A Love Letter to Mom & Annual Tribute

I’ve come to annually mark the passing of my mother by writing her a letter.  This year I was at my annual winter scrapbooking retreat amongst friends—just like I was the day before I got word of my mother’s passing in 2011.  Again I was working on my mother’s tribute album.

Tribute AlbumSetting the Stage to Write

Three years later this scrapbook remains part of my healing process as it retraces my steps before and after she died—the visits back home, meeting with her health care providers, making end-of-life decisions, giving her eulogy, and burying her remains.  It is the visual story that was eventually published in Journeys to Mother Love.  It is a beautiful tribute album—not necessarily for others’ eyes, but something between my mother and me.

This year the anniversary letter was harder to write than last year.  After my arrival at the retreat, I was told that Wanda, the woman who has organized and run these retreats over the years, wasn’t going to be joining us.  Her husband who suffered with Parkinson’s had taken a turn for the worse and was put on hospice.  His end of life was very near.  It hit us all by surprise, and gave us an opportunity to privately lift her in prayer and share our own feelings about this sad turn of events.

Final goodbyesFor me the timing hit too close to home as our discussion turned to end-of-life decisions and the role women often provide in caring for our loved ones.  On the outside I was listening to the conversation, but in my mind I was back at my mother’s side caring for her at the nursing home on one of my visits back home.  It was as if my bittersweet memories from before were now being lived out by Wanda and her family.  Sadly, her husband passed away a few days later.

Embracing the Grief

It was in that context of grief, that my letter to my mother freely flowed through my fingers to the keyboard, and with it a few well-earned tears.  I know my mom can’t physically answer my letter, but something tells me she’ll find a way to let me know she received it.

Below is an excerpt of that letter.  I hope it inspires you to do the same for someone you love—past or present—and let your healing turn to hope.

Mom and kidsA Love Letter to Mom

“Dear Mom,

I admire your perseverance. You lived a long life. Fate hit you a terrible blow when you suffered your nervous breakdown at the age of 35, and me as well, when I was six. Our journeys to emotional healing both started that day.

Now 48 years later I am approaching mine in a new way, with a different battle plan in place. No more white-knuckling it. I am choosing to take medication (for my ADHD).

…Anyway, Mom, the point of all this is that your passing put all of the pieces together for me to even consider this route for me, and for my son (who also has ADHD).  I am now an advocate for him.  I am an advocate for myself.  I am learning more about ADHD and how to help both of us.

I don’t know what lies ahead for us as we journey down this road on medication.  I don’t know what it was like for you.  I’m saddened that I never got to talk to you about any of this.  I’m saddened that I didn’t get to know you as an adult.  I’m saddened I didn’t really get to know you.

But I wanted you to know that as horrible as your life was for so many years after the nervous breakdown, the divorce, in and out of mental hospitals, etc. that it has served to help me to fight for myself and my son now. I am more open to trying and exploring how I can lead a more normal life with the support of medication.  I am taking back control of my life and my emotional health.

So I thank you Mom for not leaving me a legacy of mental illness.  You left me a gift that I get to integrate into my life.  That gift is the gift of perseverance and hope in the Lord through all things. 

I know what I am going through is important and life changing.  I know there are many others like me who have also suffered in silence as they lived in the shadow of mental illness.

I love you Mom.  Thank you for persevering to the end and giving life back to me in the process.

Love,
Ardis”

Peace to you and your family Wanda, from your scrapbooking sisters.

Peace to you and your family Wanda, from your scrapbooking sisters.

Updated 6/1/2014: Wanda’s husband passed away a few days after the scrapbooking weekend. Through a sad turn of events, Wanda also passed away a few months later. Remembering Wanda is the tribute I wrote to our dear friend and scrapbooking mentor.

This post is listed on Christian Mommy Blogger/Fellowship Fridays and Missional Women/Faith Filled Friday.

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11 Comments

  1. Once again you brought tears to my eyes, reflecting both the sadness and joy you describe so well. I love that you thank your mother for persevering to give you the gifts that make you strong and allow new joy to your life. I see that perseverance in you as well. Your ability to reshape adversity to a positive is a powerful gift not only for you, but also for those who read your writings.

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    • Thank you Terry for your encouragement and continued support of my writing. It took a long time to get to a place of appreciation and love for my mother. Sometimes it feels like my life is just beginning. I believe she is getting a front row seat to all of these positive changes and is cheering me on from above. Thanks again! <3.

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  2. heartwriter

     /  February 19, 2014

    Ardis, This is beautiful. I have not yet shared with you another connection we have, my father lived all of my life with mental illness suffering his first nervous breakdown when I was 2 months old. I love how you have healed and continue to heal. For me, these last twelve years my dad has been in Heaven he has finally been able to be the dad we both desired. I feel his presence daily. Thank you for being so real with us. You are a blessing, a blessing indeed.

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    • Jenny, thank you for your kind comments. I’m saddened to hear of your father’s suffering. I imagine that had profound affects on you as well. My mother’s nervous breakdown was when my younger brother was just a few weeks old. I’ve always attributed it to post-partum depression. It is interesting that your father’s was also so soon after your birth. Yet you overcame that and now inspire others with your writing, coaching, etc. God is so good to turn our pain into joy and to use it for His glory. Blessings to you on your journey.

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  3. Being Woven

     /  February 21, 2014

    I lost my mother one year ago and was the daughter who lived nearby. I cared for her and made those decisions. I watched dementia take over and then release and then rear its ugly head over and over. But she was always Mama and loved me and I her. We went through a lot together, some beautiful and some not so beautiful.
    Yet her life continues to give me hope and fill me with love for she lived a full life until she couldn’t. She died at age 98, almost 99. Most of those years were without dementia, but also filled with hard lessons along with her precious love for living life and loving her 3 girls. Your letter writing sounds like a really good idea for me. Glad I came by from Missional Women.
    Caring through Christ, ~ linda

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    • Linda, thanks for stopping by and sharing a bit of your story about your mother. It is hard to watch our parents age and suffer through end of life illness. It sounds like a bittersweet passing as your mother lived a long, long life. Please let me know if you end up writing a letter to your mother and maybe even post it on your blog. I noticed on your blog that you like to journal too. I’m sure that God will give you even deeper insights into your mother’s heart as you write a love letter to her. Blessings, Ardis

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  4. rkrumpe94

     /  February 21, 2014

    Beautiful! Yes, I can see and hear the healing in this letter. Blessings to you as you journey on without your mother but with the gifts she left behind that you are choosing to embrace and find strength in. Love, Rachael @ Inking the heart

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    • Rachael, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment on my post. God works in mysterious ways as He heals our hearts and draws us closer to Him. Blessings to you on your writing for Him. May it inspire others on their journey. Ardis

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  1. Featured Post & #FellowshipFridays 10 - Christian Mommy Blogger
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    I'm an author, writer, speaker, mentor & mom. I've struggled to find my voice all my life as I lived in the shadows of a mother with mental illness. Thankfully that was not the legacy that she handed down to me. It took a lot of recovery and deep healing work to rise above it.

    I am thankful to God for Making Me Bold in the process. Now I use my writing and speaking voice to help others on their journey to turn healing into hope.

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