In Memory Of

IMG_7539One of my favorite pictures of my sister and I with my mom when we were really little.

 

Today marks the day, 9 years ago, that I lost my mom to brain cancer. The first couple years my sister and stepdad and I would go to her grave. That always felt a little uncomfortable and sad to me personally because a gravestone in the middle of town amongst a sea of other dead waiting to be remembered held no significance to me or maybe it just felt so final? Either way, I couldn’t do the whole visiting the grave thing. I felt guilty for years that I rarely visited her grave but for me…that’s just not where she was. I felt nothing by being there except sadness and awkwardness. I just don’t get graveyards — they are definitely for the living but I guess, for myself, I’d much rather go have a glass of wine on the porch in the home where she actually lived.

 

Sometimes after we would try to have some breakfast or lunch and be together which was nice but it was still too hard to accept the fact that she was gone and here we were eating brunch and trying to act like this wasn’t hard. Other years I stayed in bed and was sad all day. I didn’t particularly like that either.

So a couple years ago, after the breakfasts and lunches kind of faded away because we got busy and the day felt less ceremonious and ritualistic, I decided to honor and remember my mom in my own way. It’s still a sad day for me every year but enough time has passed that it doesn’t feel as raw like the only thing I CAN do on that day is cry a whole lot.

For the past couple years on this day I’ve been trying to do things that my mom loved. It might be as simple as having a glass of wine (my mom was a big wine-o) and listening to Jimmy Buffett (her favorite). One year I went to beach because my mom grew up in Florida and the beach was one of her favorite places on this earth. I always have a little dance party because my mom was THAT person on the dance floor and always loved to dance so much.

This year when I was thinking about what I’d do to honor my mom I started thinking about memory and how 9 years was a long time and how I’m scared I’m going to run out of things that I remember she loved. I talked about this a little bit in my P.S. I Still Love You book talk but that’s one of my greatest fears — not remembering. Or forgetting the details — what her laugh sounded like, how her face looked for real and not just in pictures, what her favorite food was, etc.

IMG_7543

Making fun of my mom (on the left) because of how she scraped her legs falling down in her wedding dress in Jamaica

And I kind of had a moment this morning. My mom’s favorite dessert of all time was carrot cake. It’s not my favorite but I’ve grown to like it. I was thinking about how I wanted to get some carrot cake today but was trying to think of a backup favorite in case I couldn’t find any easily. And then I just sat there because I couldn’t remember what else she liked dessert-wise. And then I panicked. How could I not know or remember? What if I didn’t know all along? How could I not have paid more attention? And so on.

I panicked thinking about how slowly and slowly these memories and these details were going to fade. How eventually there is going to come a time when I will have just as many (and then MORE) years on this earth without her than with her. And it pains me to think about that. How I had 20 years on this Earth with her but time is going to keep going and I’ll be living in a world where there will be 20 years of memories without her. 20 years between the time she lived and the time she didn’t.

IMG_7544I will always remember my mom’s hair (esp how big it was sometimes). ALWAYS. Like in fine detail. Because she passed on the wild mane of curls to me.

Memory and memories are just a weird thing. We collect them. We try to hold on to them. We lose them slowly or they become vague/less specific as we have distance from them — they begin to have holes like swiss cheese. We try to fill picture frames and books and journals and our social media pages with them. We try to pass them and on share them so that the memories just don’t live within us and end up leaving us when we die or our memory fails us for good. They aren’t always reliable or accurate. The most random ones jolt through our brains at the most random of times in full living color while other ones we try to remember just seem lost in the abyss. There are some things we remember forever. There are some things that seem lost the moment it became a part of our history. How some memories we wish we could forget have been branded in our hearts (I wish I didn’t remember the day my mom died in so much detail and color).

IMG_7542RenFaire! That time my sister bawled because she was too embarrassed to dress up but NOT US.

