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 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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