Tag Archives: mom

Remembering Mom: part 5

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Remembering Mom: part 5

It feels bizarre that I’ve been grieving for five years.  It went by much more slowly in the beginning.  The sorrow is less all consuming five years in, but the hurt is still there, as I suspect it will always be.

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Mom

I attended a funeral on Friday (my mom’s birthday) and that put me into a state of contemplation.  Death is so final. Obviously I understand that death is final, but I was thinking about it on a deeper level.  The DFW National Cemetery is huge, there are so many graves that it’s almost unconscionable to even wrap my head around.  What happened to all of those families?  Were they able to move forward, or is the loss still affecting the family generations later?

I’ll never know the answers to those questions for those families, but I know the answer for my family.  If I were walking through the cemetery where my mom’s dad is buried, I know for sure that the effect his death had on my mom deeply affected my childhood.

I’m not resentful about this, I point it out to illustrate that there is a cycle that can develop in families if grief and trauma remain unresolved.  Our brains love patterns and seek them from the moment we are born.  If there’s a pattern of sadness and grief in a parent, the baby’s brain will pick up that pattern and light up in the same areas.  If that grief remains unresolved in the parent, as the baby’s brain develops it will continue to follow that pattern.  That pattern of grief and sadness becomes the foundation for all the future relationships the baby has, even though all those feelings could be going on subconsciously in the parent. Isn’t that bananas?

The brain is amazing.  It loves patterns, but is also adaptable.  We have the ability to change those early patterns in our brains at any time.  This is what has been going on with me.  When something clicks in my self awareness and I examine it’s origin, I can create a new pattern my brain can follow that works better for my life.

Look how far I’ve come by simply becoming aware of the deep fear I was experiencing and learning to recognize the negative impact it was having on my life.  I am in graduate school pursuing the career I always wanted but, until recently,  never thought I could actually have.  For the first time in decades, I actually feel ambitious.

Something that has really resonated with me over the last year has been to really take advantage of my abilities and talents rather than minimize them.  When I use my creativity or connect with a child, I feel enriched.  These are my gifts and I think they were given to me so I can use them to influence the world in a positive way.  Maybe not the entire world, but someone’s little word.

I want to be honest and let you know that I still struggle.  A lot of my recent growth has been sparked by having to accept some painful realizations about myself. I still have to keep strategies in place to cope with my anxiety and depression. It’s required if I want to be my best self and I own and accept that.

For me, there has definitely been marked change in the way I grieve at the 5 year mark.  I’m beginning to come around to the idea of letting her go in a way that I wasn’t before.  I was holding on to so much for so long because I was afraid that letting go of those feelings would mean letting go of her.  I realize now that, regardless, she’ll always be a part of me.  I still miss her everyday and I wish she could be here to see the person I am becoming, she’s the one who started me on this journey and she will always be a source of inspiration to me.

RIP, mom. I miss you and I love you so much.

Peggie Gardner
April 15, 1951-April 19, 2011

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Artwork by Logan Pack

 

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Remembering Mom: part 4

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Well it’s April, folks. Time just keeps passing on by, as it tends to do. I just got back from a Caribbean cruise last week. It’s been one year since my brother’s bone marrow transplant. My little chickpea will be two years old at the end of next month. It’s been five months since her mom passed away. It’s been four years since my mom passed away.

I’ve turned into someone else entirely, over that time. My eyes have been opened to the depths of the human experience. Over the last four years I have witnessed true suffering, pure, unadulterated joy and experienced profound empathy (of which I did not think I was capable).

I can’t emphasize enough how much I feel like I have grown as a person in the last four years. I am easily recognizing who I want to become and the kind of people I’d like to be surrounded by. While I’ve known the direction I’ve been heading for a while, I never felt like I deserved it for myself until recently.

In my mom’s place, there’s an emptiness. The best way I can describe it is, it’s as if my mom and dad are my shoulder angels and both of them rested there my entire life until the age of 27, when my left one disappeared.

The emptiness brought not only a feeling of deep loss, but also an intense questioning of who I really was. Ever since then, I’ve been on the path to figure that out.

