This year marks 32 years. She’s been gone for 32 years.

Growing up, I never felt like I had the right to talk about my mom. I knew that bringing her up was painful for the people around me who knew her so much better than I did. Honestly, I wasn’t even four years old when she died. I only had one actual memory with my mother, and it wasn’t all that memorable. I didn’t deserve to say that I missed her. I would often say that, with a reassuring smile on my face, to people when they found out my mom had died and would tell me how sorry they were. “Don’t be sorry–it’s OK. I don’t remember her. You can’t miss someone you don’t remember.”

To some degree, that was the truth. I only got to know my mom for the first few years of my life. Who can remember the first few years of their life? I only knew her through other people’s stories, through the few pictures we had in the house, through the one VHS tape with our home videos on it. To say I missed her just wouldn’t be accurate. I really didn’t remember her, as a person.

But, of course, I missed my mom. I missed having a mom in my life.

I missed being mothered by someone. I missed her presence in our family. I missed her every Mother’s Day when I’d be one of the only kids in class not making a card for my mom. I missed her as I got older and had things come up that I just didn’t want to talk to my dad about. And even if I was very young when I lost her, of course, I deserved to say I missed her.

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Even now, it’s OK to say I miss her. I miss her for who everyone said she was before she died. I miss her for who she never got the chance to be.

My mom never got to see her kids grow up. She never got to take the first day of school pictures or help us pick out our Halloween costumes. She didn’t see us learn how to ride bikes or read books. She never got to take us shopping for prom or go get our hair done or listen to us cry about our ridiculous boyfriends. She never sat up late at night waiting for us to come home from the movies. She never got to come to the choir concerts or the graduations.

She didn’t get the chance to pass down any life advice or words of wisdom.

She didn’t get to be escorted to a seat of honor at our wedding. She didn’t get to hold her grandbabies or play on the floor with them. She got barely four years to be a mother.

And then, she was gone forever.

32 of my 35 years on this earth, I’ve lived without my mother. And yet, her memory is a consistent presence, reminding me . . . that nothing in this life is permanent or guaranteed.

Reminding me . . . to use my time well and to truly appreciate the people in my life.

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Reminding me . . . as a mother, to not take any of those little moments with my kids for granted.

I never go a day without acknowledging and thanking God for the blessing and privilege it is to be able to hold them in my arms, to be able to watch them grow up.

We might get a lifetime with the people we love, or we might only have a short while. None of us knows what tomorrow will bring or how much time we’ll be given to make our difference here on this earth. So, I urge youmake that time matter. 

Each day is a gift, a new opportunity to love, to serve, to hope and help and leave a lasting impact. What we do with our time matterslet’s not waste it.

Kristen Stewart

Kristen spends her days chasing after her toddler, kindergartener, and two cats. She lives in the Midwest with her husband and enjoys long walks through the bookstore, Target, or the local hardware store. She is an aspiring writer who blogs about motherhood, marriage, mental health, and her Christian faith on Instagram at @faithfilledmamablog.