Early this year, I cleared up all the junk that was piling at home. Lying beneath all that clutter , I spotted this special Christmas card, that my daughter gave me on December 24, 2004. Yes, exactly 10 years ago. I clearly remember myself 10 years ago. I was like a zombie, grief stricken from the loss of my beloved son and avoided social contact with friends and relatives, except immediate family. It had been four years since my son died but still, I felt I was holed up in the deepest pit, trying to find the light that would bring me to a new normal. I was borderline obese and ugly. Not only that, I was a controlling mother and an indifferent wife. So, when I read Lauren’s greeting card, I suddenly saw a tiny ray of light…and felt a knot in my throat. GUILT.
With my daughter’s permission, I am copying the contents of her beautiful letter. So wise beyond her 18 years, I want you to read it for yourself:
December 24, 2004
I thought I’d write you a short Christmas letter as a token of my gratitude for everything that you’ve done for me. I mean, you’ve done so much for me and Marielle and Dad and you put so much effort into making holidays like this memorable and magical for all of us. You’ve done a wonderful job and I appreciate it very much.
I see you do so many things for us, and sometimes I wonder if you do anything for yourself. It’s okay for you to take care of us but I think you need to take more care of yourself. I guess I’m a bit worried about what you will do with your life after Marielle and I leave the nest. I think it would be nice for you to go out once in a while, relax and just have fun and not attend to family duties. Take a break and be yourself.
I guess the reason why I’m telling you this is because even if I don’t show it very often, I do love you and I am concerned about you, I want you to be happy , and I want to know if you will be all right two or three years from now when I go off and start my own life.
You and I are very different from one another and I hope you understand that even though I’d like to do everything you ask of me, I’m my own person too. And sometimes I do things not so I could piss you off, but because it’s something I want for myself. And while I know you are constantly worried about me because it’s your job to, I thought I’d let you know that I’m going to be just fine.
Merry Christmas , Mom. I love you.
Your daughter, Lauren
When I showed Lauren this letter , I asked her how I turned out…10 years after. Did I pass the mark?
“I guess”, my wise daughter nods.
Here are a few things I did the following year:
– Finally gave my daughter the approval to continue the relationship with someone I did not approve
– Enrolled at Fitness First to lose excess weight
– gave my husband an ultimatum, to shape up or our marriage is over
– Co-founded the grief support group for bereaved parents, The Compassionate friends in December 2005
– started this blog
I believe I am taking care of myself more than I did 10 years ago. I lost all those excess pounds. I feel pretty oh so pretty. My social life and career as a mom blogger and citizen advocate make life so worth living. I also believe I am a better person than I was ten years ago. Yes, my home is now an empty nest and it gets lonely at times but I found something to be busy with– working for the future of this country.I want to make a difference in my children’s lives by making a difference in the world. And I have four cats to keep me company aside from my husband. I hope my daughters are proud of me because I am proud of myself. I hope they will count the times I worked hard to attain this new normal than those times I fell in that pit.
Being a mother can be the greatest opportunity for growth. Our children show us possibilities , that there is a new world out there. The struggle to be our best “when the stakes are so high offers us a chance to be introspective and explore ideas we might not have ever considered.” I encourage parents to explore these possibilities and integrate everything our children are trying to teach us. We learn so much from them.
Thank you, my dear daughters for raising your mother well.