Writing for My Mom

As a child, a very little girl, I loved to read and write. I kept a journal for as long as I can remember. Writing gave me a voice and a peace like nothing else. And it was the most sacred thing to me. My dad reminded me of that the other day when he told me I used to sleep with my journal under my pillow as a young girl. Writing was my voice and I was going to protect it at all costs.

I needed a voice because I was quiet and a little shy. Writing was my outlet. That was the way I was able to speak my mind, even if I was the only one to hear it. I grew braver with time and went away to boarding school where I was able to really start writing and be heard out loud. I loved my English teachers because they really encouraged me to write, and write I did. I wrote poetry mostly then and was active with our literary magazine. After boarding school, I started as a freshmen at Hollins, an all girls school in Virginia that had an amazing creative writing program. I knew I wanted to be a writer at the time. Something was happening back at home though that was breaking my heart wide open and I couldn’t write anymore.

My beautiful and courageous mother had cancer and had fought it most of my life in one form or another. It was always there, like a cloud over our heads. I knew there wasn’t much time left and I just wanted to go home and be there with her. My parents, however, wanted me to stay at Hollins and get through my freshmen year. They were trying to protect me. So I tried to write about it, but couldn’t. In February of my freshmen year, I got the call from my dad that she had two weeks left and I began the journey home, finally. I’d been holding my breath for such a long time because I know the inevitable was coming for all of us. I could finally breathe again because I was on my way to her, to be with her for whatever moments we had left. Those two weeks will always be a bit of a haze for me. I have snippets of it in my mind, some laughter, some pain, watching her struggle, it’s almost more than I can bear to think about still. She was a fighter and fight she did. During this fight she had a request from me that I vowed to make good on. She wanted a poem from me. I was so honored and promised to get to work on it right away.

I was excited and eager to write this as a last gift to her. After all, I had so much to say, I almost couldn’t stand it. My deep love for her being the overriding emotion that would make this request effortless for me to fulfill. I immediately sat down with pen in hand and emotions ready to spill out of me all over the paper. And then, NOTHING. I simply couldn’t write a thing. I’d never had that problem before. I literally could not write the first word. And it broke my heart. That request had meant the world to me and I couldn’t come through. When someone requests something of me, I’ll go to the ends of the earth. But here I went to the ends of the earth and there was nothing. Believe me, I tried and tried and tried. I could not get the words out of my heart, into the pen, out onto the paper and into my moms heart where they belonged. I believe it was because it represented goodbye and I couldn’t say it. It represented the last thing I’d ever say to her and I wasn’t ever going to be ready for that moment.

I went to her in tears and she graciously understood and passed away a few days later. I stopped writing for twenty years. And after that, only wrote here and there. I did finally write her the poem I promised her and entitled it, “A Second Goodbye” which I will share soon. I write with her spirit in my heart. She always encouraged this love of mine and as rusty and “brand new” as I am at this, I know she is smiling somewhere above.

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