Loving and Forgiving our Mothers this Mother’s Day

Heather Johnson reminds readers that Mother's Day isn't just about expressing love to our mothers. It's about forgiving our mothers, too.

Different Dream welcomes Heather Johnson, a new guest blogger, this week. Heather’s story about the importance of loving and forgiving our mothers is timely as Mother’s Day approaches, and it comes with a tissue warning, too.

“Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!”  

“You sent me flowers!  They’re gorgeous! But you told me you weren’t going to send flowers because you bought me a garden bench!

“Yeah, I know!  But you’ve always said that flowers should be given to the living, not to the dead.”

We both laughed and began talking about her move from Ohio to Wisconsin where I’ve lived with my family. Within two weeks, Mom and I would be sitting on her new bench in the yard of her new house. Just two more weeks. Our hearts were full of anticipation.

The next morning, the phone rang.  

“Heather, it’s Bonnie.” My sister delivered the nightmarish news. “Mom’s dead.”

“What?”  I screamed my disbelief. My knees gave out. Collapsing on the top stair, I felt unable to breathe. My chest hurt from my wildly pounding heart. I wailed, “No!  No!  NO!” 

As I sat rocking and sobbing with unspeakable grief, my sister gave me the facts. 

Mom began feeling ill around 7 PM—nausea, vomiting, pain in her neck and shoulder, sweating. An ambulance transported her to the closest hospital. The emergency room doctor misdiagnosed her with the flu and sent her home. Just a few hours later, Mom died in her bed.

The new life I wanted with my mother shattered. She would never live in her new Wisconsin home. We would never sit on her new garden bench. She would never see her grandkids grow up. So many stolen dreams. But there was one dream that came true while she lived:  a warm relationship between the two of us which wasn’t always so.  

Mom had struggled with undiagnosed depression and anxiety while she raised her family. She was often short-tempered and bossy, spiteful and mean. She hurt me deeply too many times to count. In my 20’s, I wondered what would become of us. I didn’t know how to forgive such deep wounding until I began dealing with my own depression and anxiety. My own breakdown was the best thing that happened to me in terms of learning to love and forgive my mother.  

Over the years, I learned to set limits on Mom’s inappropriate behavior while also loving her unconditionally, at least in action. Slowly, both of our hearts softened toward each other. In the last five years of Mom’s life, we enjoyed the warm relationship we both had always wanted. It took time and effort. But isn’t loving and being loved back worth the work and the wait? Every Mother’s Day, I answer my own question.

Yes, Mom was worth the work and the wait.

So am I. So are you.

Heather Johnson reminds readers that Mother's Day isn't just about expressing love to our mothers. It's about forgiving our mothers, too.Heather MacLaren Johnson lives near Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan shore with her husband of 25 years, 3 horses, 2 dogs, 2 barn cats, and a fish. She earned her B.S. in Education and her doctorate in Clinical Psychology before adopting 3 amazing kids from Russia, all now in their 20’s, all with life-long challenges stemming from prenatal exposure to alcohol (FASD). She is completing a memoir about her mother/daughter journey through hidden disabilities and mental illness. 

Heather’s essay about learning to ride horses at age 44 is included in Leslie Leyland Field’s The Wonder Years: 40 Women Over 40 on Aging, Faith, Beauty, and Strength (Kregel Publications). She has published devotional pieces for The Seed Company (Wycliffe Bible Translators Affiliate) You can learn more about Heather at her website www.truelifewithgod.com. 

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6 Comments

  1. Kelly Greer Kelly Greer
    May 9, 2018    

    So hard Heather, loosing our parents. We are really not so different from them in the end, no matter the struggles. Having a reconciled relationship is so much better than a fractured one no matter the cost. The more I learn about you, the more I come to see how experience shaped your heart and struggle honed your wisdom. Only by the grace of God. Keeping you in my tboughts and prayers this Mother’s Day.

  2. Deb Deb
    May 10, 2018    

    Thank you, Heather, for sharing this beautiful story. The time, care and investment in your relationship with your Mom, and she in you are very inspiring! What a blessing to have had that relationship come full circle before she passed. Acknowledging that Mother’s Day does not mean perfection but growing, caring and loving each other. This will leave our hearts better and stronger together than when we first started. Cheers to Moms and daughters everywhere!

  3. May 11, 2018    

    This is so beautiful, Heather. It’s sad that the physical limitations of our earthly bodies can cause pain, but such a gift to know that in heaven, she is healed and happy. Thank you for sharing this, dear friend.

  4. May 13, 2018    

    Kelly—Yes, losing our parents is painful. As I age, I see more of my mother in me–both strengths and weaknesses. I am profoundly grateful for God’s grace. Thank you for reading and responding!

  5. May 13, 2018    

    Deb—I’m so glad you were inspired by my story which is really God’s story. His grace for me helps me give grace to others. I like how you said that “Mother’s Day does not mean perfection, but growing, caring, and loving each other.” Thanks so much for reading and responding!

  6. May 14, 2018    

    Ingrid–Your words! I couldn’t write it better than you! Every day we live in the PROCESS of redemption but not the FULFILLMENT of redemption. Our hope is in Christ coming! Only then will all creation be restored. What a glorious HOPE! Thank you for reading and responding!

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  1. True Life With God » Loving and Forgiving Our Mothers this Mother’s Day on May 9, 2018 at 3:38 pm

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