 

There’s been these periods of grief in my life. The times where I’m just trying to get through the day and grief was intense because it just happened and my mind could not fathom it. There was depression and bitterness. There came a wave of a lot of “firsts” that happened without my mom. And then these HUGE big life changing things that were hard to think could happen without my mom — graduations, marriage, babies (for my sister and not me obviously), etc. And I guess maybe this stage I’m in right now has a lot of fears of remembering or realizing the details have slipped away more than I’d like them to have. And maybe it’s that I’m dealing with my stepdad getting remarried and all of my mom being taken OUT of that house that a huge chunk of our memories were made in in preparation of his new wife. Maybe it’s that in preparation for all that, we’ve had to go through some of my mom’s stuff and memories have been swirling around.

So on this hard day, 9 years later, I decided that one of the biggest part of memories and remembering the people we loved is in the sharing and the retelling — sharing them with other people so they aren’t these things that are solely up to us to remember. It’s always broken my heart that Will never met my mom or that Geneiveve and Adela (my nieces) will never ever know her. So it came to me really strongly, in the middle of my panicking over my mom’s second favorite dessert that I can’t remember, that I really really want to put together a book with memories and pictures of my mom and growing up for Genevieve and Adela…and for myself if I’m honest…so that they can know her and that those memories can live on. I want to write about what I know about her. Relive memories I haven’t forgotten. List the random details.

 IMG_7540Intergenerational — my great grandma (who I barely remember), my grandma Mimi and my mom and I. My mom was I think 25 or 26 in this picture which WOAH.

And now I’m going to go on search of that carrot cake. And by the way, as I was writing this post, it dawned on me that cheesecake was definitely a close second.  Memory is a fickle beast, I tell you.

 

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 30 year old married lady who is in denial that she's actually that old. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, listening to music with oversized headphones and having adventures with her husband and dog.

Comments

  1. This is such a lovely post, Jamie. Your words are so beautiful and I can feel the truth in them. I don’t know what it’s like to lose someone that close to me, but it seems to me that your mom would be so touched by all your actions, thoughts, and words, even the most small.

  2. I’m trying to freaking hard not to cry at work.

    Beautiful post, Jamie.

  3. Ginger @ GReads! says:

    We remember by sharing. I, too, am always fearful of forgetting something about my mom. Thankfully that is what our sisters are for. To remind us, and we remind them too. The part you mentioned about being alive longer than the years you had your mom, this thought haunts me too. It will be 12 years in September, getting closer to those 22 years I only had with her. Unfortunately we can’t stop time, but we can hold on to the time as it passes. I love you, especially today.
    PS, my mom loved carrot cake & cheesecake too 🙂

  4. Jamie! You’ve just said everything I’ve been thinking lately about memories. It’s only been two and a half years (it will be three on December 13th) for me losing my Mom and I worry all of the time that I’m losing my memories of her.

    You’re post made me smile and it made me cry. You always write the most amazing posts when it comes to feelings. So glad I stumbled upon your post today.

    And I hope you found your carrot cake and remember some more wonderful memories of your Mom.
    <3

  5. Oh, Jamie! This was such a beautiful post…I’m *still* crying. You’re legit making me so thankful for the time I’ve still got left with my own mother. In fact, I think I’ll go call her now, just to say hi. Thanks for the reminder that the time I have with her is precious and simple memories won’t be the same later on. Btw, your mom sounds amazing…it’s no wonder you’re the wonderful person you are today. <3

  6. Thank you for sharing your mom with us today <3 Memories are a weird thing and I struggle a lot with living in the here and now. I'm so lucky to have both of my parents but I think one reason I dread getting older is that I know they are getting older, and everyone around us too, and I dwell on that and get sad. My aunt passed away two years ago and my cousin said the second year was harder than the first. I hope she has some solace of peace at 9 years like you do <3 It makes me feel like a horrible person but I'm not close with either of my grandpas and both of my grandmas are gone. It feels so unfair. I'm not a graveyard person either and I struggled with that for a long time. I wanted to visit/remember my grandmas and my aunt in my own way. It was too hard and strange to go to their graves. I hope you find the biggest, best piece of carrot cake and some cheesecake for good measure! Thinking happy thoughts for you today. Your nieces are going to love that scrapbook 🙂

  7. This is a beautiful tribute to your mother. I’m thinking of you today. I hope you’ve been able to find carrot cake, which happens to be my favorite dessert.

