Here is my piece I read at Listen To Your Mother - Oklahoma City (LTYM-OKC) on Sunday. I am blessed beyond measure. This experience has been both a balm and an oasis in my grief for my Mom and now for my Dad. I'm so, so, so grateful that my friend, Misti, encouraged me to submit a story just a few weeks after Mom died while my grief still raw. Little did I know my dad would pass away just 12 weeks later during the week between our rehearsal and the show. My sisters encouraged me to stay in Oklahoma and read my story to honor both my Mom and my Dad. I couldn't have done it without knowing they were with me in spirit. As I approached the podium I paused and thought about them being on my right and on my left. I love you SO much sisters!!!
Our Pink Buddies
by Lisa Raley
Things my mom touched, folded, wore; they mean much more to me now knowing her fingers held these things. My sister recently sent a few small, silly things. Each item brings tears. Her beautiful pink fingernail polish, some lipstick, note cards, her favorite blue pens.
The other day I ran across a note from my mom written about a year ago. I‘d sent her some recent blog posts about our dogs and mentioned I was taking a writing class. She enclosed an especially meaningful picture of two foxes in a winter scene snuggled up close to one another. Her note said:
Hi Lisa - The enclosed picture from this week's Time magazine reminded me so much of you and your pets. Somehow it really clicked with me and I wanted you to see it. I'm so glad you are taking the writing class. You get and give so much by sharing your thoughts.She ended the note "You are much loved, Lisa," signed it "Mom" with a big blue smiley face from one of her blue pens, something she always did when closing letters.
I planned a trip to visit my parents at the end of January. I flew out on a Thursday morning and while on the shuttle up from the airport, my sister called with news that Mom fell. We soon learned she broke her hip.
The weekend before my trip I happened to buy several stuffed animals. I know it sounds silly, but I bought them in one of those moments you can’t really explain. The previous day I’d had a painful conversation with my father, painful not because of words spoken, but because of words not spoken ~ words I very much wanted to hear. I felt like I was five again with that unspoken desire "Pick me!"
For the most part I worked through the biggest internal knots, but was still worrying through some smaller ones. I’d run to the grocery store for a few items and was stopped instantly by a display chockfull of pink Valentine's Day Beanie Babies. I looked at the display and nearly burst into tears. Something about those sweet, big beady-eyed creatures sent me a huge "You are loved....so very, very loved," the same message my mom penned in her note. So two of those little creatures ended up in my basket: a plump, round guy with a silly grin and a pink gorilla with red hair and the sweetest little face that just said "please take me home."
While at the hospital with my mom I got to spend some time alone with her. She was a bit unsettled and struggling with questions about the surgery and her broken hip. I decided earlier that morning to bring the pink guys with me since they’d helped me through a sleepless night. I pulled them from the backpack and set them on her hospital bed. She, like me, was instantly taken by them. She picked them up and smiled. She caressed them and kissed them just like I had done. She kept them in the bed with her. At one point the round, little guy rolled off the bed. When I got back to her room she pointed at the floor and I knew exactly what she wanted. I also learned another story about Mom and the buddies. Their pastor and wife came for a visit and Mom had fallen asleep while they prayed with her. As they quietly turned to leave they noticed her grasping for something and they realized she was reaching for the pink buddies to hold close.
My mom and I were close at times and we had fond connections, but we also struggled. Seems at times we affected each other deeply and sometimes not in a good way.
On the day of my mom’s surgery I wrote her an email. My subject line was, "My dearest Mommy” and I wrote these words:
Mom - So glad I was able to be with you this weekend and sit beside you at the hospital. It was an honor and joy. I will see you this morning and after your surgery. You will be reading this email after your recovery.
I just wanted to whisper in your ear that you are deeply, deeply loved and so cherished. By your family for sure (Dad, Marcie, Pam and I) and most importantly I know for a fact by the Lord. I know that when He thinks about you, He has a smile on His face. How those little pink buddies came to be your companions at the hospital is a peek into this. I knew I needed to bring them from Norman, but didn't know why. It was for you!!!
You are a delight, Mom, and always remember that you are special, so very special. When you hear voices otherwise, you remember those pink buddies because they came with me to deliver this message to you.
Love you so much,
My mom never got to read the email. Although, she made it through surgery, several days later she contracted pneumonia and died soon after. It was just too much. In some ways I wasn't completely surprised by her death.
So the pink buddies are back with me. I set them together on our bakers rack in the kitchen and I see them everyday. They make me smile. I remember my mom holding them and finding comfort in them. I remember their message that I am loved, but mostly I remember my mom died knowing that I loved her and that she loved me.
P.S. Check out the all the Listen To Your Mother videos on YouTube especially the ones from our OKC show. They are all so good!!