[caption id="attachment_171282" align="aligncenter" width="1180"] "Mending the Bond" by Kelly Tallent (CatholicMom.com)[/caption]
It’s hard to imagine my mom as a twenty-eight-year-old: Married for almost eight years, helping her husband with the family business, raising a rambunctious four-year-old boy, and now the proud mama of a baby girl – ME!
[caption id="attachment_171278" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Copyright 2020 Kelly Tallent. All rights reserved.[/caption]
She was a feisty mother, a strong mother. She was a giving mother and a sensitive mother. Yet those aren’t the attributes I remember. The attributes I remember are ones from my teenage years. The years where she wasn’t coloring with me or spoon-feeding me peas, she was the moral Hammer of Thor. She was the disciplinarian and the authoritarian and The Parent.
The last time I spoke to her I was sitting outside of a tattoo parlor while my friend was inside getting a tramp stamp. My mom was in the middle of watching It’s a Wonderful Life and her *sigh* on the other end was not one of disgust, but one of sadness. Her baby girl, whom she spent hours doting on and loving and nurturing, was now an eighteen-year-old Private in the Army contemplating getting a tree frog tattoo on her waistline. Her Zuzu Bailey was no more.
[caption id="attachment_171280" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Copyright 2020 Kelly Tallent. All rights reserved.[/caption]
Fifteen years later I can tell you that I replay that night over and over in my head. If I had only known that would be my last conversation with her, I would’ve said something different. I would’ve cared more about her and the movie than scandalizing her for giggles. I would’ve asked her if she was doing OK. I would’ve asked her if she had any plans for the weekend. I might’ve even suggested that going canoeing in November might not be such a great idea ... then maybe she might still be alive.
That’s the thing about death and regret. You don’t get to go back and fix anything. You live with it. Forever. That’s why after a rousing fight with my own angsty teenager, I smacked my husband on the arm and demanded that he call his mom and apologize to her for being a rebellious teenager.
“Let me live vicariously through you!” I bawled at him through my tears. “I can’t apologize to my mom for being a *fill in the blank* so you do it for me!”
He then called his mom.
Friends, you might not have been given years upon years to contemplate your mother’s life and who you are in relation to her without her being right there with you. You might be in the middle of a fight over how many cookies she let your kids eat the last time they were at her house. She might hold different political or religious viewpoints than you. She might be better than you at raising kids. She might be worse. She could’ve been a terrible mom and you have to avoid her because she’s a poison to you and your family. Maybe she isn’t a poison and it’s your own hurt feelings and pride getting in the way. But maybe she really is that bad and you want to love her but she won’t let you. Maybe she really is crazy! Maybe she had an alcoholic and abusive parent and even though she tried to be the best parent she could, she was left wanting. Maybe her parents’ divorce had more of impact on her than you could ever know. Maybe she held you to such a high standard because she didn’t want you to end up making the same mistakes she did.
Sometimes I wonder what life would be like if my mom were around. Would I still have the same deep understanding and appreciation for her if she was living in my day to day? I could only hope so ... but knowing me and my strong personality, I could also be the same arrogant, competitive, and selfish teenager turned 33-year-old with no idea of how to have a loving and selfless relationship with her.
I do, however, know that if I had one more day with her, I would make sure she knew that I thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world. I would tell her that she was talented. I would tell her how much I admired her paintings and her singing voice, because God knows how much I miss her voice now. I would thank her for being loyal and faithful and loving to my dad even during the hardest of times, and there were many of those – just like in every marriage. I would take her out to dinner and actually use the manners that she taught me. Unless we were at Chick-Fil-A with her grandkids in which she would probably get a spitball or two just to make her laugh again. I would tell her that her deepest desire of having a daughter who loved Jesus more than life itself was realized, and that her love for God would be passed down to her grandchildren. I would hold her tight and never let go.
But coming to this perfect day with her wasn’t easy. It has been a challenge for me to get to this point and it took fifteen years to do so and it will be a challenge for anyone reading this who struggles with the mother/daughter relationship to get to this point too. Yet, Someone who loves us and wants us to be whole, desires this reconciliation. Jesus once said, “But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28).
Many times, we think of this verse in an abstract and intangible way. We think of enemies in Washington D.C. and avoid the “enemy” who just ticked you off because she just has that way of offering suggestions that feel more like judgments and less like the support and love you really desire. Sometimes the “enemy” avoids the hard conversations and would rather talk about the weather or her recent gardening adventures. Sometimes the “enemy” won’t pick up the phone. Sometimes the “enemy” is ourselves.
Whatever situation you find yourself in, the answer is and always will be prayer. This can be rote prayer or this can be you screaming at God about the injustices and years of physical abuse that you endured or it can be frustrated sobs in a pillow because the “I’m sorry” she deserves was a missed opportunity.
God can take it all. He can hold it all. He can heal it all.
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This month of May – the month of Mothers – give the Lord your pain, your hurt, your frustration. Let Jesus’ Divine Mercy heal you and heal the broken bonds of motherhood. Let Him renew you and strengthen you and allow your relationship with Him to be as close as that of a mother cradling her newborn baby. Trust that all will be made new because with Him, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). And as you pray, hold your own babies and love them the way you wish you were loved; forgive them the way you wish to be forgiven and let the peace of Christ be with you, now and forever.
Copyright 2020 Kelly Tallent
This post is dedicated to my mother, Terri A. Cressman (April 24, 1958 – November 28, 2004), and to a spiritual mother of mine, Linda Ellis, who passed away April 23, 2020.
About the Author
Kelly Tallent is mother to six children and wife to a living saint. She is a Theology/English student at Holy Apostles College and Seminary as well as a Pre-School 3 aide at a Catholic school. She is also the author of The Joyful Pessimist, a self-published journal that delves deeply into the intricacies of living the life of a Catholic Christian woman. You can find her book, podcast, and blog at The Joyful Pessimist.