  8. What a wonderful post Jamie. I totally understand that fear. It’s just that things may not be as detailed or they don’t come as quickly as they used to and it’s scary. I lost my dad at 13 and things definitely don’t come as quickly as they used to. These days can be so hard. I have done my fair share of spending the entire say sobbing and laying in bed, but I love your approach to it. To do one thing in their memory. It’s a wonderful way to honor them and still kind of hang on to them. The remarriage thing is probably a bit of a factor lately. It kind of is always on my mind, and my mom has been remarried for nearly 4 years. Thinking of you today. Hope you can enjoy some carrot cake!

  9. I feel like your own way to remember your mum on the day that she left you is the best way. You remember her by doing things she loved and you share memories and feel closer to her somehow that way.
    Memory is indeed a fickle beast, and you never know when it will hit you like a brick wall or desert you… I’m sure working on a book of memories will be wonderful for you and your sister and for your nieces too!
    *BIG SQUISHY HUGS*

  10. What a lovely post, Jamie! It’s wonderful that you have tried to find that way that feels most right to you in order to honor and remember your mom; there’s no doubt in my mind that she would have been happy about that. I definitely think memories are such strange, awesome, powerful things; not always at the top of your mind, but somewhere in your subconscious and occasionally accessed. Writing, for me, is the thing that helps me remember (even though it’s mostly focused on significant moments), and maybe that will help you too.

  11. Thank you for sharing this beautiful post and your thoughts about remembrance and memory. I love the idea of celebrating her by doing the things she loved, and I think your book idea is fantastic. *hugs*

  12. Memory is such a weird thing. I love your memory book idea. Such a great way to keep your memories and share them with your nieces. I hope you found carrot cake today.

  13. Jennifer K. says:

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful post. I lost my mom 12 years ago to ovarian cancer. Like you, my sister and I are not ones to choose to visit her grave regularly. We choose to cling to memories, places, and things that made my mom happy. To me, I can feel my mom smiling that we are still living the happiness she once shared with us. We just took our family vacation to Ocean City, NJ and stayed at the same beach we used to go to with my mom. Made me smile every time I glanced over at the house and remembered her enjoying her glass of chardonnay on the deck. Next month, my sister and I are taking a sister trip to Ireland. It’s a trip that my mom wanted to do with us. As we celebrate her, we’ll probably shed a tear or two, okay probably lots, but we’ll be smiling too knowing that she’s in our hearts. Hold onto the memories you have of her, but know that no one can remember everything no matter how hard we try. Thanks for sharing your post. You left me in tears. Enjoy the things she loved today, especially the carrot cake and glass of wine! I’ll be thinking of you 🙂

  14. Candice says:

    I had no idea. I LOVE how you choose to honour her — such a fantastic idea. It’s not the same grief but the same thought occurred to me when my grandmother passed when I was seven…she was everything to me and I remember thinking of my big long life ahead of me without her in. I hate that the details fade but the longing stays the same. You painted such a wonderful portrait of your mother here! I think we’d be friends.

  15. Kimberly says:

    This is a beautiful post. I hope you enjoy your day, honoring your mom. She sounds awesome.

  16. This is a beautiful post, Jamie. Thank you for sharing your wonderful mother with all of us. I’m so sorry for your loss, but I’m glad you can celebrate her life. You may forget the little details as time goes on, but you’ll never forget how special she is to you or how much she loved you.

