After three weeks of hospice care, my mother quietly passed away in her own bed, surrounded by friends and family, on my 38th birthday. She never met the youngest of our eight children, much less their future spouses and the great-grandchildren she could have known in a healthier life, with a healthier body.
I’m now the age she was when she died. My heart aches not only for the pain she endured but also for nineteen years worth of memories she’s missed.
I’m determined not to take these days for granted. Life is a gift. And so I’m dedicating this year to my mother, to living my best year — our best year — and doing all the things she could have done if she’d been healthier or if she were still here with us.
Recently I painted our dark kitchen cabinets white. On the second day, when I realized they required a minimum of six coats, I wanted to quit. Obviously, this wasn’t an option. A couple of things carried me through those two weeks of work: my husband’s help and encouragement and a new thought: I would dedicate the work to my mother’s memory and do it for both of us.
This year I’ll make a host of treasured memories, some anticipated, others unexpected, in her honor. Graduating my youngest daughter (my mom was too sick to attend my younger sister’s high school graduation). Taking a mother/daughter trip to Nashville to see a Taylor Swift concert. Attending some Braves home games (my mother was a faithful fan who kept her own scorebook during postseason games). Helping one of our daughters plan her wedding and enter the next stage of life.
My mother was a faithful member of the Doubleday Book Club; our den had a wall of bookcases filled with hardback fiction titles. I devoured them as a teen, which contributed to my lifelong love affair with a good story. Although I’ve released non-fiction books as both author and contributor, I read novels almost exclusively. I’ve found fiction easy to read but intimidating to write, but I’m working on something now and it’s fun to imagine my mother engrossed in a story I wrote for both of us.
Lately, I find myself playing more card and board games, or sitting on the couch watching baseball with the family. I’ve told my children I’ll go to the pool with them this summer, which I usually avoid (the pool, not the children). More than anything, I want to be present in the lives of my people. The effect of my mother’s absence in my life illustrates the importance of my presence.
My mother faced a series of medical decisions, some seemingly innocuous, that snowballed into a life marked by medical intervention and the quest for relief from pain and suffering. Dependence on doctors and pharmaceuticals dominated her existence; it stripped her of autonomy. Because of her experience, I don’t make health decisions lightly. Those chains that confined her purchased my freedom.
Yesterday I walked with my son and grandson on what we fondly call the Adventure Trail. My mother used a cane for years and had a disability parking permit; she joked that we drove her places to get a good parking space. She didn’t have the ability to do basic things, like grocery shop, without help. I want to walk my dog and hike our neighborhood trails knowing how happy my mother would be that I can. Lord, please don’t let me forget that mobility is a gift.
Although each day was a struggle, my mother lived with dignity. She was wise, outspoken, and honest. She was weak but not lazy. She had a sense of humor and laughed a lot. Her family was precious to her. She was always there for me. Always. She conserved energy, hoping she’d have the stamina to make it to church. Her faith sustained her.
She lived out lessons you can build a life on.
“My child, listen when your father corrects you.
Don’t neglect your mother’s instruction.
What you learn from them will crown you with grace
and be a chain of honor around your neck.”
Proverbs 1:8-9 (NLT)
I hope my story demonstrates the power of a mother’s influence. Our children gain an understanding of the world and how to function in it from us. It’s true that motherhood can be a thankless job. With young children, there’s much work and little recognition. With older children, you may feel forgotten or unneeded. My mother meant a lot to me, but I didn’t always tell her so. Remember: God sees you. He sees what you do. Your dedication to your family not only benefits them, but it honors Him.
My mother had faults; I learned from them too. Perfection isn’t possible this side of heaven. We do the best we can because it matters. Ripples of my mother’s influence linger, still spreading throughout my family years beyond her passing. This is the impact we have on our children’s lives.
We celebrate mothers in May, whether they’re here with us or live on in memory. Remembering what they stood for and what they taught us, let us honor them in an effort to embody their best.
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What a beautiful, thought provoking tribute! Your mom lives on with the lessons you’ve learned and are modeling for your children. Love resonates through your words.
Dawn Camp says
Thank you, Kathleen!
