I guess I should explain… We simply called her Minnie. No, it was not an indication of our level of respect for her or the amount of love we had for her. It was just our thing. She jokingly blamed our Dad because he always referred to her by her first name. Naturally, we did what kids do, we imitated him. So, her first name stuck. I would guess it was rather uncommon but it worked for us.
Dear Minnie, I miss you so much.
My mother died, at night, in her bedroom, with me and my Dad at her bedside. It is all still so vivid. I was in my bedroom, listening to music and talking to some guy that I barely remember. Daddy came to my door and he said, “we’re in trouble.” My world came to an abrupt stop. As I got to my mother’s bedside, I noticed her shallow and quickened breath. I remember wishing I could breathe for her. Eventually, her breathing slowed down to nothing. We both stood around her bed and held her hands. Her body was cool to the touch. I talked to her and cried over her. HELPLESS, MY DAD AND I WATCHED MY MOTHER LEAVE THIS WORLD. You see, I couldn’t mail the letter because I wasn’t sure of the address in heaven…
Dear Minnie, I miss you so much. There are times when I can’t believe you’re gone. There are times when I feel you left me and then there are times when I feel you were taken from me.
I never equated HER cancer diagnosis with a death sentence. Of course, I stood there with a look of disbelief when my parents broke the news to me. After the initial shock of hearing her diagnosis, I convinced myself that MY mother would be a survivor. Even on her worst days, I knew she could and would win that fight.
Hope never left me. They always told me that once I got a notion, I wouldn’t let it go. I never believed that she would be taken away from me. Call it naiveté or blissful ignorance, call it denial or simple faith. Whatever it was, I never expected her to die.
Minnie, I often remember when you would tell me, “You’d better learn to do for yourself because I won’t be with you always.”
Let me tell you, I hated to hear her say that. Ugh. Whenever she would say that, I would sarcastically respond by asking her where was she planning to go if she wasn’t going to be with me. As a “youngish” adult, I just never imagined any event in my life with her not being there. I depended on her for so much. Seriously, I expected to be able to go to her when I had a meltdown about my first visible grey hair. Not to mention meltdowns about marriage, motherhood and even menopause. SHE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE THERE. But Minnie was preparing me for independence long before I realized it was necessary. She knew as mothers always do.
Minnie, Now that I’m forced to face the reality that you won’t always be with me, not a day goes by that I don’t cry. I know you always told me to pray and I try to remember that.
Y’all, what teenager wants to hear, “just pray about it”? Oh my gosh, that was another one of those lessons I didn’t want to hear. Listen, I’m sure you are all aware of how every little thing in a teenager’s life is totally major, right? You know what I wanted, I wanted her to tell me all of the answers to every situation that arose. I guess my mother didn’t want to help me cheat on this exam we call life. Minnie knew that prayer would give me peace and perspective. I’m so grateful…but, back to the letter.
Everybody wants to tell me how to grieve, Minnie. They think they know what’s best for me. Even I don’t know what’s best for me.
Here I was, facing the uncertainty of being a motherless daughter, confronting the question of how to be me without her. You see, you never truly appreciate your mother until you can’t touch her, you can’t hear her voice and you can’t seek her advice. You must work to find yourself outside of the shadows of your mother’s protective wings.
On the night she died, chapter one of my grief story began. MY grief story. Unique and difficult and ugly at times but mine. I believe there is a purpose to our grief. And because there is a purpose to our grief, I have grown. It has taken a lot of thought, time and tears. She was a wonderful teacher, and an even better example. I am beyond grateful for who she was and for who I have become because of her.
Minnie, even though I don’t know what is going to happen next, I am absolutely sure that you are the strongest woman I’ve met in my entire life. You fought courageously, kept your head up and journeyed on despite your trials. I truly understand what it means to admire someone. You are now and will always be my hero.