I remember praying for my future husband. A starry-eyed preteen sending a laundry list of hopes up to Heaven from a room drowning in pastel purples and Relient K posters. I didn’t know it then, but you were raising the man of my dreams.
I didn’t know that the ocean-eyed boy I would fall in love with under the Summer sun was one day the curly-headed baby on your hip.
I didn’t know that the same teenaged boy that spent many a Summer night counting shooting stars above the salty shore with me was once the same baby boy you taught to crawl then walk then run.
I didn’t know that the young man I would dream big dreams with on the tailgate of his pickup to the soundtrack of classic rock and the cicada’s serenade was once the little boy who brought you treasured dandelion bouquets.
I didn’t know him when he was small and fresh and full of new life…
But I do know the way that a mother’s heart is forever plagued with the worrisome thought of whether she is doing right by her children.
I think of my own ambitions as I find myself in the midst of raising a little boy…
And I want to tell you that I see you, sweet momma.
You, with all your expectant hopes and dreams for your new baby boy.
I wasn’t there when you were instilling in him the virtues of working hard for what he wants and never giving up on something… or someone you believe in.
I didn’t know that one day, that someone would be me.
I didn’t know that those virtues were largely inspired by a season of watching you work two jobs as a single mother, to provide for your family.
I didn’t know that the framework for his respect for me was built from the great respect he has for you, his mother.
I didn’t know that his ability to see the best in things (a gift that has always inspired this anxious heart to have a little more faith) was born from a love fierce enough to give him the confidence to do anything. And because of that, I’ve seen him accomplish anything he’s set his mind to.
So as the sun sets on this day, and as I reflect on the husband and father that I am so proud of, I think its only fitting to reflect on the woman that nurtured him into the man he is now.
I know there must have been nights that you lost sleep over him, prayed over him, maybe shed a few anxious tears in the hopes that your efforts to guide a young man’s wild heart would not be lost.
I’m here to tell you that those precious moments of anguish in a young mother’s spirit were not wasted in the least.
You raised the kind of man that cares about my favorite kind of flowers and when to bring them home.
You raised a man who calls me his turtle dove because he heard somewhere that they choose a mate for life.
You raised the kind of man that has never lost touch with his inner child. He’s as ornery as the day is long but with a heart of gold, and those that love him wouldn’t have it any other way.
You raised a man that is passionate about me pursuing my dreams and living up to my God-given potential. You raised a man who believes in me and prays for me.
You raised a man who honors his wife and teaches his children to honor their mother. He is Christ’s tender and enduring love for me personified.
You raised a dreamer, an adventurer, a teacher, a minister, a creative genius.
You raised my best friend.
You raised a man with endurance. A man who can stand the test. A man who has encountered more than his fair share of hardships but presses on despite them all. A man who has held me up while I nurse the fresh wound of losing my mother, all the while reliving the loss of his own father.
You raised a man who aspires to make beauty from pain. A man who can put his dreams aside for someone with a greater need. A man who fathers children he does not share DNA with and never balks at the thought of it.
A man with a heart that is sensitive and obedient to the whisperings of his Heavenly Father.
I guess this overflow of the heart is all to say “thank you.”
Thank you for playing part in a heavenly scheme that is bigger than the both of us. Thank you for raising the man of that little preteen’s dreams before she even knew what to ask for.
Thank you for raising your little ocean-eyed, curly-haired boy up right.
And thank you for letting him go.
I hope that one day, I can do the same for my boy.
On April 25, 2018, my world imploded and I’m still living in the aftershock. Every day since has felt like wandering through ash and wreckage blindly, arms out to brace a certain fall, feet shuffling to feel my way through the entangling debris.
I had returned to work that day after a few days of being home with sick kids and being a little under the weather myself. It was my mom’s birthday and I was saddened that she was going to spend it in the hospital, but I was hopeful that she’d return home soon. Her battle with uterine cancer gave her the problem of excess fluid buildup which had to be removed quite often since the pressure caused trouble breathing and general discomfort.
She couldn’t go to her regular treatment facility because the issue occurred over the weekend so she was admitted to the hospital. This particular incident left her especially weak because she had not been able to eat much, due to the extreme nausea the chemo gave her.