  17. Such a beautiful post! Hope the rest of your day is filled with happy memories of your mom, so enjoy your carrot cake! 🙂

  18. Rebecca says:

    What moving and beautiful post! I lost my mom to a brain aneurysm 8 years ago. I don’t think I’ll ever stop missing her. I admire how you honor her memory. I have no doubt you’ve made her proud!

    BTW – Carrot cake was my mom’s famous dessert! I’d be happy to share her recipe with you.

  19. My mom passed away at the end of July. Maybe I will work on a memory book too (but let’s be real, I quit hobbies like a pro). This year on her birthday I dug out a bunch of old photos and just sat in the middle of the floor, alone in my house, bawling my eyes out. I hit the point where she’d been gone over half of my life a few years ago and it’s definitely a sobering thing, but it’s also no different than before so don’t be afraid. It’s tough to know my future kids will never know her, but in a way I feel like growing up makes me feel closer to her. Of course I wish she were here to share the moments with me, but I know she went through all these big life events at one time too so it makes me feel like I have a better understanding of her. I have no idea what my mom’s favorite dessert was but I know she liked banana popsicles, haha, such a random memory! I hope you get some carrot cake or cheesecake, and wine today. I think you do a great job of honoring and remembering your mom. <3

  20. Ah girl, I wish I could give you a big hug right now. I’m really close to both of my parents and I can’t imagine what you’re going through – it’s got to be one of the most difficult things to face. I’m sorry life handed you this. Your mom sounds like a wonderful person. I think it’s amazing the way you’ve decided to honor her memory these last few years. Maybe some things will start to fade, but it’s obvious that you love her and miss her so much. Stay strong, girl. <3

  21. Gorgeous post! So beautifully written and a lovely dedication to your mum. You look so much like her! I hope you enjoyed your carrot cake *hugs*

  22. This post really hit home with me. I also lost my mom to cancer (breast cancer) 9 years ago, and it scares me how little I know about her. I was five when I lost my mom (I’m fifteen now) and my brother was two, so we didn’t know her that well and I’m really scared of forgetting small things about her. The way I remember her is going to a Relay For Life event where I live because her friends and family tell stories about her to me so I don’t forget. This is the first time in ten years I won’t be able to go and I was shattered when I found out. Seeing this tribute to your mom made me tear up because she seems like such a genuine, fun, amazing person. Seeing that picture of her on the dance floor and in costume put a smile on my face. Keeping you in my thoughts <3

  23. Beautiful post, Jamie. Sending love your way!

  24. Awwww Jamie. What a beautiful way to celebrate your mom’s memory. <3 I hope you find that carrot cake and more (memories).

  25. Jamie, I’ve been thinking about you all day. I just cannot imagine going through what you’ve been through. Just the idea of losing my own mom scares me to death. Your mom sounds like she was an amazing woman.

    I really hope you got that carrot cake today in memory of your mom.

    Love and hugs to you always!

  26. This was so beautiful! Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us, and for sharing such a hard piece of your life. I can totally relate to so much of this, especially with the memories. I have lost a few dear people to me, and I’m so worried I’ll forget everything about them. That I’ll wake up one day and I won’t be able to remember the sound of their voice or the way they laughed, or if they ever shared any wisdom I should keep close to my heart. It is SO difficult, grief. I don’t think it ever really goes away. I think, with time, it just fades slowly, but it still stays with you. Some days I’ll be fine, and other days I’ll start crying for no reason. But I think that’s good, to remember. To share their stories, to remember the positive more than the negative. It’s hard, and I admit I’m not very good at it. (I also hate doing the graveyard thing. That’s not for me). But talking and writing and making a scrapbook are great ways of keeping them alive.

    I sincerely hope your day went as well as it could have without her, and that you got that dessert for you mom. *hugshugshugs*

  27. I’m so sorry about your mom Jamie. This is beautifully written and a great tribute to her. Thanks for sharing the pictures, memories and thoughts with us.

