My strongest memory of my momma is more of a feeling than a memory. I can see myself standing in the bright kitchen of our big yellow house looking up at my beautiful momma surrounded by sunlight. I think she was handing me a glass of saltwater for a sore throat. But the feeling is what I remember in the most detail . . .
I felt safe and loved, known and seen.
I knew that even if I didn’t know what I needed, she would always know. A hug, a song, a gentle nudge of confidence, a silly kitchen dance, or a glass of saltwater for my sore throat. She just knew—like mommas do.
I never really felt like a motherless child growing up even though I lost my momma to cancer when I was only five.
My family loved me well. I have had a stepmom most of my life who—even though we weathered many storms—is a treasured confidant and friend to me and a wonderful grandmother to my children.
I never felt like there was always someone missing during major events in my life—our huge family always showed up in big ways. I had a twinge of that she should be here feeling when I got married. I honored her kind of privately by carrying a special handkerchief wrapped around my bouquet—a loving and thoughtful gift from my stepmom.
This ocean called grief didn’t start to wash over me until I became pregnant with my first child (or children—twins), and I became a motherless momma.
Suddenly—well, slowly really—as my belly grew, I longed more and more for the one who had wished and prayed for me just like I had wished and prayed for the tiny babies I was carrying.
I needed the one who knew me and loved me even before that first flutter of movement or rush of a heartbeat.
As this new life grew in me and I was overcome with the depth of a mother’s love, I wondered how hard it must have been for my momma to know her cancer would take her from me . . . how she must have grieved for all she would miss.
Over the years this overwhelming sense of loss would sneak up on me and take my breath at different times.
My first Mother’s Day.
The day my twins turned five, the same age I was when she died.
Mostly I missed her presence during the hard and lonely moments of motherhood. The exhausted, sleep-deprived, no shower, living in pajamas days of nursing two newborns.
The endless days of twin toddler tantrums and household messes when I would plop down—exhausted and pregnant with number three—in the middle of the chaos of laundry and LEGOs and wish for someone to know I needed to be rescued with a coffee and grown-up conversation.
When my third child received a life-changing diagnosis at 11 months old.
I would imagine her breezing through the front door, waving me off to shower and rest while she rocked fussy babies or mopped sticky floors.
I imagined her holding me through the heartache of processing each new fear and moment of grief over what my son’s future might look like.
I imagined her loving me gently back to life when the darkest seasons of depression and anxiety threatened to steal my joy.
Now with two teenagers and an 11-year-old with special needs, I imagine her sending me and my husband away for the weekend assuring us that she has it under control.
I imagine her just being here. Knowing and anticipating what I might need at any given moment like only a mother can.
Sometimes these waves of grief crush me, the weight of the loss and her absence feels unbearable.
I miss her in the wonderful, joyful times too. But it’s different. The happiest days would still be happy days if she were here. But the weight of motherhood, the hard, lonely parts—it seems like they wouldn’t be nearly as hard or heavy if only my momma were here to hold my hand and walk me through.
My greatest hope is that God would bless me with enough years to love on my own babies as they navigate life, love, and loss, marriage, parenthood, and any hard season this momma could make a little lighter just by holding their hand and walking them through. By knowing and anticipating their needs like only a momma can.