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You rarely hear about relationships built between people who’ve never met, much less with someone who has passed on. The bond between these types of souls is hard to explain, but it’s a concept that is known and felt all too well in my house. It’s a gift.

Saying goodbye to my mother and having her funeral nine weeks into my first pregnancy was something I had never imagined nor could fathom, even while I lived it. As a kid, I knew my mother and I were like-minded in many ways, but I knew sharing my motherhood with her would be a significant part of my life–until it wasn’t. It was all so fast and jarring, and it took all I could to carry on as she always taught me to do. 

I had a healthy pregnancy and delivery and brought home our new little nugget of joy with a face and spirit familiar to us. This is when I started to see the relationship begin, although, in my heart, I truly believe my mother’s and my baby’s souls collided somewhere in the stars of the in-between. 

Even now that my girls are older, I can still say I’ve spent most of motherhood fighting off the pangs of missing my most important person daily. “Fighting off” is the only way I can describe it because I know if I don’t, I’ll lose sight of the beauty right in front of me. The big and small milestones, the daily calls, and the special understanding we had between us are absent. However, the worst part of it all is how my kids miss her and how I miss her influence on them. She had so much more life to live, advice to give, and cheeks to kiss. 

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A few years ago, I became stronger, more imaginative, and more courageous in motherhood. In all the worry and unknown unfolding around us, I felt my feet planted more firmly than ever before. There was a force driving me to think and be more hopeful and open to new ideas, and I was teaching my daughters that lesson along the way. Through this, I realized something: it was her lesson, the one she taught me while she lived. Even through tough times, hope and happiness can be found if your mind is open to seeing and imagining it. I felt my mother’s spirit passing through me more than ever. 

Unfortunately, this caused the ache of her absence to permeate my daily life. For the first time since losing her, I was compelled to find a solution. Through the years of grief, I know there is no end or resolution to it. Although I knew I’d never be able to see my mom and my girls together physically, I started to imagine what it would look like if I could create that scene.

So I did, and a small piece of my heart was healed.

It began with the story, which flew onto the pages of my notebook so quickly I was sure a hand was guiding me. The scene descriptions were written in the same way—so fast, simply because I had enough time over the years without her to dream up exactly how it would be in my mind. Once I saw the illustrations come together with the words, I felt lighter and I’d like to think my girls’ hearts did too. Knowing they carry her in their hearts and that she is with us (just differently) has given me great comfort. But seeing them together on the pages of my book Little Miss Jean and the Time Machine brought to life moments stolen from and mended my heart in a small but significant way. 

RELATED: Everything I Do Is for My Mom In Heaven

Anyone who grieves their most important person knows the pain doesn’t just magically disappear one day. It is something you carry with you and you are forever changed. But the lessons that person taught you in life and death are gifts. There are many ways to create these scenes, and they won’t replace her being here,  but they provide comfort and remembrance and help open conversations and emotions we desperately need to embrace together. 

Months after the book was published, I was going through some of my mother’s things in storage and found an old t-shirt of hers. It read, “Minds are like parachutes. They only function when OPEN.” That sentiment just so happens to be the overarching message of my book. Thanks for the gift, Mom. 

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Karri Theis

Karri Theis is an award-winning author/writer who lives in Minnesota with her husband, two daughters, and mini Goldendoodle. In 2020, she put her sales career on hold to navigate distance learning. She also used this time to chronicle her family's valuable time at home and fulfill a 20-year dream of publishing a children's picture book. "Little Miss Jean and the Time Machine" is inspired by the bond her daughters share with their heavenly grandmother and is available anywhere books are sold. The second book in the series will publish later this year.

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