I’ve been through many emotions ranging from near euphoria to intense self loathing, but along the way I have found out who I am. I’ve done the work and gotten to know myself well enough to know what motivates me, why it does and how to use that knowledge to better my life. The struggle IS real, and it’s not easy.

However, in my life it’s been better than denial and ignorance. When I say I wouldn’t be who I am without my mom, I also mean that I wouldn’t be who I am had I not lost her. She continues to inspire and influence me to keep moving forward, be more aware and really attempt to see in myself what she saw in me.

That’s how I live. Awareness and facing my life head on is my new normal. It’s not easy and I have to fight constantly, but it’s worth it because the only people who don’t fight for what they want are people who’s spirit is broken. Mine has been on the mend for four years and it’s only going to get better from here.

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Four years, countless tears
I wouldn’t be who I am
I’ll love you forever

RIP, mom.
Peggie Anne Gardner
April 15, 1951-April 19, 2011

Remembering Mom Pt. 3

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Hi there. I am all settled in Baltimore. My brother received his transplant and is now making healthy, donor generated blood cells. He has a lot more energy these days and things are looking up. It’s kind of crazy that all this would go down almost exactly three years after we did it the first time. April, man.

My mom’s birthday was April 15, she would have been 63. The anniversary of her passing was April 19. I sometimes wonder what place she would have in all of this if she were alive. I speculate on whether or not she would trust me to take care of Bryant, if she would be here taking care of him too…how she would have handled it. IF she would have been able to handle it at all?

I don’t know, in some ways it’s probably better that she’s not here for this. I, of course, selfishly wish that she was so she could comfort me. So I guess craving your mother’s comfort is something that never goes away with time.

Some things do change though. While last year and the year before I was concerned with what impact my mom’s death had on me, I now find myself looking for answers about the impact her life had on me.

Maybe coming to terms with who exactly she was and what influence that had on me is what I need in order to be able to celebrate her now that she’s gone. Up until a few weeks ago I had been focused on her death and consequently, my grieving.

Now I want to focus on life and healing. The process of grieving led me on this ongoing journey of personal growth. This journey has brought up very important questions about who I am and maybe even more importantly, why I am who I am.

The influences my parents had on me will stay with me forever and I’ve only been looking at the big picture. I am only just now realizing that events that, at the time I thought had no effect on me… are actually at the core of who I am as a person.

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Wedding day!

It’s not always fun or easy to answer questions about who I’ve grown to be. But as my very wise big brother tells me, “once you’re done growing, you’re done living.” I never want to stop growing, improving myself, learning. The bottom line, and I’ve said it before, is that I have a responsibility to the people that love me. You see, if I stop growing, I’m not only cheating myself, I’m cheating the people that love me and the people that I love.

I’m not sure if that makes sense but I hope it does. I can’t explain it any other way except that I never want anyone that ever loves me to feel like I gave up. My mom labeled me a fighter the day I came into this world (prematurely, dangerously underweight with a hernia) and I will remain a fighter until I absolutely cannot win anymore.

So, that’s that. I was able to keep myself distracted on April 19 with some of my amazing friends here in Baltimore. They were kind enough to take time out of their Easter weekends to join me on a local pirate cruise. It was ridiculously fun, I laughed the entire day.

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Getting knifed and photobombed simultaneously

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World class scallywags

Last year, my best friend and I went to the Perot museum in Dallas and also laughed the entire day. I decided that after this year I’d like to try to make it a tradition to make April 19 the most fun day of the year.

Mother’s Day was tough, I can try to laugh as much as I want, but deep down, I never stop missing my mom. The pain is always there. My brother was there for me though, he hung out with me all day, hugged me while I cried and tried to keep me laughing as much as possible anyway. Lots of people tell me he’s lucky to have such a great sister, but it’s me who is lucky.

Next time I’ll write about my trip to Dallas. It was super fun, and nice to have a break and be home. Thanks for reading as always!

remembering mom: year 2

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It’s very strange to  think that I haven’t talked to my mom in two years. I haven’t heard her tell me that I’m her favorite daughter (I’m her only daughter) or that she loves me or simply that everything is going to be all right.

