Honoring a Loved One | Mother's Day
I've been told that I was too young to lose my mom. The reality was so surreal, confusing, unpalatable. In many ways it still is. Three years later I still have sudden thoughts that I need to call her at work to check in or talk to her about plans for dinner. It has been the most painful and continuous hardship to reconcile that I no longer have her in my life.
Her name was Terri. She passed away from breast cancer in 2015 after 7 years of treatments, remission, and struggle. She was incredibly generous, kind, and sincere, beheld by every person she touched as compassionate and strong. She was not just a mother to me, but a best friend, my confidant through every triumph and test. I miss her deeply.
Though every holiday is difficult, Mother's day holds a particular weight. From the gift ideas advertised online and on store fronts to posts made by friends celebrating with their Moms, I honestly struggle with the celebration. It is the strange co-existence of jealousy and happiness that mars the day. I long for the chance to spend Mother's day with my Mom again, to hear her voice and talk of the anything and everything, like we used to. To make new memories together. So to see others have that opportunity brings out a selfish resentment that I am not proud to admit. But thankfully I am happy for those that still have that relationship and I pray those relationships are loving and healthy. I strive hard to focus on that.
So I want to tell you a few things (I'll cut myself off at 10) about my creative, devoted, faithful Mom because she created an everlasting impact on my life and all of those around her. I also just really like to talk about her.
I also want to note 7 ways I continue to enjoy Mother's day through the heartache and loss. Through their implementation I can see Sunday May 14th as a day to not just mourn, but as a day to celebrate the life of a great mother and a great woman.
Theresa Louise kraft-jones
---10 Memories & Facts---
She loved roses. On Valentine's day she'd buy me and herself a single rose. Usually one pink and one red to celebrate us beautiful women.
When it would rain we'd pull the drapes apart, sit with our knees wedged into the folds of the couch, our arms resting along the back and just watch it fall. The faint thud of the drops hitting the pavement and the gutters was a comfort that we always shared with each other.
She was a beautiful dancer. She was a professional modern dancer for 10 years after receiving a BA in Dance from Ohio University. We danced in the kitchen a lot, and I would try to imitate her graceful movements. She gave me such wonderful encouragement, she was my instructor of every plié and my humble audience for every turn. No matter the event, she knew how to work a dance floor.
She was a really fast walker. Like annoyingly fast. I would have to jog to keep up with her, but it made for great exasperated conversation and a much needed practice of endurance for me.
She played Halo one time on my brother Justin's Xbox and was really good at throwing grenades but terrible at adjusting her direction. So when she got stuck in corners she just threw grenades and blew herself up. She laughed the whole time.
For many years Saturday mornings were her aerobic workout time so I'd often greet the weekend to the equally heart pacing Last of the Mohicans soundtrack or Jennifer Lopez's On the 6 album. Slightly annoyed when she'd keep the Spanish version of Waiting for Tonight on repeat because I couldn't understand the lyrics.
Christmas was her favorite holiday. Almost every year we went all out, lights draped on every bush and limb, too much duct tape getting stuck on our freezing fingers, the melody of Julie Andrews' Christmas Tape setting the rhythm as we then decorate the tree in a beautiful methodical process. At night we'd turn all the lights out and just sit and look at the tree, the glow resonating off the ornaments, playing with our eyes. It was a simple moment of joy that I looked forward to every year.
She was the best at giving thanks and encouragement. She wrote so many notes and thank you cards to people for things she appreciated about them; thanks for their hard work, support and kindness. I remember she would write multiple drafts to make sure her words expressed her gratitude honestly because it mattered to her that people knew they were seen and valued. We'd also write notes to each other, little pick me ups, for the day. I loved sharing that with her.
Many a night she would fall asleep on the couch with her glass of wine still in her hand. I'd ask her "Mom, why don't you put it down before you fall asleep?" and she'd say "I'm not done!"...10 seconds later I look over to see the glass slowly tip in her hand as sleep relaxed her limbs, the liquid gliding to the edge, building momentum...JOLT! She'd wake with a start, white wine now dappled on the couch and on her shirt. As I throw my hands up in exasperation for the umpteenth time she'd just smile with sleepy eyes, quickly down the remaining drops of Cabernet Sauvignon, and plop back asleep. Drove me mad.
Reading was a shared love. Typically before we'd go to bed, I'd sit with her and we'd read scripture. One of our favorites was Romans 8:37-39.
"But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (NASB)
There is SO much more to tell, but this small collection keeps the cherish constant in my heart. It helps me to continue to heal and appreciate a wonderful holiday.
