On Sunday, May 1st, I was honored to be a member of the 2016 Listen To Your Mother cast in Chicago. I wrote this piece on a piece of motherhood we do not always take the time to talk about because feelings. I hope it gives you pause to reflect on motherhood in your own life; because mothering isn’t just for mothers.
As a caterpillar changes into a butterfly to move into its next phase in life, so has my mother. She LOVED butterflies, and we often referred to her as such. Last year, when I lost my mother I realized she was no longer a caterpillar, but a butterfly, my Butterfly. It was the single most devastating event I had encountered in my short 41 ½ years. I was unsure of how I was supposed to live life motherless. Of all the things my mother taught me, this is a lesson we missed.
“You are stronger than you think.”
The first time my mother got ill after successfully fighting cancer for 11 years, I was shaken to my core at the thought that I could lose her. I stayed with her in the hospital every other week for three months. She recovered like a champ and we went on to live a great life. Until we weren’t.
“You are stronger than you think.”
In October of 2014 she got gravely ill. I wasn’t sure I could be strong enough for her. I wasn’t sure how I could help her. She whispered to me, “You are stronger than you think.” I didn’t think anything of it at the time. I asked her did she want to fight this, she said yes; so we fought. She came home, and our roles were reversed. She was no longer the mother, I was; and I was no longer the daughter, she was. It was humbling and empowering all at once. Suddenly all of the main lessons she had ever taught me were coming in to play. Be good to those who are good to you. Be a good listener. Be less sarcastic. Be gentle. Be patient. Be kind. Be less sarcastic. Be genuine. Be less sarcastic. (Yes, it was a recurring lesson.) I was the nurturer and the cheerleader and it felt good. I had some strength to share, and she got better. I was stronger than I thought.
In March of 2015 my mother was no longer strong enough to fight on her own. She had nothing left to give. All of her internal resources had been depleted. She broke out of her cocoon, and became a true butterfly, soaring through my memory bank. I was suddenly forced back into the role of daughter, not ready to let her go. When we lose a parent, the idea of being an adult seems so foreign. I didn’t want to adult. I wanted to cry real tears and have my mommy tell me everything was going to be okay. That she would kiss the boo-boo and make it all better. But there was no more time. There would be no soothing motherly words or kisses. There was just her message ringing loudly in my head “you are stronger than you think”. So I picked myself up as best I could, and went about the business of successfully adulting in this life, motherless. Some days were easier than others, but on the hard ones, the ones where I was emotionally weak, I could hear her say “You are stronger than you think.” And somehow, someway, I was able to move forward. I know that the she that lives in me, the butterfly within me, is lifting me, holding me up and helping me push forward; reminding me how to use my own wings.
It is now May 2016 and I have (mostly) successfully survived an entire year as a motherless child. It was hard and unbearable at times but somehow I have made it. I overcame hurdles and have managed the grief of my children and myself daily but the one remaining theme through my entire life moving forward is that my mother, in all of her infinite wisdom was right. No matter what obstacle or tragedy is thrown my way, I am stronger than I think.