Each year on her birthday and the anniversary of her death, I try to memorialize my mother in some way. Writing is the best way I know how, outside of talking about her with those that loved her. One day my children will be able to look back on what is written about their Grandmother, they will be able to see photos of her, hear stories, and they will know that her memory lives on through me.
I’ve always been a highly creative individual, but I started off as a gymnast. Gymnastics was everything to me. My Mom encouraged this as I jumped, leaped, tumbled, twisted, did back handsprings, splits, and things that most normal people do not do from parallel or uneven bars. I was always in motion. Somewhere in the middle of my journey, I became a writer. Once I knew there wasn’t going to be a move to Colorado Springs or an Olympics in my future, the writer was fully birthed.
My Mom turned my quiet, shy, introverted voice into a strong, in your face, confident human being, someone who is not afraid to speak up or speak out. She gave me rules, structure, and taught me boundaries that I use to this day. She always said I wrote with a supreme sense of fairness, but that I’d knock a person down with fifty words, or a hundred, however many it took. All of these things are still true.
When I got angry, she would always say “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Somewhere along the line, the pen became my sword. I became a living, breathing fencer of words. I don’t just write that way, it’s how I speak as well. Every once in a while I will look back on a letter I have written in a situation and I’m floored by my way with words, or how I handled something in the moment. Occasionally I cringe at the words that come out of my mouth and how harsh they sound, and other times, I know I am completely justified in my words, as well as my tone. I don’t play games and I don’t back down. I might take a step back so as not to end up in jail, but I have a supreme sense of right and wrong, and I will fight that to the death.
I can say with total assurance that if it had not been for my mother’s belief in my ability as a writer, Poison In Lethal Doses might never have existed. I’ve been writing articles under that banner for 20 years and I do feel a lot of the credit is owed to her.
In so many moments and situations, my mother would look at me in awe of how I handled myself, or she’d look at me with pride. I now see other people look at me with similar awe in how I handle certain situations and people, and how I don’t back down or take no for an answer. I was born this way, it wasn’t something anyone taught me, but whenever I do it, whenever I am completely myself, I am reminded of who I am and how proud it always made her.
The last seven years without my mother have been difficult and, at times, quite torturous. Losing a parent young is difficult, but I lost both of my parents, and my mother was my best friend. Whoever says “Time heals all wounds.” probably hasn’t been smacked with quite so much in such a short period of time.
I still find myself thinking “I must tell her about this book…” or “I must tell her about this show.”, and then I get emotional, because she’s not here. When I need strength, sometimes I’ll reach for my Mom’s ring or a pendant she wore every single day.
My Mom & I always had an agreement about “the other side” and getting messages to one another. The spiritual plane was a very common topic of discussion in my life. People can discredit that to their heart’s desire, but I know my mother and I know exactly what I experienced. I didn’t study what I studied for anyone to come along and say “I don’t believe in that.” That’s fine for you, don’t believe in it, but don’t try and take it away from those that know it exists, and know that it’s real, because that is rude and disrespectful. I wasn’t raised to be like that, but was I encouraged to stand up for myself and speak up? Absolutely. Having a voice as a writer helped me overcome my shyness. I still have my quiet moments, but I am by no means shy.
Being a woman in this world can be incredibly empowering, and it can be an immense hindrance at times as well. The intense side of me is a fighter that can do anything, and the Fibromyalgia side says “I’m sick. I need help. I am staying in bed today. I need to take care of me.”
I’ve been sick on and off for the past two years from the stress of all that I am going through in my private life, and I can only say that I am truly grateful to the people who have kindly helped me through this disaster, and those that have listened to me without judgment. Very few people understand the term “Ride or die.”, but a few do, and I am so blessed to have those people in my life. I’ve learned over the last month or so, and I have certainly learned over the past seven years, who is really with me and who can go screw themselves. That extends to both my personal and professional lives. Loyalty goes a long way with me. Disloyalty shows me your true colors, and once I see that, you’re done.
The song I posted today, The River, was read at my Mom’s funeral. It may not have been her philosophy for herself, but it was definitely a message for her children. It’s a reminder not to give up on yourself or your dreams, and not to let anything, not a single moment, fall by the wayside. Through the darkest of times, I try to keep this in mind, but it’s not always easy to do.
My mother would have been 68 today, and it pains me that she is not here. Today is my mental health day to mourn her loss, and take stock of where I am going and how I want to handle everything. I’m not having an easy time. I am slaying dragons and demons and sometimes I feel like my swords are dull, and I am too tired for this shit. But then I hear her voice in my head, and the blades are suddenly sharp again and the fierceness of my personality returns in full effect.
When I say that my Mom & I were close, that’s a vast understatement. We were best friends first, mother & daughter somewhere underneath it all. In the final seven years of her life, I discovered how much jealousy our relationship incited in her co-workers. Those with daughters who were not present in their lives were jealous of the fact that my mother, who was partially paralyzed, had a daughter that brought her to work and picked her up nearly every single day. They were jealous that I took care of her and was not just physically present, but emotionally present. They all confided that their own daughters were “way too self-centered and selfish to sacrifice so much”, but that they hoped that if ever they were in a similar situation, their daughters might see the error of their ways. It wasn’t ever said to me with awe, respect, or appreciation. It was said with venom, and I found it disgusting that healthy women who were all so much older than my mother could be SO incredibly jealous of her when she struggled to walk, and yet, never made excuses for herself. She’d push herself to make sure she was at work every single day. I wasn’t raised to be selfish, self-centered, self-important, or self-absorbed. If my mother needed me, then that’s where I was going to be. It was the absolute right place to be, but it was also what our relationship consisted of.
