Letter to Mom: Connection on Mother's Day

Hi Mom,

Happy Mother's Day. It has been over 7 years… is that right? Time has felt fleeting as each year passes, yet like an eternity in not being able to share my life with you. Mother's Day week continues to be difficult for me. This weekend I am attending some online events bringing together the Motherless Mother's Day community in creative and healing ways. I have been mindful to not isolate myself in my grief, especially in grieving you. You will be happy to hear that I am doing better with allowing some closure around your death. It has been a grueling road, but I have forgiven myself, and you, for how things ended between us. For your hurtful words and actions. For me hanging up on you. For never calling you back.

I have spent the years since investing a lot into myself, learning how to feel and heal into the love we always had beneath the chaos and pain. I can now see how you had been struggling your whole life. How much you were looking for someone to hold you and tell you that you were loved, unconditionally. To tell you that you were enough, as is. To see your spirit and hear your beautiful voice. You would sing, but no one would listen. Love from your parents, my Dad, even me, all came with terms and conditions. We were a family of wounded people, repeating the damaging behaviors we each grew up witnessing. I am sorry that you felt alone. I felt alone too. I bet at family Christmas we were all sitting in the same room, together, all feeling alone. If only I knew then what I know now.

You have all passed on now, except Dad and I. We have grown closer and I am grateful to say that our relationship is better than ever. We have both grown so much and are dedicated to breaking the chains of meeting hurt with hurt, to instead lean into life wholeheartedly. I attribute much of that to the healing and forgiveness work I have done since you died.

The other day in the car I was singing Tracy Chapman's "Give Me One Reason" and it reminded me of the times I came home from school to find you in my room, sitting on the floor in front of the stereo, practicing this song. You LOVED to sing. You always encouraged me to sing, telling me I was an artist and that I should express myself. I always refused. I was shy, and it was too vulnerable. The truth is, I did want to sing. I would practice quietly in my room. When I got my driver's license I would sing in the car alone. I memorized hundreds of songs. As you learned songs, so did I. While you were sitting in the driver's seat belting it out, I would cower next to you embarrassed, but also mumbling the words to myself. You and Dad took me to so many concerts growing up and I acted ungrateful, but many of those bands are favorites today. I continued to hide my voice... until you died.

I had seen Death many times before this, but this time, life's impermanence knocked me on my ass. I realized I had not been walking through life as the "real" Julee. Many of my decisions were made from the lens of what I thought others wanted of me. Keep quiet and "fit in". If I never express myself, I will never be wrong. Compare and despair plagued my existence. I realize this was a learned survival tactic I picked up to ensure I was always loveable and cared for. Well, when you died, I decided things needed to change. Every year for my birthday my friends and I go sing karaoke for hours. I sing in the car no matter who is there. I blow people's minds with how many songs I know by heart. I shock Dad often with how many of his favorite songs I know too. I belt it out and dance around the house with Ryan and the pets as my audience. I sing your favorite songs when I want to connect with you.

I want to thank you for being a role model of courage in being yourself, even at the risk of other's judgement. I wish I could have seen that before. I wish we could duet to our hearts content. To see one more show with you where we dance on the lawn together and rejoice in a reunion of expression. But…

You are not here. You are at peace after a difficult 50 years of life. I miss you Mom. Please know that I hold you tenderly in my heart, unconditionally. There you live, enough, as you are. I love you.


Julee (aka JJ)

P.S. This has always been one of my favorite pictures of you. Remember how it was framed in Grandma's family room by the front door? I used to play in there often, holding the frame and talking to you when we were apart. I guess I was just practicing.

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