Dear Mom: Ten Years Without You

 

A Thanksgiving Like no Other

November 24, 2011, we woke up to an ordinary Thanksgiving day. My sister and I each at our own homes busy packing and preparing food to bring to mom’s house. The turkey breasts were roasting in my sister’s oven and two trays of cornbread dressing sat in the back of my car ready to be baked at mom’s. We assumed mom was also busy at home putting the final touches on her green bean casserole and infamous yellow cake with chocolate swirl. Little did we know this Thanksgiving would be one like no other. 

As my family and I made the drive from Baton Rouge to Thibodaux, we learned mom was not answering the phone. I heard from my aunt and my sister who were, at first, calm, but soon calm turned to frantic as mom also would not answer her door. We told ourselves she was in the shower or busy cooking in the kitchen; however, I had a feeling that was not the case. Somehow I knew we were gravely mistaken. Our worst fears were confirmed when we learned mom had not woken up that beautiful Thanksgiving morning. She would not be waking up again. Sometime during the night she slipped away from this Earthly life and made her way to eternal peace. That thanksgiving day, ten years ago, I was in my late twenties facing a lifetime ahead without my mother.

Time is a Peculiar Thing

The fact that ten years have come and gone since I last saw my mother is quite incomprehensible. In a way, it seems I have lived an entire lifetime without her, and at the same time, it feels as if a few short years ago she was pulling into my driveway. Both she and I loved her weekends spent in Baton Rouge. I can still picture her white Toyota Camry pulling up, my young daughter’s face bursting with excitement, and feeling the relief that comes knowing mom would be around to help all weekend long. When Mimi came to town my daughter had a weekend playmate and promise of Skittles and coke.

My mom was a quiet person. Although not a woman of many words, her presence was always comforting. People often say to me, ‘I can not imagine losing my mom.’ Although hard to imagine, given the circumstances there is not much choice in the matter. Honestly, after so many years of her being gone, I have adapted to not having my mom present in our lives. For me, at some point during the grief journey, I grew accustomed to her absence and embraced the world without her. Time is peculiar in that I cannot say exactly when this happened. Of course, I miss her dearly and would love to have her with us. For those who have suffered the loss of someone close, you know grief manifests itself in different ways over the years. 

Every year when the calendar rolls onto November 1st, I feel it in the pit of my stomach. The heaviness creeps in and my mind relives the moments of that shocking Thanksgiving morning ten years ago. Tragedy has a way of burning itself so clearly and distinctly into our memory. I have not cooked a cornbread dressing since that dreaded day, and the routines and rituals of Thanksgiving simply do not feel the same.

Gone But Not Forgotten 

The first few years after a loss are painfully tough, and I am grateful to have those long behind me. Although my mom is not physically here to participate in my life, she certainly lives on in the memories and stories I share with my girls. Lately, they love hearing about all the yummy junk food and snacks my mom let us have. From Kool-Aid and fudge rounds to pop tarts and fish sticks, they simply can not wrap their heads around my childhood diet. As much as I can, I weave stories of Mimi into their lives hoping they always remember her. You know how the saying goes…having an angel to call by name. She certainly is our angel.

I love imagining what mom would be like today. She would relish watching her grandchildren play sports. She was the kind of fan who wore team colors to game day no matter if it was an LSU game or her nephew’s flag football team. She lived for those days. I picture her sitting in the stands cheering on her granddaughters at every chance possible. My oldest daughter was 4 when she lost her Mimi. Today, she describes her as her special person and recalls Mimi being one of the only people who came to visit just for her. Those are the memories we hold onto tightly never imagining she would be gone so soon. 

Mom, this Thanksgiving, we give thanks for you. We remember the years we had together including the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows, and every moment in between. I am sorry those years were abruptly cut short; however, I find comfort in knowing you finally found the peace and happiness simply not possible in an Earthly existence. 

Ashley is originally from Thibodaux, La. She moved to Baton Rouge in 2005 to attend graduate school at LSU where she received a master’s degree in social work. She has been married to her wonderful husband, Taylor, for 15 years and they have 3 daughters Raegan (14), Julia (8) and Sadie (2 going on 20). Ashley worked as a social worker in the medical field for 10 years before taking a break to be a stay at home mom. Life took a very unexpected turn when her husband was diagnosed with a rare cancer in 2019 which fueled her passion for rare disease awareness. She is co-founder of the non-profit Garage 10 which provides financial assistance to individuals with rare diseases. Ashley loves family, faith, friends, date nights, coffee creamer, exercising and quiet moments amongst the business of life.

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