Friday, May 15, 2015

Sticky Love

I lost a beautiful friend to sudden death exactly one year ago. We had known each other over a dozen years. She had an epic laugh. Living across town from each other, we didn't see each other all that often, except for a smile from one balcony seat to another across our large church on Sundays. After Jack died, I didn't hear much from her. I assumed that she, like others, had to do the hard work of trying to process a mother's nightmare come to life on her own time, in her own way.

The night we found out she died, so sudden and shocking, I got into my car and drove through the rain and darkness across town. I wanted to show up. Not because we had been that close in the past few years-- she had far better friends who would step in to take care of so many needs-- but because I had learned something about being there from the ones who drove through rain on another dark night for my family. I fought back feelings of, "You don't belong here," and pushed onward, in case my presence could do or mean anything at all.

A week or so later, my friend's precious daughter came to stay with us for a month to finish out the school year. I, too, knew the shock of losing a mom suddenly. The incredulity that the soft curves and the lap and the hair I knew as well as my own were no longer available to me in the way I wanted and needed, especially as a teenager finding her way in the world.

I don't know if I helped this sweet girl, a beautiful mix of sensitivity and strength, maturity and tenderness, but I know I was blessed by her presence. We talked about books we were reading. The pain of losing a mom. I hoped that she could see that early mother loss does not have to mean a bad life, even as I worried that I was not the best poster child for the good life. I just hoped my hugs, a very poor substitute for the genuine article, could substitute somewhat for a mama's hug.

I don't know if I told her anything remotely wise or meaningful during that month, but this is what I wish I'd said:

Beautiful L, 

It's a hard road to walk without a mom by your side, and your mom was one of a kind! She understood you better than anyone except for God, and her love for you ran deep. You were her delight and her pride. She prayed for you, cheered you on, and cherished you. 

Wait! Why am I writing this in past tense?

If I have learned anything from losing my mom and Jack, it's that the love you share is not dead. It did not die with your mom. That understanding and being known are still there too; in fact, she can now know those parts of you that were unspoken between you while she lived.  You can continue to cherish, experience, and work through your relationship with you here and her "there" by telling her how you feel, and by keeping your heart open and soft, even though it hurts. 

I'm guessing you are wondering if having her with you on earth for 14 short years is enough for her to "stick." I worried about this with my mom, too. But when I make someone laugh or help them feel good, that's my mom's influence coming through. When I share my mess with someone else? Mom. When you bake a pie, hug your future child tightly, or start some crazy big project involving fancy paper and tulle, that will be your mom. When your eyes light up with great big plans? What about when you buy a friend a thoughtful gift because it is just the thing to cheer her up? Yeah, your mom. 

Sweetie, a mother's love is the stickiest stuff around. I know that even on hard days, my love is stuck all over Margaret here and Jack in heaven. You are your own person, and so are they, but you, made up of so many complex parts, will never be entirely separate from the mother-love that held you hour after hour, got to know you by peering into your eyes, unlocked the wonderful code of what made you tick, worried for you, and wanted the rest of the world to see in you what she did (and does!) 


I know "there" seems so very far away, especially when you're such a hugger. I'd love to ask your mom if you were a cuddle-bug as a baby, because I'm guessing the answer is yes! You are the best hugger I know.

14 years were not enough, L. 

You wanted more. You want more.

I do too. 

But in this, I promise, fourteen years were more than enough to make her STICK. 




Mary S. said...

Beautiful! Your writing about a mother's love feels like a virtual hug.
Thank you!

One crazed mommy said...

Oh that made me cry - very sweet words. Even if you didn't say those to her, I'm sure your hugs and being there meant the world to her as she struggled to find her new normal.

Roya said...

Tears (and I'm in a public place). I hope you give her this letter. Love how you always get right to the raw emotions of being human.

Lindsay Ehrlich said...

Tears! Thank you for openly sharing tough situations that we can find beauty and blessings in. Sticky mama love is the deepest! --Lindsay, Carroll, IA

LowLevelRebel said...

From one unmothered woman to another, thank you for this. I lost my mom rather suddenly 5 months ago, and even though I'm 32, I still found so much of what you wrote touched me. I'm not a mom yet, but I'm thinking about it, and I just want to tell you how much it means to have something like this written by a mom. I worry about whether my kids will be able to "know" her, that I'll be a bad mom without my mom around to help me through it, that my life will be forever tainted by her loss, preventing me from truly living a "good life". Thanks for admitting to and assuaging some of those fears, Anna. I'll come back to this post again, I'm sure.

Beth said...


I lost my mom 2 years ago. Last week, my dad told me he's getting remarried. I want him to be happy, and I don't know why it hurts so much, but it does. I miss her so, so much.

And today, on a whim, I check your blog. And it's exactly where I am. And you must have just posted because no comments were showing yet.

Thank you for sharing your words. They mean a lot, even to those readers who almost never comment.


Unknown said...


The pain and beauty of this is almost too great.

I can't find my blog said...

Oh Anna. This is so beautiful.

I'm so proud to call you friend.

Amy said...


Sheila said...

My mom died 29 years ago and I still miss her and always will. This is great. Thank you

Unknown said...

Thank you

claire said...


Thank you. Your words are so beautiful, and I hope you shared this with L. I can see it sustaining her throughout her lifetime. It will be something for her to go back to during tough times. She was definitely a snuggler - when she was a toddler she used to sit on her mom's lap and crawl right up under her mom's shirt when she really didn't fit. We would just laugh at how she wedged herself in there and lament another shirt stretched out. But it didn't seem to matter, and now we really know it didn't matter - if the cost of such lovely memories is a ruined shirt - who cares.

I'm sure your hugs and snuggles were a comfort to her last year.

Love to you, beautiful friend!


Anonymous said...

Love. Thank you thank you thank you.

Maripat Hinders said...

So tender and true - I needed to read and hear this for so many reasons today. Thank you Anna, and bless you.

Alexandra Rosas said...

Oh, Anna. THe gift you were and are to her. I am so grateful her heart as you as home.

Kerry S. said...

So beautiful Anna - I can't explain it but reading this felt more like being. Your words took me to a space a place - a state of being. Like I said, I can't really put into words what your words did but there is such love and wisdom there. Just beautiful.

Leigh Ann said...

So beautiful. I have no doubt you helped her immensely, even if you could not see it.

LisaAR said...

So beautiful.

I know you wrote this for your dear L who lost her mom too soon, but this L appreciated reading it and thinking about my dad...gone only a few years later down the road from L's age.

Thank you. said...

This was a beautiful way to help your friend's daughter. Cheers to you.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

Your letter to L is so beautiful and I am sure the time she spent with you was amazing because you are a very special woman.

Unknown said...

that is absolutely beautiful and the perfect thing to tell her.

Anonymous said...

I lost my mother suddenly at the age of 10 and this is the most reassuring piece of wisdom I have read in the 16 years since. I know you enjoy hearing how God shows His presence and love to us, so I think you will appreciate knowing that my heart leapt when I saw it was addressed to "L", since my name starts with L too! It really felt for a moment like it was my mom, writing to me to let me know she is still here and her love is "stuck" on me as much as it ever was... Anyway, I wanted you to know that a tiny part of my heart just healed reading it. Thank you so very much for sharing.