“I’ll always be with you.”
“Love Always, Mother,” was the way my mother signed off all of her letters to me over a span of 40 years. It became so familiar that I hardly paid much attention to it. I was so used to it that when she shifted to using “always” in a different context I began to wonder about her messages surrounding the word “always.”
The shift came when she was diagnosed with cancer. She still signed off her letters the same way, but she began speaking the phrase “I’ll always be with you” as well. Cancer signaled that my mother was going to die sooner than she and I had anticipated. She was young and so was I…there was still life to be lived together. Yet that life was cut short with the reminders of what my mother wanted me to know about what it meant when she said “I’ll always be with you.”
You might be thinking that she made sure those remaining years were filled with good times to reflect on after she was gone. And there were a measure of those, but they are not the ones that have caused me to capture the “always” my mother left in my heart.
Cancer is an ugly disease. No one knew that better than my mother. She was a fighter, and she allowed me in on her fight. It is the messages of her fight that have kept her close to me.
“I’ll always be with you”…It was a summer day when I went home to go shopping with my mom. We visited all our favorites stores, admiring the new fashions. We talked with old friends, laughed and ate lunch together…just like old times. It wasn’t until we got home that she became ill. You see the morphine had worn off, she had an allergic reaction to it and the vomiting began. As I held her head over the toilet and wiped her face with a cool damp towel, I realized that this moment with her would “always” be in my heart.
The combination of the goodness and the grief set in as I joined her in the vulnerability and the sacrifice she had allowed me to be a part of with her.
“I’ll always be with you”…It was the day she opened her dresser drawer to show me the outfit she wanted to be buried in. It was the one she had knitted with her own hands. It was a glorious shade of pink like the roses growing in her garden. Her red-rimmed eyes bore into mine as she relayed this message until she knew I got it. I could barely breathe as I held that moment of courage in a place that is reserved only for her.
“I’ll always be with you”…I sat by her bed as she was dying and watched her fingers pantomime knit one, pearl two over and over again. She was in a place of remembering as she was transitioning out of this world into the next. I loved being there with her even in the agony of what was to come. I was a part of ushering her along into the kingdom of God. This was her way of entering into the kingdom where He will always be with her.
“I’ll always be with you”…My mother has certainly been with me in the 30 years since her death. I understand more clearly today what she meant by those words. They resonate deeply as I spend time with my children and grandchildren. For now the good moments are plentiful. For that I am grateful. And I know that a shift is coming down the road. When? I don’t know. Yet I wonder what “always” I will leave behind? Will I have the courage and vulnerability to invite others into my weakest moment of transition? Only God knows…
Mary Jane Hamilton has grown to love her sense of style and her peaceful lake living. Mother of 2 and grandmother of 6, she has a wonderful capacity to love and is still active as The Tooth Fairy. She is extremely fond of her dachshunds, who rarely venture from her lap, and enjoys biking with her husband of 44 years. She is rekindling her writing skills and finding it life giving.
There is a hushed holiness in me as I read these intimate, beautiful words you hold for your beloved mother, Mary Jane. Blessing the tenderness you’ve offered us here.
Thank you, Melanye. I’ve come to realize that holiness is found in unexpected places at unexpected times. Your words are a blessing to me.
Such a poignant story, Mary Jane. I love how you have captured the beauty that was there even in a very difficult time as your mother was approaching her transition from here to there. You and I are in the same age category and your words leave me pondering the memories that I want to be sure are there for my children when my time to transition Home comes. Thank you for sharing such a sweet and yet very Sacred Space in your life. Love you, Valerie
Thank you, Valerie…yes we are of that age. Memories are in many ways what we make them. I know you understand that!
You write with such vulnerability as you offer these precious glimpses into caring for your mother. I don’t know the back story between you and her. But I know you have sat there as well. I have just been in the receiving end of a daughter’s care for nine weeks. I know it marked me. This makes me curious about the gifts she may have experienced.
In a boring vein, I blocked you on fb because “you” sent me a PN that didn’t sound like you. 😬
I love you word “marked” as you think of your daughter and her care for you. My guess is her perspective will change as the years ahead unfold. Thank you for your kind words. And, yes, I was hacked. New password is in place. What a hassle😝
I just love this.
Thank you, my friend…you are my greatest cheerleader. Love you!
There is so much love, so much tenderness here MJ. I feel you embracing your grief. I am inspired to put my toe into waters of my own grief. Thank you. So lovely.
You are so welcome. My grief feels different today than 30 years ago. Your will, too. Time, reflection, kindness are the greatest gifts I can give to myself. I know you understand that! Love you!
Wow. I don’t even know what to say. This is so beautiful! I lost my mother to cancer when I was nearly 16. I remember the night I was left in the hospital room with her to care for her while my family went to church. I’ve never been able to put words to what that night was for me, but your last paragraph describes it will. She was incredibly vulnerable to let me help her in the middle of her pain. And I’ll never forget how she ordered ice cream, because she knew I wouldn’t stop her. That makes me smile. This whole article has brought such a preciousness to me over those memories. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
I am so glad my entry resonated in your heart. And my heart goes out to you as a young girl losing your mom. I’m smiling with you over the memory you had with your mom…ice cream. God has given that to you to cherish and to remember the goodness. Thank you for sharing some of your story with me. It means a lot! Bless you…