I want my mommy!

October 13. The day my mom died. It’s here again, and 7 years later, it still sucks.

They say time heals all wounds, but I say “heals” is a bit of a stretch. It’s more like time puts a too-small and not-so-sticky band-aid over the gaping wound where your heart used to be. They also say that you never get over such a loss, you just get through it. Whoever “they” are, they got it right that time.

I still miss her every single day, in one way or another. Her big, genuine laugh. The way she fretted incessantly. Her habit of always taking my kids’ side, even when they were naughty and unruly. The daily phone call, even when she had nothing much to report. Her ability to worm her way into anyone’s heart. Watching her in the kitchen, and marveling at how she knew how to get everything just right.

The list goes on.

I’ve written a lot in this little blog about how much I miss my sweet mama. I’ve read a lot about losing one’s mother. I’d like to think it helps, that it’s somehow therapeutic to get it out, to empty my heart and head onto the screen. When I come across a particularly interesting or helpful tidbit on the subject of mothers and/or loss, I jot them down. I usually forget to include the attribution, as I did here:

Motherhood isn’t a test but a religion, a covenant entered into, a promise to be kept.

No idea who wrote that or where I came across it, but I like it, and my sweet mama definitely embodies those ideals.

This one was in O Magazine, and again, I neglected to give credit where credit is due. To the author of these wise words, I apologize, but please know that your words moved me enough to pull out my iPhone, tap on the Notes icon, and copy the passage for quiet reflection at a later date:

You never get over what you lost. You always carry it with you, stitched to you like Peter Pan’s shadow. And you never wanted to get over it, because who wanted to forget a time that had been so important? No, the truth was, you wanted to remember it always.

I guess I’d say that it’s impossible to forget something (someone) so important. I do carry her with me, and I will never get over the loss of her. If I’m half as important to my two kids, a fraction as beloved, I will consider my life a great success.

I read a book review a while back about Caroline Kennedy’s book Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F Kennedy. (Whew, long title.) In the review, Caroline talked about how at age 53, accomplished and well-educated, she still referred to Jackie O as “mummy.” We never get over losing our mothers.

She went on to talk about the qualities she most admired in her mom, which she wanted to highlight in the book: the sense of strength, her passion for reading, and her will to move forward despite the pain that had come her way.

I can relate to that. My mom was amazingly strong, but in a quiet and gentle way. She loved to read and was a middle school English teacher in her life before becoming a full-time mother. And she had seen her share of pain: losing her own mother at age 13, raising her younger sister, losing that sister to pancreatic cancer, then enduring her own protracted and awful cancer battle.

I can relate to everything Caroline Kennedy says. My mom wasn’t as glamorous as Jackie, and I didn’t grow up in Camelot. I do have a brother named John, though; however my mama wouldn’t let anyone call him John-John or Johnny. Our neighbor across the street tried to call him Johnny, but my determined mama nipped that in the bud. She named him John after my dad’s uncle who immigrated from Greece. His name was John and she insisted that he be called John.

When Caroline Kennedy listened to the 8 hours of interviews between Mrs Kennedy and Arthur Schlesinger, which Caroline used to make up the book, she had a strong reaction. She says, “I read them right after mum died and had the sense she was speaking to me again. I could hear her saying what I was reading (smiles).”

What a precious gift. To hear my sweet mama again would be such a treasure. I have to work hard to remember what her voice sounded like. The more time that passes, the harder it gets. The more years that roll by without her, the less I feel like I know her. She seems to be fading from me.

I still call upon her a lot, especially in the kitchen. Just the other day, I was helping my favorite girl in the kitchen. She’s doing an ongoing bake sale to raise money for her class trip to Washington, D.C. and was baking my mom’s pumpkin bread. The house smelled sweet and spicy, the cinnamon, allspice, cloves and nutmeg redolent of fall (even though it was 90 degrees outside). Watching my girl take on a task (raising money for her trip), executing her plan, and carrying on my mom’s fine tradition of expressing her love through food made me proud. And sad. Because I knew how much my mom would love to see my girl doing her thing. She would fret over my girl, telling her to scoop the flour lightly, without packing it down. She’d say, fold the dry ingredients gently into the pumpkin mixture so the bread will come out light and fluffy instead of dense. She’d tell my girl to clean up as she went along, so that there won’t be a giant mess at the end. And she’d scold my girl for wanting to taste the batter; my mom grew up on a farm with chickens and was always leery of eating raw eggs.

I needed my mama that day in the kitchen with my hard-working girl. After the pumpkin bread baked and we let the loaves rest in the pan for 10 minutes, we knew to turn them out onto a rack to cool. But the still-warm bread was so moist it was very soft on the bottom, and I didn’t want the rack to make marks, or even worse, for the bread to stick to the rack. If we turned the loaves upside down, to rest on their tops, would the racks still make marks? What to do? Mom’s recipe didn’t address this important question, and although I’d seen her make pumpkin bread countless times, I couldn’t for the life of me remember what she did with the cooling loaves. And I sure couldn’t just call her up and ask her.

My mom and my girl didn’t get to spend much time together, because cancer stole YaYa from my girl when she was just 3 years old. No fair.

My sweet mama and my favorite girl, at home the day after my girl was born

They didn’t have a lot of time together, but they made the most of it.

