Holding the address book I’d found in Mom’s things, I dialed her number. As I listened to the ringing, I couldn’t decide if I hoped she’d answer or if it would be a relief to just leave a message. A tinny voice told me I’d reached a certain number and kindly asked me to leave a message.

I swallowed and said I was calling for Linda. I stated my name and then the name of her childhood friend, my mother – my tongue caught over the use of present tense. I gave my phone number and the usual pleasantries and hung up.

It wasn’t more than 10 minutes and my phone was ringing. I took a deep breath and answered. A woman’s voice asked if I was Ruth and I said yes. Her voice was shaky. She told me she was afraid it was bad news and I couldn’t hold it in anymore.

“I’m sorry. Mom passed away June 24.”

My ears filled with her sobs as well as my own. When we both could speak again, she told me about her conversation with Mom in May, how she’d known about her breast cancer and had been praying for her ever since.

Address books are precious gifts.

The last time I’d spoken with her was for Mom’s 50th birthday party – 25 years ago. But just like their relationship, it felt as if I’d always known her. Our conversation was easy and even though we were wading through grief, laughter and tears were equally present.

She had so many questions for me and I found I didn’t care about pretenses any longer. It just didn’t matter.

She recalled how she’d asked Mom about us kids and Mom would change the subject. It never added up until I explained: 45 years of a difficult marriage, then his ultimatum: it’s either me or the kids. So she chose him – as she believed God wanted her to do.

Her intuitive understanding of that pain years ago was a healing salve in itself. It declared it had happened, it hurt and it was okay to see the pain. My tears flowed again, but this time it didn’t hurt.

She told me how Mom never once spoke badly about my father but now it all made sense.

That single moment of understanding did more than I could ever say. Someday, I will visit Washington and I will get to hug the woman who prayed for my mom since they were girls.

Create a memorial or physical reminder.

My mother loved (and I mean loved) birds and flowers. She had feeders and flower beds all around her back deck before they downsized.

To me, birds are messy little creatures that don’t give back much and unless the flowers can be left to their own devices and still look nice, I don’t like to bother with them.

But after settling back into a rhythm in July, I began to see in my oldest the effects of not being able to have the closure of a funeral. In talking with her and searching up “birdbath diy” (because already made ones were pricey), we found this link!

So off to the thrift store we went. She was very particular and helped me choose just the right pieces to create our Memorial Birdbath.

Thank you to the Holland Rescue Mission’s Gateway Store for having all the vases we could ever want!
My artist would like to see a plaque someday, but as of right now, here’s how it turned out.

It’s strange how a physical reminder like this is so important… but every time I see it, I’m reminded of how Mom always said God takes care of the sparrows yet He didn’t die for them – He died for us. So we can trust Him to care for our daily little things.

I need that reminder a lot.

Read about others experiences of grief.

Myrna Folkert, a writer friend, recently published a book about mother loss called Daughters of Hope. In it, she tells her story of losing her mom suddenly as a little girl and how that effected her life. She also interviewed and compiled the stories of many other women who suffered the loss of their mothers at various points in their lives. The circumstances of each woman are completely different yet the hope is still there woven through each hard moment. God was still holding them when they thought He’d forgotten them.

There is no cookie-cutter process for grief. Just let it happen.

Grief is never a simple journey from point A to point B. There are twists and turns and flips and flops and sometimes you feel like you are getting nowhere when the waves of remembering hit. But I promise… it will get better.

Stuffing it down and pretending you’re fine is probably the worst thing you can do. Let the feelings happen and sit there with them. Don’t shove them away. Remember the person and grieve their loss.

Perhaps the one thing I miss most is the way my mom hugged.

If you’ve never had the privilege to be hugged by Carolyn Thomas, this woman knew how to hug. She never did the fake hug, you know the one where you could put a beach ball between you and the other person. No, you’d step inside her open arms and she’d wrap them around you and gently squeeze with her forearms. You knew you were being hugged with her hugs! 

If you see me it looks like I’m doing fine and have it all together, don’t be fooled. The waves still hit me. But they are getting a bit more gentle somehow. Hope does that.

I know as surely as I know the sun is shining behind those Michigan clouds that I will get to feel her strong arms around me again someday.

Photo by Ümit Bulut on Unsplash