We had the most telepathic relationship in the world. I know no other parent half as connected as my mother and I remain. She was my voice of reason.
My Mom was always extremely honest. She didn’t sugar-coat anything or play games. She raised my brother & I not to accept the easy, to fight for what we believed in and truly wanted. Of the two of us, I’m the one most outside the box. She taught me especially to dream big, for the dream precedes the goal. In turn, I accomplished more by the time I turned 21 than most people do in a lifetime, and yet there’s this wiser part of me that knows it’s not nearly enough, for we are all here on borrowed time and tomorrow is not guaranteed. I’m not afraid to live beyond the word “potential”, and I’m not afraid of other people’s opinions because everyone is entitled to have one, it doesn’t mean their opinion is the correct one.
Death and grief changes you. Do you know what it’s like wondering if each breath a loved one takes will be their last? I watched over my Mom like that when she returned home after suffering from several heart attacks and strokes because her doctor was convinced she would not live another week. I immediately went into nurse/doctor mode, I went without sleep for days on end. Whenever she slept, I watched over her.
I always wanted my Mom to understand how very important she was to me and how lucky I felt that she was gifted to me as my mother. The last words we spoke to each other were of love. She was tired and said she’d talk to me either later or tomorrow. That night I received a phone call that changed my life immeasurably.
Less than a year later, I found a note from her to me. She’d written it before I was born and while I eliminated some of the more private parts, I share this with you just as I shared it at my parents’ unveiling.
A message to my daughter: ” Be your own person, always be truthful. Be kind, generous, loving, compassionate, and understanding. Be a friend, be thoughtful. Some day you may want these qualities of others. Teach them to your children. Be honest, you’ll always be able to look at yourself with pride. Don’t expect a lot from other people, and you’ll never be disappointed. Enjoy your life, but don’t do anything you’re not going to be able to live with, or are not be prepared to accept as a responsibility. Vengeance belongs to the Lord, hate is a wasted emotion. It’s not necessary to get even. Appreciate what you have, and achieve to the best of your ability. Listen. Sometimes all a person needs is your shoulder. Be gracious, don’t let life drain and break you until you feel empty. Sometimes you have to be selfish. Make your own space, don’t be swallowed by loved ones. Don’t be afraid to admit you’ve made a mistake, we all do. Always know I love you and that you can come to me with anything. Let me be your friend…” Every time I read it, it makes me cry. My Mom had a lot of foresight into what my life would be like.
At the beginning and end of each day, I still thank God for my Mom. Her loss is felt so deeply within me every single day. Over the years she has sent me so many things to help me heal. I can’t explain what it’s like to fully sense the physical presence of a person, be the presence solid or spiritual ether. Explaining clairsentience to people is a lot like trying to explain air.
People tell me that despite what I am going through, and that which I’ve already endured, I walk in a room and have a glow about me they can’t quite put their finger on. I attribute that to being proud of who I am, for knowing who I am, and being confident in my skin. My Mom helped foster those initial feelings in me, so I am fearless, supremely confident, and despite all of the pain I have endured, I always rise up out of the ashes better than I was before the pyre. I am the astrological sign of transformation and rebirth, and the older I get, the greater respect I have for those moments in my life that help make me better.
I was blessed with an amazing mother. I know not everyone gets to have that kind of relationship with a parent, but I am also a firm believer that everything we experience in life helps prepare us for the moments when we really have to step up. My Mom often said “I never have to worry about you. You will always find your way, you will never lose focus.” I have a lot of bad days, but she’s right, she doesn’t have to worry about me because she instilled so much in me that I know my strengths. Occasionally I have to remind myself what they are, but I don’t ever truly lose focus.
Mom, I want you to know that I know you’re always close by. I know you have saved my life more times than I care to count. I know you see that life is shit’s creek. But I also firmly believe that because you know me so well, you’ll always make sure a life raft gets sent my way. Even if it’s at the last-minute, you’ll never let me down.
I’m my mother’s daughter. I don’t owe anyone anything, but I do owe it to myself to be the very best version of who I am supposed to be, who I am meant to be. My mother only ever wanted me to be myself, but she firmly believed that was a person who would succeed. On a day like today, I need to remind myself that the potential and possibility is there and always will be. I thank you for being my mother, but I thank you more for being the reason I am exactly who I’m supposed to me.
Has time healed anything? No. Do I have hopes that the hole in my heart will eventually fill up a bit? Yes.
I love you, Mom. Thank you…for everything.
“We thought of you today, but that’s nothing new. We thought about you yesterday, and days before that too.
We think of you in silence. We often speak your name. Now all we have are memories, and your picture in a frame.
Your memory is our keepsake with which we’ll never part. God has you in his keeping, we have you in our hearts.” -Unknown
Excerpts of this are copyright © 2009 by Lisa Marino. Everything else, unless otherwise indicated, is copyright © 2013-2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. No portion of this may be reproduced without written consent under the U.S. Copyright Act. Photos & quotes all belong to their creators.
“Seek the sweet surrender of simplicity. Listen to the sound of faith like a flute playing inside your chest. Go within. Serenity lives always within your reach.” -Ching Qu Lam