Have you ever kept something that didn’t belong to you?
I’m not talking about pens pocketed from work. (I swear I’ve bought more than I’ve ever taken. I am a pen and paper snob!)
Squirreled away in a drawer I kept a letter that was never intended for me. I dig it out when I have “missin’ my mama” moments, like I did yesterday.
Before I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, I sat in a drab exam room. The doctor in front of me had his arms crossed as he delivered his perfunctory professional assessment.
I was a “stressed out, depressed single mom trying to get attention.”
Now many years and doctor visits later, the lumbar punctures and MRI’s provided a more thorough diagnosis. My providers also treat me with much more tact, respect, and courtesy. However, at the time, I wanted that summary scrubbed from my medical record. I feared that it would taint my continued care.
I wrote to request an amendment to my records. My mama, always my biggest cheerleader and advocate, also wrote a letter for me to send.
Except I’m a bit nosy.
So I opened it.
And of course I read it.
I folded it back up.
I tucked it away for safe keeping.
This letter was never intended for me. I don’t think my mama ever expected I would read it.
I kept it because it is filled with my mama’s love and support, and she documented my struggles, dreams, and goals, and put words to the uncertainty I was facing.
Along the way, I sometimes forget I worked three jobs to put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads, and somehow got everyone to swimming lessons.
I don’t always remember how exhausting it was to stay up all night studying so that I could show my children the value of higher education. My mama details how proud she was when I finally graduated…with honors.
I forget how hard it was to get all the household chores done, care for the sheep and chickens, keep the yard mowed, and somehow find a moment or two to spin wool and can more tomatoes than I could grow. (Don’t think I didn’t get plenty of help with this! I had very generous family and friends along the way.)
I don’t remember the last time I even rode a horse, but I definitely don’t recall the plan to buy a horse and teach my children to ride. This might be due to a change to city livin’, no desire to muck stalls, and little kids that have morphed into high school and college students.
But more than anything, I have my mama’s words showing her pride that, I’ve “never been one to back down from a challenge” and I’d “always choose a hard ‘B’ grade over an easy ‘A’.”
She declared me to be “a caring and helpful daughter, sister and friend” and noted that I “was always ready to help people.”
My mama’s words tell me she noticed that I enjoyed my life despite my fears. She valued that my main priorities were providing for my family and keeping my children safe.
I still tear up when I read how much she hurt to watch her child struggle with pain…how she was heartbroken that she couldn’t make it better. (I felt the same way during my mama’s short battle with cancer.)
Those words were never meant for me. I stole them and kept them for fear of squandering them on something less precious. My mama never said those things to me when she was here. I knew, but I never heard them.
Often I wonder if my children know how incredibly proud I am of them.
Sometimes I don’t always get the chance to just show them how deep this mother’s love really runs.
This year I bought a journaling Bible and I’ve scribbled down some stories and short memories. I’ve started filling in the things I really want them to know and remember some day. This is a little different than an intercepted letter, but there is always value in knowing unconditional love, acceptance, and pride in seeing the fantastic people children grow up to be, no matter what form it comes in.
And in the words of my mama (actually from a letter sent to me):
“…and if being loved doesn’t make you smile, I don’t know what will.“