What’s Left Behind

By Amanda Flinn

A Mother’s Day Reflection

My chest tightens as a lump forms in my throat.

It’s a rushing flood of emotion quickly becoming

     familiar. 

Typically, I ride the wave, knowing this, too, shall pass.

 

But today is different.

 

Scanning the room, I count the tiles on the wall. Then,

     the lights. Then, the plants.

I tell myself, “The chair is blue. The tables are round,”

     grounding myself here in the present, focusing on the

     things right in front of me.

 

This method’s worked until now.

 

When I can no longer hold it in, I succumb to grief as

     deep sobs erupt from my chest. Tissues find their way

     to my hands, passed from strangers a few rows back.

     “Pull it together,” I whisper under my breath. “You’re

     OK.”

 

But I’m not.

 

While everyone around me is singing songs of praise,

     I want to scream out. “My mom has died! Don’t you

     get it? She’s gone.” And every little thing reminds me

     of her, including this old hymn. I can see her singing it

    next to me, hands on the pew, face lifted up. I can

     hear her voice.

 

Yet the space beside me is empty.

 

It’s not like I thought she would live forever. No one

     does. But I did think we’d have more time. Though all

     the time in the world can’t prepare you for this. People

     say, “She’s with Jesus. She’s happy.” And I know it’s

     true. My faith remains strong. My hope is secure.

 

But her happy doesn’t make my sad go away.

 

And so I cry, but gentler now. Like a baby, tired from

     the heaviness of her own tears, slowly learning to

     settle on her own, waiting patiently in the dark of the

     night, for a chance to see her momma again. Today

     is hard. I’m not OK. 

 

But I will be.

 

My mom was a healthy, vibrant, energetic 76-year-old when she collapsed on Friday, March 26, due to an arteriovenous malformation that ruptured in her brain. Though she never regained consciousness, her family and friends spent an entire week by her side, hoping and praying for a miracle. We wanted so badly for her to stay with us. To take her home. For life to return to normal. But in the end, we chose love and let her go. She died on April 2, 2022. 

In the months since her untimely death, we’ve been learning to do life without her. This looks different for everyone. For me, I write. I cry. I walk. I read. And even though my mom is no longer here on earth, I’m starting to understand there are parts of her that always will be. 

For instance, she’s in the spaghetti pie I make for my family, and in every bargain I find at Kohl’s. She’s in the clothing and jewelry I wear, many of those items gifted from her. She’s in how I clean my house, love my kids and celebrate birthdays. Thankfully, she’s also in voicemails, photos, memories and dreams. And though I desperately wish to hold her again, there are times I can see her, smell her and hear her plain as day. My mom may no longer be beside me, but she is forever within me. 

I don’t know what this next season of life looks like without my mom, but I do know there’s life to be lived. It will look different, it will feel different and it will be different. Not only because she is gone, but because grief has changed me from the inside out. I’m not who I once was, but maybe, I can be someone better. 

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