When I was 6, you helped me find my own style. You’d make sure my hair was always neatly twisted with matching bow ties and barrettes. Every look I wore had a theme. Sometimes, I was a sailor girl. Sometimes I was dressed like Jane Fonda with a bright headband, a colorful track jacket, and fluffy leg warmers.
For special occasions, I was dressed like a glazed porcelain doll with lace gloves and white stockings. Gosh, I hated it. Even my play clothes were frilly and froufrou.
When I was 13, you taught me not to steal. By then I had loved being a girl and wanted desperately to be a woman like you. I had found the perfect fiery red lip–problem was, it was in YOUR makeup bag. I built up the nerve to steal it, and I wore it for picture day. Of course, you never told to me that red lipstick would stain your lips. Needless to say, I got caught and was on punishment for a few weeks. But I just wanted to look like you.
When I was 18, you taught me how to be a mother. We changed messy diapers together and took turns getting up at 4 in the morning to warm up bottles. But when I wasn’t paying attention one morning, my son took his diaper off and smeared poop all over his crib. We laughed about that later in life. But back then, you taught me that he was my responsibility and that was my mess to clean up.
When I was 25, you taught me that I was great. Every idea I had was fabulous in your eyes. First, I wanted to be a nail technician, you said, “Go for it!” Then, I wanted to be a cartoonist, you said, “Well… you can draw really good, maybe you should try that!” Then I said I want to be a runway model like Naomi Campbell, you said, “You can be anything, all you have to do is DECIDE!” I finally became a writer. And when I found my newspaper clippings in your scrapbook bag, I knew that you were proud.
When I was 35, you taught me how to tackle problems with grace and elegance. I watched Cancer take over your body and steal your gorgeous grey tresses–but still… you smiled through every moment of that journey. Even when you were in pain, you held my hand and said that you would be ok.
Early Monday morning, you taught me that angels were real. The moon shined so brightly that evening. I couldn’t sleep so I just stared at it for hours. When my head got heavy I finally closed my eyes and to my surprise, you were right there. In dreams, you sat with me and we talked for a while. No one will be surprised to know that we even went shopping in my dreams. I woke up in tears because it felt so real. I walked out into the living room, only to find an empty bed.
It’s true, your body will forever be gone, but you’re always here with us. In our dreams, through our voices, and even in how I look. When people ask me am I ok, I promise to think about all the things I’ve learned and say, “I will be.” Because the most important thing you ever taught me was how to be a good person!
I wrote a book all about my experience with grief. I’ve gotten thousands of letter from women who have read my book and have since learned how to grieve in a healthy way. I encourage you to join our tribe and read my book.