Gosh I wish she were here. With my whole heart, and for many reasons, I wish she were here, but just so you could meet her, then you would totally get it. You would immediately get how she was the most beautiful and loving mother anyone could ever ask for. And me, I will never know how I got to be her daughter. I truly am the luckiest girl out there.
My mom taught me so much. She taught me to always RSVP; to write thank you notes; that people are the most important thing in the world; that dying your hair was false advertising in her book; that if you didn’t laugh at least 5 times a day, the day was wasted; that whenever you are in doubt, do the most loving thing. She taught me to be kind to everyone I met, to dance in the kitchen while dinner was cooking, to count to 10 when you slammed your finger and it hurt so badly, that beauty is what beauty does. She didn’t just say these things, she lived them. She was the most lovely person I have ever met, and even people who are not her children (I am the oldest of 5) would agree with me. She made everyone around her feel special. She was interested in and cared for people in the most genuine way ever. Maybe that’s why there was a 3.5 hour wait at her wake, and why my parents’ wedding song was “People” by Barbra Streisand. “People who need people, are the luckiest people in the world!!!” I can still hear her belting this in her off-key voice as folded laundry or snuggled and tickled us.
My mom’s name was Madonna and she was the absolute best - her “Katie Couric” like smile radiated from her sparkling face and I can still feel her hug when I close my eyes. I long for her daily and wish ovarian cancer hadn’t taken her from this world 7 years ago. The world still needed her and boy, so do I. But she did teach me so much and perhaps she was passing on the torch to me and the rest of my siblings when she died. Her teaching “session” was over and it was time for us to put her lessons into action without her by our side.
Writing all that she taught me definitely is a challenge because it is so hard to encapsulate all that she was and taught me just by being herself day in and day out. And I can’t just pick one. When I saw this “challenge” on The Today Show, I knew I had to write in to honor her in this special way. The Today Show was on every morning in our house, echoing in the background as she helped us with breakfast and packing lunches before all 5 of us rushed off to school. When I sat down to write this, I thought I was going to write about how she taught me to die with dignity. Having become a mother myself only 5 short months ago (to a baby girl we named after her, Grace Madonna), I can’t imagine looking into my children’s eyes knowing I was going to die. The pain she hid from us so that we didn’t feel sad, ugh I cannot even begin to imagine it. Yet, she smiled bravely through it all and talked to us about all that we would become after she was gone.
But as much as she handled her cancer gracefully and oh so bravely (Her mantra was “Strength with gentleness; courage with kindness), my heart keeps telling me to write about the one lesson she lived tirelessly day in and day out: TO LOVE BEING A MOM. It was so obvious to us 5 kids that she loved being our mother. There was no job in the world that she loved doing more than being our mom. My dad still tearfully reminds us of that to this day. And as I get used to this mom thing, and ache with every part of my being that she were here to help me this new journey of motherhood, I remind myself that I am her daughter and it is in my DNA to be a fantastic mother just like her. With that thought, I take a deep breath, snuggle my daughter a bit closer, sing while I change her diaper, laugh when I am covered in spit up, and say prayers with her at night. As Gracie grows up, I will make her know that I love being her mother with every act of love I do for her - late nights making Halloween costumes, talks on the stairs, notes in lunches, and winks from the audience. Like my mom did for me, I won’t just tell her, I will SHOW her.
I think of what she would be like as a grandmother to Gracie, and I just buckle to my knees in sadness at such a missed opportunity. I count to 10 like she told me to when something really hurts, but it doesn’t work... The only lesson that has not proven itself true 100% of the time I guess.
I love you Mom. Thank you for being mine. Always. xoxo