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Yours is the voice in my head. For so many years now, I have been watching, listening, gleaning, and learning. Long before I became a mom focused on teaching, guiding, leading, and loving my own children, I was a daughter—a little girl in awe of her mom.

Our days then were marked by watching Romper Room together, eating peanut butter and jelly on Ritz crackers, cuddling on the couch during afternoon soap operas, and visiting the pool in the summer.

When I was 10, you went back to work, and I watched you navigate the juggling act of continuing to show up fully as the mom my brothers and I had always known while also working to embrace your new role as a high school English teacher. Nightly dinners were still made, games were still attended, Halloween costumes were still fashioned from scratch, and the most creative home birthday parties were still given. But now there were papers to grade, essays to read, lessons to plan, and laundry that piled up. I watched as your jobs as a mother and teacher were never done. Still, always, there was love, time, and presence for us.

In middle school, as I felt scorn for my developing body and how it separated me from my seemingly shorter, smaller, less developed peers, you told me it would get better. You told me, “Susan, one day you will be the tallest girl in the room, and still you will proudly wear heels.” I believed you because you said it would be so.

When I was excluded from the outing or the party by the peer I so desperately wanted to call “friend,” you comforted me by saying that being left out would make me a better person and a better friend to others. I believed you even though it hurt to do so.

You told me no many times, but when I was 17 and preparing for my senior prom, you said yes to the most striking boutique-purchased gown and those ridiculously expensive custom crystal earrings. Besides my wedding day, I have never felt more beautiful or confident in myself than I did that night. Your “yes” gave me that gift.

When I was 19 and Dad died, I looked to you. Would you crumble? Would you collapse under the weight of it all? You did not. You kept us all moving forward, kept us living, and kept us together. I watched as you took it all on, and rarely did I see you crack. Because of you, I believed we would be okay, and we were.

I watched when, at age 53, two years after Dad’s passing, you allowed yourself to fall in love again with a good, honorable man who embraced and accepted our family exactly as we were and showed up in all the important ways we needed.

You steadied my walk down the aisle when I was 28, gifting me the most beautiful wedding day, and were by my side when my first daughter was born just three years later. When you left to return to your home, my postpartum self was shaky and raw. I struggled to hear you through my tears as you told me it would be okay and that I could do this. I believed you because you said it would be so.

I watched how you cared for your mom, my Nana, a woman I loved deeply, as she progressed in dementia from living independently to assisted living and then to full-time care at a nursing home. I watched as you took her shopping, set aside home-cooked meals in your freezer, and later collected her laundry so you could personally stain-treat her clothes. I saw how, when she passed at age 95, you were at peace. Nothing had gone unsaid. You had fully shown up for her.

When you were 68, Hurricane Sandy forced you from the house in which, for 41 years, you had made a home. I watched as a lifetime of your possessions piled up at the foot of your driveway, waterlogged by the river’s surge—a suffocating reminder of all that had been lost. I watched as you bravely relocated to FEMA-provided housing, a small apartment situated in the former officers’ quarters of an old army base, your beloved golden retriever by your side. And I stood in wonderment when, just one year later, having only returned to your house a couple of weeks prior, you hosted Thanksgiving for all of us, including two new grandchildren born since the storm, as if you had never been forced to leave.

Yours is the voice in my head. The voice that reminds me I can do hard things and that, most assuredly, I will have to do hard things many times over in this life.

I watch you as a Nana, and I see that you get it—that you see the big picture in ways a parent in the trenches simply cannot. You take the time: to play the board game, to teach, to cook, to garden, to sew, to read the book, to send the care package, to show up for the game, to watch the performance—all those little extras that add up to so many important memories made.

As a grown woman myself, I see now that there are so many other layers to motherhood I didn’t know existed when I was a child—the constant worry, the sacrificing, and the loss of self. I used to worry that I paid so much attention to the little things that I was getting the big things wrong. You told me I was not, that I am getting the big things right, and I believe you.

I am still watching. I am still learning from your example even as I know that one day I will have to continue my walk without you. Make the next best step. Spend the time. Love. Be present. It will all be okay. Yours will forever be the voice in my head.

Originally published on Patch.com

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

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So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Susan Connelly

Susan Connelly is a writer and trained life coach who believes genuine connection with others is her sacred work. Her writing strives to help others find their own nuggets of truth, hope, and healing wisdom that may be employed in their journeys to experience the best in themselves. Susan lives in Maryland with her husband and three children. She can be found on Substack and Facebook and is a published author with works featured on Parenting Teens and Tweens and Grown and Flown.

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