31 Days to Shine: Bad Things Happen to Good Girls
A woman I know – a boy-mom of grown sons – out of the blue shared with me that she had known my mom a long time ago. She sent me the following email:
I have so very many fond memories of her. She took me under her wing as a new mom and groomed me, so to speak, to be the spiritual leader of our home because my husband at the time was not a Christian. She encouraged me almost silently from the sidelines. For the first 10 to 12 years of my boys lives I was faithfully at church come rain or shine with the support of very few people and she was one of them. It seemed that I was always under her wing…. I have to say my relationship was that of almost an “in awe” kind of thing… it was hard for me to open up to many adults. Somehow Karen made it okay and made me want to be a better mom. Raised me to a different level. She was a role model. She was full of grace and a great sense of humor.
I’d like to tell you that my heart swelled with pride as I read these words. That I rejoiced that others remembered mom’s goodness and generosity.
But I didn’t.
I cried the ugly, noisy, snotty cry for hours. I wept with the bitterness and unfairness of it all. Where was she when I was a young mother of two small boys? Where was she when my children were born? Why them, not me?
I have always been A Good Girl. I follow rules. I toe the line. I don’t drive over the speed limit and I NEVER, not once, snuck (sneaked?) out of the house while my parents were sleeping.
I read my Bible daily. I prayed. I believed with all my heart that God was not going to inflict the same illness on my mother that had taken my grandmother. I believed. I had faith a hell of a lot bigger than a mustard seed.
And then I discovered the ugly truth: Bad things happen to good girls. It’s not fair. It’s not right. It’s just the way it is. Glennon Doyle Melton calls this “brutiful.” Life is brutal. Life is beautiful. Everybody gets a big helping of both. No one gets just one or the other.
“You can be angry about what you lost, or you can be grateful for what you had.” I can’t remember where I heard that. It sounds like something Rose from LOST would have said. Or John Locke. (We’re watching re-runs…)
But it’s true. I spent a lot of time feeling bitter that I had lost my mom. Most of that while she was still alive, mentally ill and physically incapacitated. After she died, the bitterness leaked out and all I felt was loss for a long, long time. Flash-floods of grief that came out of nowhere. In the car. Making scrambled eggs at the stove. Two weeks after she died, I wrote:
there are days when my body feels like lead. i cannot move. i cannot think. i cannot speak. and there are other days when i actually forget for an hour or two, preoccupied with work or other duties, until it all comes rushing back. but as each day passes, the times when i do remember are less shocking, less acute. i still weep unexpectedly, but with less force, less pain.
Bitterness still comes to visit every once in a while, as it did when I read that email.
Bad things happen to good people, every day.
My mother was a really good mom.
She made us wash our hands when we got home from school. We ate well-balanced meals, and, almost always, we at them as a family at the dinner table.
She helped with our homework, sat with me while I practiced the piano, and one time, she made a papier-mache R2D2 costume for my brother using a garbage can as a mold and covered the entire thing with tin foil and paint.
She made us do chores, within reason, but never called them that ’cause she didn’t like the connotation. We kept our rooms clean, we brushed our teeth after meals, and when I couldn’t fall asleep, she would sit on the edge of my bed, and sing to me softly while she patted me on the back.
Every once in a while, she let me have an ice cream sundae for breakfast. With fudge.
She knew when I was begging to stay home from school that sometimes, a kid needs some PTO, too. We would go out for breakfast on those days, and I would offer up a token cough or two. Then we would go shopping and try on shoes or drink peppermint hot chocolate from the coffee cart in front of Nordstrom.
She was a GREAT mom.
I will never stop aching for what I have lost, but I am grateful for what I had. I’m grateful that there were some young moms out there that benefited from her wisdom when their children were young. I’m grateful that mine is not the only life she blessed.
I’m grateful that while she was able, and even after she wasn’t, her light shone on everyone around her, and in that glow, she lit the path for someone else.
Me, for one.
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