  28. This was a beautiful post that not only made me tear up but actually cry and i’m so sorry about your mum may she rest in peace.

  29. This is such a beautiful post, thank you for sharing it with us and I’m so sorry for your loss. Everyone deals with grief differently, don’t they? My best friend is very like you; she lost her mum 6 years ago now and I know she’s never been interested in remembering her in a cemetery. Like you, she’d much rather remember her by setting out a vase of her favourite flowers or, like you said, having a glass of wine. I’ve always found it odd that after someone passes away we’re made to feel like we’ll find them in the graveyard, but why remember them as they lived anywhere but with the living? That, to me, sounds far more fitting!

    I think it’s lovely that you do something your mum liked every year, and it’s a wonderful idea to put together a memory book. I hope you managed to track down that carrot cake! <3

  30. What a beautiful post! Thanks for sharing such deep and real feelings! Your mom would be so proud of the person you have become!

  31. I’m glad to read about someone who *gets* it, how powerful memories are and how terrifying it is to feel like you’re forgetting things. It’s tough to have to rely on other people’s memories. I’m lucky to have people around me who remember how my uncle was when he was *living his life* instead of having mostly my own memories of how it was to watch his mind and body deteriorate from his brain tumors.

    Your mom sounds like a wonderful person and I hope I’m not overstepping when I say that I think she’d be proud of you, because I’m proud of you and I don’t even know you. But I recognize some of that pain. I baked a lot after my uncle passed away. It was therapeutic for me; sounds like that memory book is going to be it for you. Good luck with everything.

    Thank you so much for sharing.

    Jean

  32. This is such a lovely tribute to your mother and the memories of her. It’s coming up on two years (next month) since I lost my mother suddenly to cancer. I haven’t been without her as long nor was I as young as you when she left this world, but there isn’t a day goes by that I don’t think of her and miss her. Hugs to you.

  33. Jamie, this post was so beautiful. You put into words so many feelings I have and have had about my dad, who passed away 8 years ago, also from brain cancer. I visited his grave a few times but like you, I just don’t feel him there. I have always felt a little guilty but seeing that someone else feels the same way lifts such a weight off of me. I like to remember my dad by driving around in the old stick shift truck he taught me in, singing songs we both loved, growing the sunflowers we used to grow together – the list could go on forever. I don’t get the chance to talk to many people who just “get it” (the memories, the fears, the passage of time) and I am so grateful to you for sharing these things about your mom and helping me feel a little less alone.

  34. This is a beautiful post. I haven’t lost a parent, but I lost my grandfather almost two years ago and a lot of what you said is very true for how my mom and family is grieving.

  35. Jamie, this post honors your mother so well. I love your idea of putting together a memory book about her. I lost my mom so long ago, I’ve now been without her longer than I had her, but I still have the memories that are most important to me, and I think of her every single day. Thanks for sharing your feelings with us in this post. <3

  36. Jamie, this is such a moving and beautiful post. Thank you for sharing this.

  37. This is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read and I definitely have tears in my eyes right now. I’ve never read a piece of writing that so accurately describes the fleeting period of memories and the fear of forgetting. My brother had a girlfriend who he was together with for four years and she was like an older sister to me, she lived by us for a while when we moved to England and she was my role model because she was such an amazing person. And then four years ago we got a call that she had passed away as she had slipped into a diabetic coma and it was the most awful, heart-wrenching feeling. She was also only 26 and she had her whole life ahead of her and wanted to accomplish so much, so it really hurt knowing that she still had so much she wanted to do. It also saddens me how much she hasn’t been here for and how much I’ve missed out on with really getting to know her and becoming even closer to her, especially now that I’m older and would have loved having her around even more as I’m more grown up now. This was such a gorgeous post, Jamie. You seem like such a lovely, strong person and I’m sure your mom would be proud of you. <3

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