Over the last two years I have realized it’s hearing little things like that, that I miss the most about not having my mom here anymore. Especially since I’m like a child in the sense that I never tired of hearing stories from her about myself as a baby. I always asked to hear, and she would always tell me without complaint, how she was absolutely certain that she was growing a tiny alien when she was pregnant with me. This is because I used to sit in there and run my fingers down the inside of her stomach. I can imagine myself doing it, too. It certainly sounds like something I would do.  She said it was the weirdest feeling ever. It’s because of this story that I tell the kids I watch that I’ve had a tickle monster inside of me since before I was born.

Another good one that I liked to hear her tell is- well, let me back up, the first thing you need to know is that when I was a toddler, I had this weird accent. I really have no idea where it came from, especially considering that as an adult, I have almost no discernible accent. So when I was three, my favorite color was purple (shocking!) and one day, my mom picked out this pink dress for me to wear and I straight up told her I didn’t want to wear pink, I wanted to wear “puhhhpul.” It’s the way she said “puhhpul” that made the story so funny to me. Her impression of me saying purple as well as her telling me that I wanted us to be together because we were “guuhls” (girls) never failed to make me laugh.

I wanted to talk about what has changed in the second year without her compared to the first year.  Everyone grieves differently, and this has been my experience compared to last year: I miss her just as much but it’s a little easier not to cry about it. I don’t get the urge to call her anymore, although I still wish that I could. I still think about her everyday, but not the entire day. I no longer feel the weight of my grief holding me down, although some days are still better than others. And the biggest difference between this year and last is that my memories of her are much more pleasant and I no longer feel any guilt whatsoever.

As far as what hasn’t changed…how much I love her, for one. I still want a hug from her, I probably always will.  I’m also still not ready to celebrate her life because even with so much progress- and there has been a lot of progress– I’m still not there yet. I feel like I can’t truly celebrate her life like she deserves from me, which is genuinely, until I’m more happy that she’s free than sad that she’s gone. I haven’t reached that point yet, even though I realize how selfish it sounds. However, even though I know without a doubt she wouldn’t want me to be sad, she definitely wouldn’t want me to pretend to be happy when I’m not. She knew how important she was and is to me and would be able to see right through it anyway.  She didn’t even have to see me to know if something was wrong, she could always detect it in my voice, even if I was deliberately trying to hide it.  She knows how bad I am at pretending, hell, it’s because of her that I’m so incorrigibly genuine.

I think as a daughter, sister, cousin, niece, friend, babysitter and whoever else I am to anyone- the most important concept I’ve come to accept from a major loss is that now, more than ever, I want to take responsibility for the people that love me. By that, I mean do whatever it takes with what little control I have over how long I live to keep myself happy, healthy and safe so I can be around as long as possible.  I hope that the people that I love take responsibility too, because I don’t want to miss anyone else.  I can see how easy it is to get wrapped up in my own worries, or even fun, for that matter- without regard to what life would be like without me for everyone else.  And I’ve learned that if someone loves me, I should hold that in extremely high regard because I would never wish losing someone you love on anyone.  Especially if I love them, and especially if it’s forever.

Rest in peace, Mom.  It’s been two years since you left, but your influences continue to live on in my life daily.  If I become even half the woman that you were, I’ll be doing pretty well. I miss you and I love you.  You’re the bestest in the westest.

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Peggie Anne Gardner

April 15, 1951-April 19, 2011

remembering mom

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Today marks one year since my mom passed away, and what a year it has been.    So much has happened all over the spectrum.   There was so much change and so many tears.  A few priceless memories and several painful memories.

I remember the especially traumatic events used to replay in my mind in order of appearance in my life and haunt me.  And when those memories weren’t playing, the guilt was.  There were so many things that I wished I would have done.  None of them would have saved her, but I wished I had done them anyway.

Leaving all that behind me hasn’t been easy.  I want to get to the point where my happy memories hit me first.  She wouldn’t want me to be haunted by painful memories. She loved me and was an incredible source of comfort to me and that’s how she deserves to be remembered.

