On the mantle above the fireplace, what remains of my mom’s body sits in a pretty wooden box. The box was custom made from Purple Heart, the kind of wood she admired most. To the left of the box, you will see decorative pieces that she left behind. Leaned all around the box and decorations, you can see small pictures of her and a lot of little trinkets we have found around the house that remind us of her. Above her ashes, there is an 8×10 picture of her—the same picture that went with her obituary—a big and beautiful close up.
Just about every day for the month of October, Tylee has looked over at that picture and whined, two hands reaching for the mantle, asking to be held. The very first time she did it went something like this:
“Okay, baby, what do you want?”
“You see Grammy T?”
“Yeah” *Still whining and reaching*
“You want Grammy to hold you?”
“Yeah!” *Arms out, big smile*
*Big tears, hot cheeks* “Me too, Sweetie.”
*Whining; confused by water falling from Mommy’s eyes; glances back and fourth from Mommy to Grammy’s picture and holds two hands up asking “Huh?”
*So many tears* “I’m sorry, baby. Grammy T isn’t going to be here to hold you. But I know she wanted to hold you so bad. I’m so sorry…” *Borderline sobbing*
After a lot of pointing to tears and asking “Huh?” Tylee finally finished eating her food. Since then, whenever she asks for Grammy T, I get this feeling she’s in part just trying to make water come out of my eyes again. She doesn’t exactly know what she’s doing, but she sure does love to point at that picture.
Two years is a long time. A long time not to get to ask your mom questions or to tell her stories. So in the art of emotional healing/venting, here are some things I would have said if my mom were still here: How much time can you get off work to stay with me after the baby is born? When I was born, did I come before my due date? Teach me how to breathe when I’m in labor. When does your flight get in? Mom, is this a contraction? Do you think we should go to the hospital now? What does she mean the baby’s head is turned the wrong way? What color is her hair? Is she okay? Her name is Tylee, Tylee Grace! Go get dad, tell him to come meet her. Am I going to walk funny forever? Can you hold her so I can sleep? Why do my boobs hurt so badly? Stop hogging the baby! I don’t think I’m doing it right. Please come visit again soon! Guess what. Irish twins! How did you survive first trimester with a newborn to take care of? I’m so sorry about your dad—I miss Papa Jim. Are you okay? It’s a boy! What am I going to do with a boy? Let’s take family pictures when I come home for the holidays! Am I allowed to have another baby shower? We are going to need two cribs! I miss you. Jonathan says we can move to TEXAS!!!! Tylee is walking! Did Wade tell you that him and Chancy are talking again?!? Night shift sucks…how did you do it?? When does your plane land? Did you tell dad what to do with Tylee while we are at the hospital? Please don’t talk to me when I’m having a contraction. AHH—Can you PLEASE tell them to let me have a C-section?! What color is his hair? Tell dad to bring Tylee in to meet her brother! Sorry if I was mean to you earlier. Can you pick up a birthday cake for Tylee? I’m never going to sleep again. Did you get Noah’s dorm room stuff figured out yet? Ember is in the 90th percentile for his weight—haha! How do you learn to let go of a grudge? Tylee LOVES creamy jalapeño. Only two months ‘til we live in the same state again! Let’s skype so you can hear Tylee say guacamole. Thanks for everything. Wanna babysit? I love you so much, mom.
Grief really plays tricks on me sometimes. I have often caught myself wishing, “If only my mom could have met Ember, too…” as if she had met Tylee. And then I remember, “Oh my gosh, she didn’t even get to see Tylee! Has it really been that long?” And so it has been. My little Tylee: A growing ruler, forever measuring how long it’s been since I had my mom. But if I stop there, I’m going to get it all wrong! My little Tylee: A growing ruler, forever measuring how long I have been a mom! Gosh. There is SO much bitter. And SO much sweet. The part that is ripping my heart away is that it didn’t have to be one or the other. Some people get both. Some people get both kids and a mom.
Man, do you know what I mean when I say I have a sore throat kind of cry going on? It’s like, you are crying so hard but trying to be so quiet and it all builds up like the worst case of Strep in a decade. I want to just let it out but I don’t want to wake up the kids or have anyone come checking on me or try to make me feel “better.” Am I the only one?
My God is so faithful to me. I’m so thankful for the mom I had and the husband, children, dad, brothers, other family and friends who I still have to walk this journey with. Everything will change, but love remains the same.