How I Continue to Enjoy & experience Mother's Day
- - - 7 Ways - - -
1. Share One Story and Then Share Another
Stories are a beautiful way to keep the memory of loved ones alive. When I get the opportunity to talk of her life whether it be to strangers or to family, I feel more connected to her. And to hear stories from others, from when she was in college or as a child, is incredibly fulfilling. It's through such interactions, such unique perspectives and memories, that I get to understand her anew.
2. Take Time to Feel It All
I spend most holidays with Justin and Bre at their home in Lake Stevens. We talk about Mom often and when we are overwhelmed we cry, and when we reminisce about a funny memory we laugh. It is so important and cathartic to express all of the emotions pummeling around inside. And so important too, to not put any expectation on your feelings or behavior. Sometimes the pain seems dormant and it's hard to feel connected or engaged to anything, sometimes the pain feels lighter and manageable, and sometimes the pain wrenches your gut until you can't breathe. All of those feelings are valid. I tend to stifle the pain because vulnerability is scary and breaking down is so exposing and exhausting. But stifling is not the same as resolving and only roots the pain deeper. My mom was never afraid to cry, she felt emotion deeply and displayed it openly without shame. I will always admire her for that.
3. Celebrate all the Mothers in My Life
I have been very fortunate to have had other amazing mother figures in my life. Growing up in school and in sports, I came to know these women as strong and dependable, who cared and loved my Mom dearly and supported us through all of our struggles. And they have been ever present since her death, have remained rocks to lean on and provide me a deep consolation to continue on. They deserve every warm wish, prayer, thanks, and love. A great way to do so? A letter, a call, even a text to make it known your appreciation.
4. Visit a Place of Significance
In the next couple of months, my family and I will be visiting St. Mark's Cathedral in Capitol Hill to place my Mom's ashes next to her parents Conrad and Eleanor. Up to this point, my Uncle has kept delicate care, but it was important to us all to find a place of rest for her ashes that is closely connected to the Kraft family. The act of ceremony, of having a place designated for a loved one, can be a great way to bring a sense of peace and closure. I hesitate to use the word closure because it creates a sense of finality, that the grief stops when you bury a loved one. That isn't so. But it is an opportunity to recognize the significance of that person's life. It also does not have to be formal, it could be anywhere that you feel connected to that person.
5. Do One (or many) of Her Favorite Things
My mom loved films, which is likely where my own love for them came. Among the many different genres she liked, she also had many favorite actors. But there is really one that stood out from my childhood; Mel Gibson. I counted and discovered that I have seen 31 of his roughly 48 movies. Her fan love faded a bit after Mr. Gibson spiraled into that sad and morally questionable trajectory, but his films remained favorites in our household. Top of the list? Maverick, the Lethal Weapon series, Forever Young, Braveheart, and Bird on A Wire.
She also used to make these REALLY amazing pumpkin bars that were moist and perfectly pumpkiny in the fall and winter. It will be a poor imitation, but I know she'd appreciate it.
6. Get a Tattoo
So this one is not for everyone, nor is it something my Mom was even a particular advocate for. I have 5 tattoos, my first of which was in honor of her first battle with cancer in 2008. On my 18th birthday I booked an appointment, literally as soon as it was legal in the state of Washington, I was under the needle. I remember over the years she mentioned in a wistful nonchalant kind of way that she might want to get a tattoo herself. I believe that she secretly liked them, but never wanted to break the veil of the begrudged parent. Sorry Momma, I am not done and have at least one other that is for you.
7. Read Her Words
My mom was a note taker (I got that from her too). She filled at least 2 dozen notebooks with reflections, scriptures, sermon notes, and thoughts. I came across a journal of hers from her trip overseas after high school. It was the coolest experience to step into her world at 18 and see what she witnessed and how she witnessed it. The detail she noted about all of the different landscapes, architecture, conversations...it fueled my wanderlust. I am my Mother's daughter.
She was a beautiful woman. She was funny, thoughtful, creative, and engaging. She had to face a horrible battle and sadly her story is not unique, too many women have to face this terrible disease. Though she was not able to beat the cancer a second time, I know she is in a better place. Her wonderful talents and abilities can now flourish without pain or fear. She is free with Christ. I can't wait to see her again.
I hope this is helpful to those who have to go through Mother's Day without their Mom and to provide some ideas or encouragement on how they can not just get through the day, but enjoy it. Grief and loss are a part of life, so deeply bound and so hard to live with, but they are important and necessary. If given the outlook they can be a part of the celebration too. The celebration can always continue, not in spite of the pain, but with it. I pray that mine will.
Warm wishes and Happy Mother's Day,