Read more about my sweet mama:

6 Years Later

The Spring of My Discontent

Motherless Daughters

Only Just a Dream


I Hate Mother’s Day




24 Comments on “I want my mommy!”

  1. Lauren says:

    love this, and feel your pain…the other day Amelia told me she got ripped off in the grandma dept..her other grandma is not like our moms were, and it made my heart just ache….thinking of you today

  2. Catherine says:

    You mother sounds wonderful and loving, which makes make perfect sense as I read your blog and can see how much love you pass forward to your own children. I am sorry for you loss; it’s clear she holds such a warm place in your heart. ~Catherine

    • Catherine! Thanks so very much for that lovely comment. That warmed my heart. I often wonder if I’m as good a mom as my mom was, and your words tell me that I’m in the ballpark. Thank you.

  3. Barb Fernald says:

    I love reading about the bond you had with your mother. I’m so sorry that you and your kids didn’t have more time with her. She has such a presence in your blog posts, that it’s easy to imagine what a wonderful person she was.
    I believe she would have told you to rest that pumpkin bread on it’s side on the rack. Then, if the rack makes marks, it will look like lines to guide you in cutting the bread.

    • Barb, I think you and my mom would have been fast friends (her name is Barb, too!). You could have bonded over secrets of the best homemade bread. I’m glad you like reading about her; it’s such good therapy for me that I don’t think much about any effect it has beyond me getting it out. I LOVE your advice to rest the pumpkin bread on its side. Brilliant! Next time I have a baking question, I’m going straight to you! Thank you.

  4. Eddie says:

    Sitting in a Law Related Education workshop is probably not the best setting to read this. People may wonder why I have tears in my eyes during a presentation on the roles and powers of the president. I feel your pain (to get a bit Clinton on ya), particularly regarding the lost wisdom of cooling the bread. I often feel that pain of loss when trying to fix something around the house.

    • I know you get it, Ed. I wish you didn’t, but I’m also glad you do. It would be truly wretched to walk this road without someone who understands. Betcha Big Ed and Barb are hanging out, cackling at our ineptitude.

    • elizabeth connolly says:

      Yes, Yes,Yes. Time does not heal just puts a little gauze on the wound. Even though my Mom has been gone so long that I am years older than she was when she died, i still miss her. So often I’ve felt that it is hard for me to know how to really have an adult relationship with my kids because my Mom died before i could learn that from her. It just sucks.But thanks for the blog to let me know that i am not alone in my sadness. However, I will say nothing compares to the loss of my husband. But that’s for another day

  5. A beautiful tribute to a beautiful woman.

  6. billgncs says:

    yes, no matter how old we are, we still feel like an orphan when we lose a parent.

  7. I know…you have said what I feel so much…thanks for writing this again!

  8. Jody Hicks says:

    She was an exceptional mama. She was also a really good friend to us and countless others. Been thinking about you today.

  9. mmr says:

    Your mom was beautiful. Thanks for the tip about the Motherless Daughters book a while back; I gave it to the daughters of my friend who died from BC. I’ve always loved Anna Quindlen’s “One True Thing”, a tribute to moms and all that we learn from them and the many things we as their children don’t know about the woman they are inside. My son turned 18 a couple of days ago and I am so very, very glad I was here to see that milestone. Hope you and I get to enjoy some grandkids someday. Not too soon, of course. 😉

    • Marcie, I’m glad the post about Motherless Daughters has been helpful to you; it took me a long time to be able to write it! Hopefully the women you’ve given the book to are braver than I. I’m going to re-read “One True Thing” and savor the wisdom Anna Quindlen imparts. I too am so glad you’re here to see your son’s 18th bday, and many more. And yes, not too soon on those grandbabies! As always, I very much appreciate and enjoy your comment and your thoughts.

  10. What a sweet post. I’m blessed to have my mother still with me. When ever life is rough that’s the first thing I think “I want my mommy.”

  11. Oh, Nancy, this was so hard to read. My sweet mama passed away Nov. 16, 2004 from lung cancer. I feel she is fading from me. I long to hear her reassuring voice. I think she also looked a lot like your mama. My sons were in their teens when their grandma died, so they remember her quite well. But they all miss her, how she doted on them and went to every activity and party they had, while she had the strength. Mamas will never be forgotten. I love your quotes. And I love your tribute to moms everywhere. xox

  12. Marie says:

    Oh Nancy, my heart aches for you, for me and for all of those who long for our mother’s tender touch again. I was heartbroken this week when my birthday came around, and didn’t want to celebrate it without her. Every day I want to call her, and it hurts knowing I will never hear her voice again or kiss her soft cheek or feel her kisses on mine. I know it will hurt just as much next year and the year after and the year after that…

  13. Hi Nancy, I’ve been thinking ALOT about my mom lately. It’s more than 12 years for me and everything you said rings true. Sometimes, it’s hard to remember her and others, like lately, she seems to be right next to me. My next post will be about that very thing. I love the photos of your mom with your daughter. So sweet. Sending big hugs to you and just keep remembering and writing. Bet she knows what you’re thinking wherever she is. xoxo

  14. […] my own lack of filter attracted me to the Marshalls’ story. It could also be because I too cared for a sick parent. I too experienced the strange role-reversal that comes with caring for a parent. I write often […]

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