Love … and Letting Go.

by Al Smith

guest blog post by Dana Reeves

This is a story about love … the love between a husband and wife; the love between brothers and sisters; the love between friends; and the bond of unconditional love between a mother and her children. This is also a story about loss – and loving someone so much that you are able to say goodbye and let them go.

My Mom – Francine Bender – died on November 4, 2011, after a long battle (almost five years) with cancer. I said goodbye to her almost three weeks ago … just three weeks ago … Already. Three. Weeks…

The emotional tug-of-war I experienced throughout my Mom’s illness and eventual death was (and still is) dizzying. There have been moments of fear, incredible sadness, denial, guilt, anger … moments of such suffocating despair that I pray for the strength to ignore the lump in my throat, just so I won’t have to deal with the gut-wrenching pain of my tears. Yet those moments have been far outnumbered by the gifts I, and others in Mom’s life, received: hope … joy … gratitude … unconditional love … respect … understanding … cherished memories … forgiveness … reunion … acceptance … peace.

There were times I intentionally stayed away during Mom’s illness, simply because I didn’t know what to do with the mosaic of feelings rolling around in my heart. What I’ve realized is that I have actually been grieving the loss of my Mom for years – really the entire time she was sick. Between the treatments at the cancer center, the scans, the hospitalizations, two times in a nursing home, the cancer spreading to her bones and eventually her spine, the bed sores, the staph infection… There was this constant undercurrent of anticipated dread surrounding our family. We knew that each set back took a little bit more of her from us. We knew that each holiday or celebration or visit might just be the ‘last’.

And Mom was grieving too … the loss of her health, independence, energy … her inability to do the things that meant the most to her: going to the store just to ‘window shop’, going out for a special meal, cookouts at my brother’s house, going to watch a play or an ice skating exhibition, working in her flower gardens, talking to the family of hummingbirds that come home to my parents’ house every spring and summer, swimming in the pool, going to the beach, decorating the house for each and every holiday (she had a knack for that!), baking Christmas cookies, holding her grandchildren…

I’ve been mourning not only what was lost, but also what will never be. I’ll never feel her arms around me again. I can’t pick up the phone and call her to tell her the latest developments in my teenage son’s life, or just to hear her voice. I won’t get to play the piano for her again. But I will carry her with me – like a ‘handprint on my heart’ – for the rest of my life. I’ll see her in all the little, everyday things … photographs, home movies, the angel statues on my kitchen windowsill, the birds that have started hanging around our house, the scent of her favorite perfumes, the Godiva chocolate shop, and every time I see a can of Nestea at the grocery store.

Now, of course, I yearn for any amount of time to spend with my Mom. Time to just sit and hold her hand, to tell her what I admire about her and how much she taught me, to learn more about her as Francine ‘the person’ instead of ‘just’ Mom. Her favorite stories to tell us were about what it was like to raise five children – those were the times her eyes truly lit up.

Mom was proof that a mother’s love knows no boundaries or dimensions. She loved each of us with her whole heart. When we joked with her about who was her ‘favorite’, she answered by saying that she loved each of us differently, but equally – 100%. Of course we said that loving each of us 100% was impossible, that surely it had to be split up between us. Her explanation? “When God gives you a child, He makes your heart bigger to hold more love.” What a beautiful thought!

During Mom’s final days, I felt God’s love – and the angels – all around us. They were keeping vigil with us, standing guard, protecting our hearts, healing our pain, creating safe passage for Mom from this world to the next. We were truly on sacred ground. All the moments we shared as a family danced through my mind during her final hours on this earth, and I knew I had to find a way to tell the story of her love for us.

I created the following video to remind those of us left behind how full of life, love and laughter she was – and to shine a light on the relationships and the connections she had with each of us. Because isn’t that what life is really all about?

My challenge for you today is to shift your thoughts to what’s truly important. Don’t wait until someone’s gone to tell them how much you love them.

> Every moment is the right moment to connect with the people you love, and to tell them how much they mean to you, that you care, and that they make your life better just by being in it.

> It’s never too late to ask for – or give – forgiveness.

> It’s always the right time to reflect on the treasured memories you carry in your heart.

My Mom found miracles in the most unlikely places, situations, and people – and she helped me learn how to do the same. There are joys, blessings, and magic to be found every day – you just have to open your eyes and make the time.

And the time is right now.

 


 

 

 

About Today’s Guest
Dana Reeves is a marketing luminary, writer, visual artist, and producer whose superpowers help people and businesses tell and share their stories through many different platforms. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband Joel, their son Taylor, their dog Lucy, and a sweet collection of vintage arcade and pinball games. The picture above is of Dana’s Mom bringing her home from Catholic Charities adoption agency in Minneapolis, Minnesota – July 1967.

You can connect with Dana on Twitter (she’s @DanaReeves), Facebook or visit one of her websites to see her ADHD in full swing: DanaReeves.com, WillowTreeMarket.com, and HandprintOnMyHeart.com.