Mom helping me walk

My favorite memories aren’t anything particularly exciting.  Just spending time together and laughing, mostly.  I miss her laugh and her making me laugh. One day, in the hospital, she was about to go down for some sort of scan.  The guy that always came to get her had only met me, but this time my dad and my brother were also there.  He asked my mom who everyone was and she gestured to us and said, “My daughter, Kasey,  My son, Bryant,” and finally she points to my dad (keep in mind, my parents were divorced) and says, “baby daddy.”  Everyone in the room busted out laughing.  I think that was the last hearty laugh we had, the four of us together.

A family classic

I think what I miss even more, is having that extra person on my side unconditionally.  It is such a profound loss, not just because of what she did for me in my life but because she gave me life.  She didn’t have to keep me safe in her tummy for 7 months.  When the doctors wanted to refuse to tie her tubes because they thought I was going to die, she knew in her heart that I am a fighter and I wasn’t going to give up so easily.

She always fought for me and she was always proud of me.  I don’t know many other people’s moms that would walk around bragging that their daughter is a bartender…but mine did.  Annoyingly so, sometimes.  Anyone that ever came to the house, I just HAD to make them a drink.  I just HAD to make hors d’oeuvres.  I hated it, but I know now that she just wanted everyone else to see what she saw in me.  She wanted me to see what she saw in me.

Yes, that’s what I miss most.  She was one of only a handful people in my life that went out of her way to make an effort to make me feel like I was important and that I deserve great things, you know?  Our relationship wasn’t perfect, but when it came down to it, she put in the time.  Even if she was exhausted she would pick up my calls at 3 a.m. to let me vent about work.  Every time.  I miss her so much.

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I had a bond with my mom that I have very rarely seen in other mother daughter relationships or been able to relate to anyone else about.  When I was a little kid, I was always right next to her.  I can’t remember ever going through a time where I was embarrassed by her mere existence, as most teenagers tend to be.  I held my mom’s hand in public until I was 27 years old.  She was my best friend and even though I am not religious, I know that it was no accident that we were placed together in this life.

I can’t say that I will be celebrating my mom’s life today.  I think it’s too soon, I am still mourning her loss.  I can,  however,  celebrate how far I’ve come since that day.  I was sure that I had hit my threshold for emotional pain after the funeral.  But the bad news just kept coming.

If it had only been my mom, I think it would have been easy to let grief completely take me over.   But my brother and best friend were fighting for survival and, even though I was completely broken, I had to get up and fight for them too.  They are worth fighting for.

I would have never thought that in the process I would learn so much about my character.  The difference between what I think I can handle and what I can actually handle is far greater than I previously thought.  I think I have grown more as a person in this last year than I had in the previous 3, combined.

All that and my own personal safety net was gone during all of it.  I know that my mom would’ve liked to see the two big passions that have come out of my experiences.  For one, I love to cook, which I never did before.  While I will admit I had to start cooking out of necessity for my brother, it really turned into a hobby that I throw myself in to.

Second, my mom always said this one phrase to me, from one of her favorite songs.  I thought it was so cheesy and I always rolled my eyes whenever she said it.  She always said, “I hope you dance, Kasey.  I always loved watching you dance.” I quit dance to become a full-time cheerleader when I was thirteen, so it just sounded ridiculous to me.   Well, you can imagine my surprise when I started going to one dance class at my gym and now dance seems to be slowly taking over my life.  I forgot how much I liked it and now I go to anywhere from 3-8 classes a week.  Who knew?  Mom did, of course.

Maybe she’s watching me dance, but honestly, I hope  she’s dancing herself– with her dad, brothers, friends and, as of April 2, 2012 her mom.

Mom, Bryant, Grandma, and myself

Rest in peace, Mom.  It’s been a year since you left and I think of something you taught me everyday.  I know that I am who I am today because of you and  I’ll continue to miss you every day until I see you again.

Peggie Anne Gardner
April 15, 1951-April 19, 2011