One of my best friends died a few weeks ago. She was an angel that God sent down to earth.
The thing that I loved most about her was that she was “real”. I don’t use that term lightly. There are so many of us who will walk around with masks on, hiding our struggles and pain from others. When others ask us how we are doing we reflexively reply “Fine” and probably smile. She was not that kind of person. She was open about how she was feeling and what was going on with her. She was full of faith, but never shied away from letting you know that she had gained that faith over her life’s journey. She knew that life was hard and grew to a point that she could love every day of it. She had seen the depths of despair, risen out of those depths and then turned to lend a hand to others who were still trying to climb out.
She and I knew each other through church, but became friends over the summer. Both out of work, we volunteered at our church so that our children could attend their summer enrichment program. She would pick myself and my children up every morning and drop us home every evening. We became friends very quickly. We couldn’t help but like each other and see similarities in our experiences. We shared stories about motherhood and vented about our frustrating job search. We talked about our hopes and dreams. We encouraged one another to start our own ventures and become self-employed. We tried together.
One day at church, I was in the pew crying. She came over to me and whispered to me, “It’s o.k. Let it go. Your daughter is o.k. and she knows that you love her”. I cried even harder. Later, I asked her how she knew that I felt like a horrible mom- I was very sick when I was pregnant with my daughter and had a hard time feeling attached to her after she was born. She told me that she knew by how I looked at my daughter, the unspoken thoughts of “I’m sorry” or “Do you really feel that I love you?” radiating from my eyes.
I looked at her quizzically- how could she know? She who always looked so put together and wore stilettos. She whose hair was always cute and, for God’s sake, had jewels in it! She who had a life where she went out and spent time with other adults. And don’t even get me started on how stylish and happy her daughter always was! How could she know what it felt like to be so nauseous and dizzy during pregnancy that you prayed for miscarriage? How could she know what it felt like to not be bonded to your own child? To feel like you could run away and leave them forever?
She smiled. She told me that she had experienced a few things in life. She too had had days of feeling so bad that she could only think moment by moment when she was pregnant- vomiting in her car and throughout the day while at work. She too had felt like a bad mother at different times. She was not a Goddess, but a Phoenix. She had climbed her way to the life that she was currently living and wanted me to climb out and join her. She knew that I had to let go of the guilt of not being a “perfect” mom so that I could be a “good enough” mom.
After that I loved her.
I truly believe that God had orchestrated this part of my life so that I could meet his angel. I had always felt like a good mother to my son and so for things to happen this way with my daughter caused me unspeakable anguish. She helped to give me hope that life would not always feel so bad and that I wouldn’t have to spend the rest of my life apologizing to my children for my hardships because all along the way I did the best that I could.
I have wanted to write something since her death, but couldn’t find the words. I wanted to talk about allergic reactions, about friendship, about postpartum depression, about life and death. So many things have happened since she left us here on earth to make me think about what’s really important.
I want now to pass on my friend’s legacy of motherhood. If you are a mother who has struggled or is struggling now, look toward the future. If you are a mother who had hyperemesis gravidarum or any other sickness that made you think of miscarriage/abortion, forgive yourself. You don’t have to apologize. Start over and let go of the condemnation that you have for yourself. Cherish your other mom friends and work with them so that you can uplift one another.
P.S. Once you are up and out, turn around and help someone else.