My mama, my own personal wonder woman

It’s Mother’s Day today. I woke up this morning thinking about my own mom and also about one of my close friends whose mom died last year. I wish so much that she could be picnicking with her mom this morning too.

When people close to you die, you become very sensitive to others who have lost people close to them. I suppose this is one of the ways that suffering, pain and loss connect us and make us more compassionate humans. One of the silver linings in the dark clouds.

I’m thinking of all the people out there who have lost their moms or who have strained relationships with their moms. I’m also thinking of all the mothers out there who have lost their children or who have strained relationships with their children. Days like Mother’s Day can be joyful celebrations for some, and terribly hard and sad days for others. My heart is with my people missing their mamas and their children today.

I’ve wanted to write about my mom for awhile because when I think about the past year and a half of my life and everything that has happened and everything that’s changed, my heart swells with gratitude for her. She has been my Mr. Miyagi in navigating the loss of GR, a role I’m sure she never wanted or anticipated.

On April 2, 1987, my mom and dad went to sleep with their five children tucked sweetly into bed. In the wee hours of the morning on April 3, my mom woke up to my 36-year old father breathing loudly and abnormally. She tried to wake him up but he wasn’t responding. She ran in the middle of the night next door to our neighbor’s house because the wife was a nurse. They didn’t answer the door. In fear and panic, she ran back to our house, called 911 and woke my 15-year old brother up. They tried to give my dad CPR. It didn’t work. He died suddenly and tragically right there in front of her.

My parents met in middle school and became boyfriend and girlfriend then. They married when my dad was 18 and my mom was 19. By the time he died, my parents had already been married for 18 years. He was her everything. It’s been 30 years since he’s been gone. She has chosen not to date or get re-married. She dedicated her life to being a mother to us. And now her grandkids love her as much as we do. I call her the Child Whisperer.

Our stories are different, our relationships with our husbands were different, our circumstances were different, but we both know the suffocating feeling of losing the person we chose to share our lives with. What’s bigger than that? It’s a heartache I wish none of us had to know. In the early days I used to try to explain it like this: Remember when you were younger and had your first boyfriend or girlfriend. Remember how fun and giddy and exciting it all felt? Then remember when they broke up with you and you’d wake up in the morning and feel okay for about 30 seconds until you felt that sting of heartache that would physically manifest in your heart and in your belly? THAT feeling of heartache. Well, when a spouse dies, it’s like that feeling times EIGHT TRILLION. And it lasts all day for days in a row for months at a time. It’s why Shaman Rob had to give me a heart chakra TRANSPLANT because my shit was so busted. I felt as if my heart had been ripped out of my chest, stomped on and thrown in the gutter. I’ve spent the last 14 or so months trying to re-build it.

Which brings me back to my mom.

I credit her so much with my decision to take time off and travel and re-see the beauty of the world around me. With five needy children in tow when my dad died, my mom never had the option or the luxury of taking time out of her life to do such a thing. So I did it for me, and maybe a little bit for her too.

In the early days of grief, I would experience panic attacks where I thought I might have to go to the ER. I would experience dizziness and vertigo and wonder if I was gonna’ pass out and die. My mom would calmly share her experiences of anxiety with me when my dad died and how when she’d be reading my sister a book every night her heart would feel like it was beating out of her chest. She would pray (while reading the book to my sister), “Please God, don’t let me die. My children need me.” So, when I was going through my own stages of extreme anxiety and stress she would say, “Lie down, Brooke. Put a cold rag on your head. Take a deep breath. I promise you aren’t dying. It is stress. You will be okay.” And I was.

On days when I couldn’t get out of the bed because I’d by lying there crying thinking “I can’t do this today, I can’t do this today, I can’t do this today,” my mom would come to me, hug me, and in a few words say, “I love you, Brookie. The sun is gonna’ come out tomorrow, I promise.” Again, she was right. The word “can’t” is not one that exists in my mom’s vocabulary.

On days when the uncertainty of my life and starting over at the age of 40 has felt too large to process, my mom has reminded me over and over to relax a little, trust the flow of life and that I will figure it all out in due time. Other people have said similar things to me, and I’m always grateful for the wise counsel, but there’s nothing like hearing it from my mom. Because I know she knows. And she knows me.

On days when I felt the darkness and heaviness of life be all-consuming, my mom has consistently reminded me of my inner light. She said that I’ve always had it and that I always will. That I am capable and strong and resilient and loved.

My mom and I are very different creatures, but in ways we are also very similar. We have been through our fair share of ups and downs over the years, but the love between us has been fierce from the get-go.

Perhaps that is the greatest gift my mom has bestowed me in life. She has shown me, through her unwavering love of my father, of her parents and her immediate family, and of us, her five children–her self-proclaimed “greatest gifts”–what love in action really looks like.

Thank you, Mom, for showing me what one is capable of on our darkest days and on our lightest days. I would have had way less of the latter if it weren’t for your sometimes quiet but always very present love, encouragement and support.

My gratitude for you, and the choices you have made along the way to be the best mom you could be to all five of us, is infinite. Infinite, boundless, eternal gratitude.

I am more than half the woman I am because of you.

My mama.

6 Comments

    1. Thank you! I think I am publishing on this blog but I do often think about writing something to publish in print. We shall see. Thank you for your kind words of support. 🙂

  1. Thanks for another beautifull blog . I shared it with a co worker who is grieving the loss of her mom last year. I love ❤️ your relationship with Mama Gowen. I want to spend more time with her next time I’m in Memphis . I love you

    1. Thank YOU, beautiful friend. Your support and love means so much to me. My mom would LOVE to have some Kelli time…as would I! Love you dearly. xo

  2. This made me cry, Brooke– remembering that time for all of you, not to mention your last 14 months. Your mom has demonstrated Wonder Woman-ness to a lot of us. She is one of my heroes, too. (And I’m grateful for all the Chiapella Can Do my own mom has shown me, too.) Thank you for this beautiful piece and for so bravely sharing. Love you lots!

    1. Awwww, Dora. I’m so grateful for you and your kindness and thoughtfulness over the past couple of years…and my entire life really. You are such a special person and I’m so grateful for you. Our moms are definitely special, strong and wise women. We are fortunate. I can’t wait to get to spend some real QT with all of you in August! I’m so excited. Love you, sweet Dora. 🙂

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