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Lori Gosselin November 23, 2011 at 8:34 am

Hi Dana,
I’m so sorry for your loss! Watching your video was like watching my life story. My mother died six years ago on November 25th. Her family was sitting down to a Thanksgiving dinner in the US when they received the news. I’m sure they won’t ever celebrate Thanksgiving in the same way again.
I miss her a lot! Sending you a hug.
Lori
Lori Gosselin recently posted..How to Silence the Fear

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Dana Reeves November 23, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Thank you Lori; the holidays definitely make the memories even more bittersweet. Much love and blessings to you and your family.

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Sarah Arrow November 23, 2011 at 9:57 am

Dana, I am so sorry for your loss.
Watching the video I was taken by how loving, happy and proud your mum was. a proud mom and a proud grandma, surrounded by the people she loved.

I cried a tear or three.
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Dana Reeves November 23, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Ah Sarah, thank you for reading and commenting – I miss our chats!

I’m learning to live with my Mom’s absence, but she will always live in my heart. I’m with my Dad, brothers and their families this week for Thanksgiving; will be nice to be together.

Love to you and your family! <3

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Kay Dodd Stokes November 23, 2011 at 9:58 am

Dana – what an amazing tribute to your mom. Thanks for being so transparent to share the roller coaster of feelings you’ve been having. My mom has Leukemia (and is now in remission). I sometimes forget that just because the initial crisis is over…the battle is not. You’ve helped me to rethink my priorities these days. Just wanted you to know that your openness was not shared in vain. God bless.
Kay Dodd Stokes

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Dana Reeves November 23, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Kay – thank you… You and your Mom will be in my thoughts and prayers. So glad I could help you re-focus. It’s so easy to lose sight of what matters the most. What is the saying? You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.

Sending blessings and love.

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Kaarina Dillabough November 23, 2011 at 10:34 am

My heart is in my throat and I have no words other than: the only moment we have is this one. Cherish it, as you have so beautifully shared.
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Dana Reeves November 23, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Kaarina – you are absolutely right. All we have for sure is right now. Blessings to you. <3

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Al Smith November 23, 2011 at 2:28 pm

This is such a moving and wonderful tribute. Thanks for sharing this with us. I am honored to have this here and to call you a friend, Dana. I felt for you as I read this post and I cried watching the video, as I started thinking of my Dad, who is battling some wicked things himself. i thought of so many things. One thing i do know, when i see my dad tomorrow on Thanksgiving, I will tell him how much I love him and how grateful I am to be his son. And I can not thank you enough for that. Big Hug for you.

Al

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Craig McBreen November 23, 2011 at 4:13 pm

Hi Dana,

This is such a nice tribute to your mom. My father is very ill right now, so we are going through the grieving process already, similar to what you went through. Hospitals, nursing homes and now hospice. It’s a terrible ordeal.

This was a moving post and I totally agree with your ending statements. I was never good at expressing my feelings, but my father’s illness has changed all that.
Craig McBreen recently posted..Who else wants to live like a twenty-something globetrotter?

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Janet Jacoby November 23, 2011 at 10:33 pm

Dearest Dana,
Just read your post. You write so well about all that you have experienced these last years..and esp the last months and weeks. Your mom would be..IS ..proud of you. You spoke from your heart and the honesty was so refreshing to be able to realize that the grieving has been going on a long time. Savor this time with your dad and brothers.
You are an amazing woman, Dana. Thank you for sharing your gifts so freely to help so many others. Know you are loved…and am with you in spirit as you walk thru this first Thanksgiving without your Mom, Love you much. Be gentle with yourself.

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Bill Dorman November 24, 2011 at 8:53 am

Great story and great tribute; there is a huge void and feelings of fear when you lose a parent. My father was the first to go and fortunately I was able to be with him when he passed. At that moment, that is when I truly discovered what is important in life and how such much of the other stuff was really meaningless.

I try to live more within the moment and enjoying the journey; and I still miss not having the opportunity to have those ‘talks’ sharing life, this journey with him.

Great article and obviously it is still very raw for you; hold onto the memories as she will always be with you.

Enjoy your family this Thanksgiving.
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Bwendo November 24, 2011 at 2:01 pm

It is a sad loss.
I am estranged from my mother for coming up to two years, even thought we live across town. She is widowed and maintains a strict personal inner life that dictates I am a profligate loser – something which she is only too happy to remind me.
Forgiveness will come in time, but what of those lost years in between?
Thank you for enticing this out of me, it helps to just write it down…
And may your mother find some peace.
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Claudia November 26, 2011 at 6:43 pm

Dana…I am so sorry for you and your family on the loss of your dear Mother…the video that you created was beautiful and was such a moving tribute to your Mom. I cherish the moments that I still have with my Mom and this lovely reminder was so important as we face the beginning of the hustle and bustle of the holidays…a time when we sometimes forget what is really important…the love of the people standing right in front of us…It isn’t about the “things” we have…it is about the love we have and receive from others. Thank you! My heart goes out to you!
Claudia
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Cindy December 6, 2011 at 6:07 pm

very impressive thoughts, it made me really thinking. letting somebody go, who we loved so much, i think it is one of the most difficult things in life. and it can’t be learnd or get to use to it. that’s why i feel a lot of respect to you.
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