The sting of grief on my mom’s birthday

It’s my mom’s birthday today. She would have been 63. She died suddenly and tragically last April, so this is her first birthday that she’s not here. Today is sad.

Today I resonate with this poem from Maya Angelou: “When I Think of Death:

When I think of death, and of late the idea has come with alarming frequency, I seem at peace with the idea that a day will dawn when I will no longer be among those living in this valley of strange humors. I can accept the idea of my own demise, but I am unable to accept the death of anyone else. I find it impossible to let a friend or relative go into that country of no return. Disbelief becomes my close companion, and anger follows in its wake. I answer the heroic question, ‘Death, where is thy sting?’ with ‘It is here in my heart and mind and memories.’

This has been a hard year – harder than I thought it would be. Her death has put me in sort of a tailspin of sorts in life. I don’t feel as loved as I used to. I feel like I’m 4 years old searching out for my mom’s embrace. It’s like one of those dreams that you have that has no beginning and you just find yourself in a large building with a bunch of rooms – you just want to get out but you can’t because every door you open just leads to another room.

I guess this is how grief is…like a building full of rooms but no exits.

My mom was the most significant person in my life. Our family life was difficult growing up – divorce, re-marriage, divorce, new schools, and new towns and she always had 2 jobs…I grew up fast and independent. But even through that mom was always there…somehow. She was a sort of magician who could live on 3 hours of sleep and be in two places at once.

She is why I am who I am. She birthed my faith. My call to ministry came with her at my side. She was the one that always believed in me – no matter what. She thought I was the most talented person in the world.

Losing her was like losing part of my own identity. I have been trying to put it back together this year but it’s hard. Comfort is hard to find. I’ve been angrier than I should this year. Cursed more than I should. I’ve not been the best father or husband.

Sometimes I hear people say, “Just allow Jesus to be your comfort.” I don’t really know what that means or how that works. But I am thankful for God’s patience with me. Especially in those moments where I get mad at God. I’m pretty sure God can take that and I’m sure God has heard much worse. God’s been around a while.

My mom and I were always connected by our birthdays – mine is 3 days after hers – we are both January babies. I’d call her and then she’d call me a few days later. I think that’s what I miss most – our connection. That no matter how far apart we were or how long it had been since we talked – we were tethered – connected by some cosmic energy that always made me feel like I was not alone.

Scientists tell us that when electrons or particles from the same atom get split up they mimic each other forever – no matter how far apart they are. Shake one and the other one shakes. It’s called Quantum Entanglement. This is how I felt with my mom – like we were entangled.

I got this email from last week that reminded me I should buy her some flowers for her birthday. Umm…thanks ProFlowers for wrecking my day!

This is the hardest thing about grief for me – realizing that you are the only one that feels it. The people around you don’t. It’s not their fault of course. They go on with their lives, but you don’t. You are stuck in this spot – standing over the grave of your dead mom…constantly throwing in another fistful of dirt. It’s ok. I don’t blame people. But I think that’s the hardest part for those of us that grieve. Others forget that we are grieving.

I guess those of us who grieve just want to be seen. We want someone from time to time to say to us, “I see you.” My friend Frank, who is 95, lost his wife of 70+ years last year about this time and I told him the other day, “I was thinking of you…I know this is a hard time of year for you…I see you.”

But maybe that’s all any of us want, right? To know that other people “see us.”

So, maybe you could find someone this week that has lost someone dear to them in the recent past and just say, “I see you.” “I’m thinking of you.” “It’s ok to not be ok.”

Happy Birthday Mom. I love you. I miss you. Life is not the same without you – I’m not the same without you. The sting is real – but hope is too – because in the resurrection reality death doesn’t get the last word. At least, this is what I remind myself of every day.

2 thoughts on “The sting of grief on my mom’s birthday

Add yours

  1. Friend, thank you for your honesty and your willingness to be vulnerable. Losing one’s mother is hard enough and you have an added layer of a sudden, traumatic death. There is nothing better I can say than, “I am so sorry and I see you.”


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