Robin Dance says
Your mama taught you as much about life in her living as she did in dying. What a beautiful redemption of pain and loss, the tender traumas that shape us and draw us toward our Savior. This is lovely and important counsel <3.
Dawn Camp says
Thank you, friend. I love you. Our mamas left legacies for both of us.
Charissa Olson says
So appreciated this sharing of your life! My mom died at home of a heart attack-right before she turned 70…I turn 70 this fall so this year has been one of remembering and treasuring. And as you so well wrote, not wanting to waste the days as they truly are a gift from God. Thanks also for reminding us of how much influence we have as godly moms/grandmas in our families-we press on!
Dawn Camp says
You’re welcome, Charissa. Treasure this year and make some memories!
I cried through this. Having lost my Mom 3 years ago your story truly touched me and showed me a new perspective.
God bless and thank you ☺️
Dawn Camp says
Susen, big hugs to you today. Blessings to you!
“The effect of my mother’s absence in my life illustrates the importance of my presence.” “We do the best we can because it matters.” Love these thoughts.
I appreciate all the thoughts in this post, Dawn. Losing a loved one really highlights the preciousness of life! Thank you for the reminder that though we won’t do it perfectly, we should still aim to live and love intentionally.
Dawn Camp says
Thank you, Pearl! I appreciate your comment!
Thank you for sharing your mother with us. My momma passed when she was just 44…I was just 22 and starting to have our children. So many things I wish I could have shared with her…3 more kids, 3 great grandkids for her so far, all the big and small things that she would have loved. She taught me so much in her short life and I pray daily that I make her proud.
Dawn Camp says
Shelly, big hugs! I understand.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Dawn what lovely way you remember your Mum in this post. One thing you said your Mum was not perfect. None of us are. My Mum was not perfect I lost my Mum 5 years ago. There are things she did at times my Mum that annoyed me. But through it all I loved her and I lots of things she taught me about life and how to live it. That I carry manners were ever I go and she taught that to my sister’s too. As she said if you have manners you can go anywhere. Manner make you she said. She taught us to always forgive people and love people of all walks of life. No matter who they are. No matter what they did wrong to you. She my Mum was not saved. I don’t know was she saved before she passed away. I did pray for her Salvation. But I couldn’t tell her she needed to get saved. Or I get told of told to keep that part of what I believe to myself. But she showed one thing it helped me in my life. As I am now doing Home help for my elderly Dad. He not saved either no notion of getting saved you can’t tell him either just pray for him. To forgive him. As their Marriage broke up because he done wrong. She forgive our Dad. Because of us her Daughter’s and her Grandkids. It taught me to the right thing in Jesus eyes. If my Mum not saved can forgive my Dad so can I got give my Dad. Now as I said I am doing Home help for him at 82 years old. If I not forgiven my Dad I not be doing his Home help. My Mum when forgive could go to her Grandkids Birthdays parties etc and my Dad be there. Plus talk to him. Here not saved. So I could do me saved with God grace and help saying yes God with your help I can do it especially if my Mum not saved she can do it. When I look back at all this. Go to put flowers on her Grave on her Birthday and when she died. I can say every year is a good year. Because my late Mum even though like me had her faults and was not perfect. I am not perfect either. Through God taught me so much. How to have good manners as I say to love people of all walks of life and forgive even people you think you never forgive. Like my Dad. You theses things as they are right in God’s eyes she was not saved. So I live every year as my best because of God and how he used my Mum to teach me theses things. Love today’s reading Dawn. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xx
Dawn Camp says
Blessings to you, Dawn, as you remember your mother today too.
Jan J says
Our son passed away this year at just 40 years old. I can easily substitute “son” and “child” throughout your post. It feels like you have looked into my grieving heart, these words soothe my rawness. Thank you Jesus!
Beth Williams says
My mother came home from hospital & was bed ridden for two years-dementia. We finally put her on hospice to help dad out. She had many health issues before this. She used a walker & we had a handicapped tag for the car. She didn’t get to see some of the great grandchildren. Never attended any grandchildren’s HS graduations. She was 84. Watching her go as she did I’m determined not to have the same health problems. Going to live life to the fullest & enjoy each day the best I can.