Tag Archives: Losing a Mother

Losing Mom: The Second Year Anniversary

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March 20 is my birthday. Cliff and I are headed off on a small adventure that I hope will end in cake with buttercream icing.

March 20 is also the day, two years ago, that my mother died. You don’t grow up thinking your mother will die on your birthday, but mine did (and it’s okay!)

Each death is different. Each grief is different, but active grieving helped me so much in the weeks after Mom died. Washing her punch glasses, ironing her linens, setting the table like she would, let me honor her legacy of whimsy and taste.

It was a year though until I really told the story of what happened on my birthday in 2015: Losing Mom: Happy Birthday to Me.

I was so relieved when my mother died. So happy that she was no longer suffering. While my mind still drifts to some regrets, to words not said, questions not asked, all in all, I’ve been surprised by how gentle my grief has been. Shocked, really.I’d dreaded my mother’s death since I first learned as a little girl that people die.

In the weeks before Mom died, I felt the deepest, most excruciating sadness I’ve ever experienced. The pain the cancer caused my mother broke my heart and not knowing how long she would suffer terrified me. Yet in her death, my overwhelming emotion has been peace.

But at the birth of my first granddaughter this year a new touch of grief set in. Not a deep sadness but a longing for my mother. I want to pick up the phone: “The baby is smiling!” If only I could print out the pictures and mail them to Mom: “Who do you think she looks like?”

As I said goodbye to Emerson last month in Dallas, I saw in a flash the faces of my mother, and my father too. They would be bonkers, as I am, over this little girl. If only they could see her.

But maybe they can. Maybe they do.

I’ve wondered where my parents went. I even have days when I think, bizarre as it sounds, that I can bring them back. I wrote about this idea in Bringing Back Dad. I sometimes ask myself:  Where are my parents? Deader than dead? In the ashes we’ve yet to sprinkle? Or are they in the clouds? In the treasures they left behind? In the habits and speech patterns I inherited? In heaven? (My first choice, of course.)

For years I’d observe people I knew whose parents were dead. They seemed fine. They laughed and went to work and traveled and celebrated holidays. If those people were fine, maybe I would be too.

And I am. For those of you who haven’t lost your parents yet, know there comes a grace in the loss. A peace in knowing your parent is not suffering. A rich contentment in the good memories. A fading of the bad ones. But most of all, there come flashes of longing for your mom and dad that feel like love in its purest form.

Just like looking into the face of a tiny baby who is looking right back at you.

Top photo: Mom smiles as I hold my oldest daughter Katherine.

Bottom photo: Laura holding Emerson at five months. Gosh, can this baby smile!

Losing Mom: First Christmas Gone

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My mom died in March, and so this is my first Christmas without her.

Every year, when December came around, I’ve wondered: What will it be like the first Christmas when I unpack Mom’s things, and she is gone? Our Christmas treasures include decorations she created over forty years in a variety of mediums.

So this is it. This is the year.

Above, you see Mary and the Baby, done in spools. Below, a Santa ornament of paper mache.

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Mom made this  angel from a tissue tube. The angel slips over a tree branch.

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Mom had the patience and skill to fold Moravian Stars.

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This angel is watercolor on brown paper.

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This felt angel on velveteen is one of six Christmas banners Mom made for our Lutheran church in Towson, Maryland. She’d visited the Vatican exhibit at the New York World’s Fair in 1964 and admired the banners there. Mom’s banners graced our church before banners even caught on as liturgical art in the U.S. She was cutting edge in the banner world!

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Mom and the ladies at church turned eggs into ornaments. They sold enough of these, at 75 cents each, to put a kitchen in our church.

Mom’s art projects were a hit with the Sunday school kids. Here’s a three-dimensional angel ornament she made with them. I recognize her style, so I imagine she painted this one as a sample. The paint has faded over the years.

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Toward the end of her life, Mom painted with acrylics. This is the Holy Spirit watching over Mary and the Baby. Mom liked to envision the Holy Spirit as a colorful bird, capable of influencing folks quite convincingly.

