April 30, 2012

Regrets and Redemption (another post about love)

This is one of the last times I saw my mom for any extended period of time.  Freshman year at BYU, she came out to visit.  I wish I could remember more of what we did together.  But I remember she was happy and proud to see my life at school.  It's hard to say who was more excited for me to go away to college - she simply gushed about it all the time.

It's been 8 years since this photo was taken.  So much changed for both of us in that time.  I ache to go back and spend just one carefree day wandering campus and letting her know all about me.  Just being together.  Just letting her in.

I wish I could have let her in more.

It's a thought I struggle with a lot these days.  When you have a loved one who struggles with addiction, you make boundaries and you fret night and day about whether or not you are doing the right thing.  I spent so much time guarding my heart and my emotions around her.  In many ways I shut her out to protect myself.  That's probably the worst pain of all - knowing how much she longed to mother me, and knowing how little I let her. 

I did the best I could with what I had.  And so did she.  There are feelings and experiences surrounding her death that are too sacred to share.  And it is in these moments that I have truly felt redemption.  There are things which do not need to be said between she and I.  Apologies that do not need to be made.  All is understood between our hearts. 

But sometimes it still hurts to remember the way things were.
And to wonder what I could have done differently.

If I regret one thing, it is that I wasted so much time worrying and being disappointed.  I regret ever making her feel she needed to apologize.  I wish I would have just loved her without condition, without expectation. 

Just love her.

In every interaction, let her know how much she means to me.  No lecturing, no hurt feelings, no apologies - just love.  Look her right in the eyes and tell her that she's loved, that she's worthy of love, that He loves her more than she could ever know.  That she could never do anything to change that love.

Tell myself everyday that it doesn't matter what she does.
Look for who she is.
She is beautiful.  She is kind.  She is hurt.  She is His.

Stop my judgement in its tracks.
She's a sinner?
So am I.
She falls short?
So do I.
It is the same love that redeems us both.

The inspiration comes back to me again and again in a million different ways.  Whether it's my mother, my children, myself.  Just love them.  Always err on the side of love.  Remember the love that saves you from all your fallen ways.  The love that you did nothing to earn; that you could never repay. 

I will hold fast to this truth and carry it with me always.  I will learn to love and pray that she will help me.  In life and in death she continues to teaches me the greatest lessons of love.

Thank you, Mom.

April 18, 2012

On Grief

Grief is an interesting thing.  It doesn't look anything like I thought it would.  The only way I know how to navigate it is by waking up every morning and thinking, "I'm going to try to do whatever feels right at any given time."  No expectations, nothing has to make sense.  Just feel it.  Whatever it is.

I'm listening to Iron and Wine on Pandora, sobbing over photos of her.

I'm gazing into Wren's beautiful eyes and feeling wonder and joy.

At night I'm frantically walking the streets of my neighborhood, cursing this city for not having a single place to go cry alone.   Why do I have so many damn neighbors?

I'm roaming around my house, feeling numb and unmotivated.  My brain is fuzzy and as much as I want to do something, I'm just not sure what that something is.

I'm sitting on the couch with a carton of orange juice and an open container of jelly.  Not sure where the lid is.  Joe will be here soon to find it and put things back in the fridge.

I'm walking in the sunshine with my beautiful girls.  Run into a friend and we talk and laugh.  Really laugh.

I do the dishes and shower, then bask in my amazing productivity.

I lay in bed in my underwear and read her recovery journals and sigh over what might have been.

I crave a sad sad movie just to make me cry.  Just to make me feel anything at all.

There are times that I want to call someone just to start out with, "So my mom is dead and I want to talk about it." 

Other times I think I can't handle the boredom of sharing my feelings with one more person.

Most of the time I'm just staring into space.

And you know what?  It's all OK.  I have a feeling that this is going to be a long process and I have this really zen attitude about just letting it be.  I'm happy when I'm happy and I'm sad when I'm sad.  And I honor myself by simply validating all of it. 

