such a great post… and really makes me stop and think. I am 47 and have 4 kids. Last week was the anniversary of my own father’s death… he was 51. This post really puts forth all the angles… parent, child, spouse… wonderful. And thanks for the visit and the follow to my blog 🙂
Wow, what a post. It’s a huge perspective shift, isn’t it.
I’m your newest follower from MBC. You can check me out at http://www.theecoblogger.com and join me on FB too http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jodi-Lee-EcoWarrior/172740309414167 Cheers,
Beauty and the Green says
Wow, this really makes one think about what is really precious in life. Thank you for this very touching and insightful post.
Thank you all for your support and great comments! It means the world to me!
Seams Inspired says
Kathy – This is an amazing post. I’m crying as I type, because you’ve articulated beautifully what most of we Moms feel and think. We just can’t bring ourselves to put it into words. Thank you for sharing your heart. Love, Love, Love this! As I’m going about my day, I’m sure to be mulling your post over and over. Excellent!
Happy Tuesday, sweet bloggy friend. :o)
You have really made me see how precious life is. While I was reading this I too had started to cry and my daughter walked by and asked me what was wrong and gave me a big hug. I didn’t want to let go of her. I told her I was crying because she is the most amazing person in the world and I am lucky to be her mom.
New follower from mbc http://momsinvent.blogspot.com/
Thank you both so much for the lovely comments! The feedback and support is so great, thanks. I enjoy both of your blogs!
Susie B. Homemaker says
Beautiful post, thanks for sharing. I can definitely relate- my Mom passed away when I was 16 and my Grandma just passed away last month. I wrote about it a little bit on my blog. I have a hard time thinking about it tho’, growing older and leaving loved ones behind… it makes you realize you have to love the ones you’re with, and tell them often!
Thanks so much for visiting my blog and following- I follow you now as well.
very beautiful post. My mother passed away when I was a senior in high school too, it scares me as well because she was 37 when she passed. I love your blog title and you write very well (: btw I am a new GFC follower from MBC, I hope you follow me back.
An Irish Italian Blessing says
Wow what a tearjerker! I’ve thought this same thing a few times and can’t bear the thought of my husband having to do things without me. A mother is the heart and soul of a family. Without her, it’s impossible to escape the feeling that something is missing. I feel for your husband and his loss, I can’t imagine the pain but I’m glad he has you and your family to brighten his spirits and give him memories of a family all together!
Thank you all so much for reading and commenting. I so appreciate the support!
Cynthia and Susie, thank you both so much for sharing your own experinces. It is such a hard topic to even imagine, not to mention living through. Thank you.
I was worried my husband would be uncomfortable with me writing about his mother, but he was glad I honored her this way. It is nice to have a forum to explore these feelings. And it nice to get to make happier memories with our own children.
I’m your newest follower from MBC-please follow back 🙂
This was very beautifully written Kathy. Thank you for sharing this. I am only 25, but when I think about not being here for Aiden and my husband it makes me physically ill. I can only imagne the pain your husband carries from the death of his mom. Your children and husband are so luck for you, and you for them.
This is beautiful Kathy <3
Oh Kathy, what a difficult time for you & your husband. The death of soemone close often generates the “what if” thoughts and I do believe these are more-so for mothers. We carry so much without our kids really knowing. And it is the frequent stories that make us truely thankful for our husbands, children and others.
Thank you both for reading and commenting, I enjoy both of your blogs! I really do appreciate the support, it’ been great to read what everybody has shared. Thanks again!
Carolee Sperry says
I just went through this a few years ago and a few weeks ago….
A few years ago, I had a tumor and had my kidney and spleen removed.
I have scans and such done every 6 months to keep an eye on things…a few weeks ago, they saw a spot on my right (and only) kidney. I was secretly freaking out, but trying to be cool in front of the kids.
I was sent to a specialist…I prayed a lot, I won’t lie…
Everything ended up being ok!
Here’s the post about it if you want to read it:
Do you believe in miracles?
Have a marvelous weekend!
The Blogging Biz Mom
Thank you so much for sharing your story! Very glad yours had a happy ending! Yes, I do believe miracles! Thanks again for the support!
Mom Daughter Style says
that story is very moving, life is so short. We have to be thankful for everyday.
PS> i’m your latest follower.
Spilled Milkshake says
I am moved to tears on this one. I’m so sorry for your husband to have lost his mother at such a precious age. And, as I was reading it, I couldn’t help but ask myself the same questions. What would my family do without me? What would become of my children? Those are some powerful questions.
Kenny Bodanis says
“We now know that the reason his mom was so hard on him toward the end of her life is that she was making a conscious effort to make him more independent.” What a powerful and sad thought. It’s heartbreaking to think of things from your mom-in-law’s perspective as well: knowing you will not be around for all that’s ahead. Really touching post.
Kathy Radigan says
Thanks so much Kenny. My husband and I were talking about his mom last night since yesterday was the 41 anniversary of her death. I feel so much for my husband having had to go through that, and yet I see how it has really affected his own parenting. His time with our children is so precious to him, and he does all he can to be as connected to their lives as possible as a “work in an office” dad. Thanks again for the visit.
Kathy you got me all teary! Great post and thank you so much for sharing. I feel the same as you when I complain. My husband always tell me that he wouldn’t know what to do without me if anything happened, but he knows he has to step up and still be there for our children. Scary to think about but it can happen to anyone and we are never guaranteed tomorrow. All the more reason I dote on my children and give them hugs and kisses til they can’t take anymore.
Kathy Radigan says
It is so scary we really don’t know what each day will bring. That is why I really get upset with myself when I don’t enjoy as much as I can, it all goes so quickly and most of the things I can get upset about really aren’t worth it. Thanks for a great comment, and thanks for dropping by!
This story is sobering and comforting at the same time–in the greater scheme of things, to know that God is really the One Who is taking care of us and our loved ones gives us a peace which eases our fears and concerns. I know I can worry myself sick about my kids, their future, safety, career choices, etc., but I really can’t control it all, or any of it–for all I know I could also get cancer too! So I just have to do the best I can and know that that is enough. Thanks for the great post! So glad you dug it up!
Mommy LaDy Club says
We all take life for granted, don’t we. I try to think of that every day, because it does change what you would do if it were your last.
Thank you for sharing this. It reminds me to cherish the little things. We don’t know when our time on earth is done, so every day is precious.