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My mother didn’t like a lot of mushy gush. She avoided sentimentality in words and on greeting cards. But since I had warning the cancer would soon overtake her, I was determined to say my piece, my happy piece before she died. So these were some of my last words to Mom: “Your creativity has inspired me since I was a little girl and made me the person I am.”

This is what I know about the death of a parent, especially written for those of you yet to experience this sad time:

 You never lose the person’s legacy to you. You never lose their spirit.

Your mom or dad won’t go away. Not all the way away.

 

 

Losing Mom: Vintage Linens

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My mother was a collector’s collector. She went nuts over vintage linens, buying them for herself and for yours truly.

Soon after Mom died in March, my friend Nancy and I hosted a bridal shower at my house.The younger me would never have believed I could spend hours with Mom’s things within days of her death. I would have expected tears to hit the eyelet napkins like raindrops.

Nope!

Ironing those napkins and slipping them into Mom’s silver napkin rings put me in happy spirits after a gut-wrenching five weeks. (Mom went fast with cancer.)

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Getting ready for the bridal shower helped me mightily

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and introduced me to the concept of active, and yes, even festive grief.

In this article on grief, the writer states that “healthy grieving results in an ability to remember the importance of our loss—but with a new found sense of peace, rather than searing pain.” Active grieving, be it ironing beautiful linens or hiking a beloved trail or starting a scholarship fund, helps us move to that new sense of peace.

My brother found drawers filled with linens as he cleared Mom’s apartment. He shipped them to me a few weeks ago.

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I’ve been having a grand time sharing them–more active grieving as my friends admire and select the hand towels, napkins, tablecloths, or bureau scarves they like best.

If I experience a more searing loss, I have no clue if the concept of active grief will help me. But in the case of my mother, who accepted her death and told us she had lived a good life, using and sharing her collections has been restorative and rewarding.

What about you? Thoughts? Impressions? Suggestions? Experiences?

Photo Below: Mom starting out on her linen journey, her wedding day in April of 1946.

WeddingBook Giveaway Winners! Congrats to Pam, who won Barbara Crooker Selected Poemsto Carol and Karen, who won Judy Holland’s Moody Bitches; and to Lisa, who won June Cotner and Nancy Tupper Ling’s Toasts.

Losing Mom: A Life in the Details

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Nancy Kiehne Miniature Books

In recent years, I’ve wondered: Is life about the big picture or is life in the details?

The big picture is good. It keeps us from wasting time on things that don’t matter. It enables us to step back and analyze problems, trends, and accomplishments. The big picture lets us rise above pettiness.

But details are good too. Your fingers trace the geometric design on a throw pillow. Your eyes catch the wink of a favorite cousin. You hear the clack of the roller coaster the second your feet hit the boardwalk. Details help us mark our days with appreciation and whimsy.

My mother died on Friday after a short bout with cancer. I prayed she would go once the pain became intense.

And so the job, or perhaps I should say the honor, of mourning her begins.

Do I grieve the big things? The loss of a mother. The ending of an era. The last parent.

Or do I grieve the small things, the details? I unpack Easter rabbits she painted and recall how Mom loved holidays. My grandson flies his first kite, and I can’t phone her with the news. I take out a recipe card, and there’s my mother’s handwriting.

Mom was a collector. In the photo above, you see some of her miniatures: books, animal figurines, tiny houses, a doll, and doll house furniture.

And she was an artist. Here are those Easter rabbits.

For collectors and artists, it’s all about the details. And although this grief is new, I’m thinking that’s how it will go for me. Photo by photo, memento by memento, flashback by flashback, I’ll miss my mother. I’ll miss her in the details.

But I’m not complaining! For as the big picture tells me, who would want it any other way?

What about you? Have you lost your mom? Any words of wisdom for those of us fresh to the loss?

Photo Below: My mom, Nancy Kiehne, on her 90th birthday in December