This doesn't look anything like I thought it would.

Grief looks like my smiling face with tears falling down.

It looks like a list of favors to ask for so I'm ready the next time someone says, "What can I do for you?"

It's open journals and half written blog posts.

It's super strange dreams that seem unrelated to anything.

Grief shows itself in my daughter's ever more homeless appearance at the park.
Because I just don't have the energy to be on top of everything right now.
And that's OK.

Thank you for the love, everyone.  I love you too.  Really.

April 14, 2012

About Love

This is my mother.  Isn't she beautiful?  I don't have many photos of her and now that she is gone, any photo of her is truly a treasure.  As are stories or memories in which she plays even the tiniest role.  It's funny how death makes every little detail seem so very important. 

This photo is one I came across for the very first time while planning her memorial service and it took my breath away.  She is so alive, so happy and healthy.  Taken in 2001, this picture is exactly how I want to always remember her.  So much of her life was not as this photo reflects - it's good to see that she had joy and she had love, even if it wasn't always this way.

You see, my mom died of an overdose in a motel room in Wisconsin. 

It was something I always knew could happen.  I often said to myself and others that I was just waiting for the day I got a call about her death.  And yet, when the call came, I realized that nothing could have prepared me for the shock and the sadness I felt.  My mother was gone.  And the events surrounding her passing have cast a long shadow over all of us who are left behind.

I don't write these things to sully her memory.  I write them because they are true - and in this process of healing, truth has been very important to me.  I cannot sweep under the rug all the struggles and hardships that my mom faced in this life.  I can't pretend that all of our memories are happy ones.

What I can do is recognize that there is beauty in the struggle.
That it's the hardest things in life that teach us the most important lessons.
That greater than all our human frailties, there is truly divine and all encompassing love.

When a person departs this life, all we have is the love we gave them and the love we felt in return.

I am forever grateful to have a mother who taught me how to love.  She loved so freely - it was her most precious gift to the world.  She offered her heart, again and again.  She was brimming to the top, spilling over with love continually.  It embarrassed me as a teenager, it frustrated me as an adult (watching her love all the "wrong" people) but now it makes me so very proud.  She was fragile and she was vulnerable, and she never once shied away from giving her love to another person.  What greater gift could she have offered than this?

If the measure of a person's life is how much love they gave, I think my mom did just fine.

I am continually learning the most sacred lessons of my life from this tremendously hard experience.  I will write more and share more as it seems appropriate.  I just want to finish tonight by saying that in these last weeks, I have felt SO MUCH LOVE.  The love of friends and family who have reached out to us, the love that has been expressed in thoughts and prayers and cards and emails and phone calls and meals.  I have felt the love of my mother more in the last week than I have in a long time.  She is free from her mortal body and I have felt her true and deep love for me in a very powerful way.

More than anything I have felt the love of God surrounding me continually.  It is true that prayers are answered and that sometimes we can feel His love palpably around us.  In this sorrow I have found reason to rejoice, for my mother has returned home to that God who gave her life.  She is safely enveloped in the arms of His love and she - like all of us - is redeemed by the perfect love of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Never have I known these things more than I know them now. 

I hope to continue to learn love, to cling to love, to speak love, and to give love.  Truly, what else is there?

April 12, 2012

Coming Home

The Pacific this morning and the Atlantic this evening.
Coming home from our cross country trip for Mom's funeral.
The open skies and puffy clouds made me think of her.
There is so much to say about life and death.  
Love and loss.
In the coming weeks I will be using this space to make sense of it all.
I hope we can learn together.
Thank you so much for your kind thoughts and prayers.
I have felt them in a real way that I didn't know was possible.
Please continue to send them as they are so needed.

April 3, 2012

For my Mom

Thank you for always being so proud of me.
I love you.

Kimberly Richele Winters
October 14, 1969 - April 2, 2012