The day before I had taken my son, who was on the mend from an ear infection, to visit her. She seemed weak and disoriented and we were worried, but we never really thought about her not coming home.
After the visit, I went to Kohl’s and picked out a few small things for her birthday and Mother’s day, which was just around the corner. Hoping to make the best of the situation at hand, my family planned to gather at the hospital with small tokens to brighten her day, bed-ridden on her birthday.
That morning when I arrived at work, I sat in the parking lot for a moment, soaking in the subtle pink hues of the sunrise, and the song, “10,000 Reasons” came on the radio. The lyrics grabbed me like they never had before as the verse rang out these words:
“And on that day
When my strength is failing
The end draws near
And my time has come
Still my soul will
Sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years
And then forevermore”
I couldn’t help but think of my sweet momma laid up in that hospital bed. Her skin pale, her head bare from the chemo treatments, the way she forced a smile when her loved ones entered the room even when I’m sure the emotions she was feeling were far from happy… My heart quickened and my blood ran cold and I faced, in that parking lot, the very real possibility that my mother may not leave that hospital bed. I did my best to gather myself and wipe the hot tear stains from my cheeks as I walked into work.
I wasn’t there for but an hour or two before I got the text from dad that read, “the doctor is advising loved ones to gather.” My legs threatened to fail beneath me and I forgot how to breathe. My eyes widened and the color drained from my face, my sweaty hands grabbed for my belongings and I stumbled toward my car.
My husband met me near his work after I called him sobbing and he felt it was unsafe for me to drive. He sobbed with me all the way to the hospital and never let go of my hand. He loves my momma dearly, but I knew that the events unfolding were all too familiar to him as he knew the sting of losing a parent all too soon.
In my moments of weakness during mom’s fight with cancer when I feared what could become of her, the thought occurred to me that God had brought Joe and I together for such a time as this. That our Almighty Father knew the pain we would face in common and how we would have to hold each other up… That God knew I would need an understanding heart to love me through the pain I would feel and the mornings I wouldn’t want to get out of bed. I fought that notion like crazy. Oh how I didn’t want that to be true.
I know it sounds cliché, but my momma truly was my best friend. We did everything together. If one of us had to run to the store late at night, we’d go together. We’d peruse the craft section, the holiday section, and go for a drive afterwards. We’d dance to music on the way home and maybe stop for a drink or a late-night treat. We were silly together, oh how I miss her laugh. She was my best friend, and oh how I felt her absence after she left this earth. She was my safe place.
When we were finally ushered into her room in the ICU, her family swarmed around her and assured her that she was so loved. We held her hand and kissed her face. I will never forget how in all of her discomfort, in her few moments of consciousness, she would pucker her lips the best she could to kiss us back. I will never forget her beautiful eyes, they were so big and filled with compassion even in her last moments.
Sometimes I startle to see those same eyes looking back at me in the mirror.
It wasn’t long after that my momma passed from this life into eternity.
At one point, my husband went to grab a bite to eat for everyone and a jacket for me. I let him know that the moment was close and he hurried back. It was shortly after he returned that my momma breathed her last. I believe she waited for him.
I remember my dad saying, “they say that a spirit leaving the body can see us on their journey to Heaven.” We all looked up and imagined what my mom was seeing, feeling for the first time.
In healthier moments, as her birthday was approaching, we’d ask her what she wanted. She’d reply, “a cure for cancer.” The only consolation we left the hospital with that day was that our sweet momma got her birthday wish. Jesus gave her a cure for cancer on her birthday. It wasn’t the cure we prayed for, but her suffering is over. The cruel disease that ravished her body in a matter of months could no longer touch her.
I woke up the next day hoping it was all a bad dream. Then reality came crashing in, sucking the air out of my lungs once again.
Images from the day she died still haunt me. My prayer is that in time, God will redeem those moments for me.
In the first year you get pretty good at putting emotions on the back shelf to survive work and functioning in general, but there are many mornings that a memory, a song, a thought or a longing just reduce me to a puddle.
I try to think of my momma rejoicing in Heaven with her Jesus and her loved ones that have gone before her, and the confidence of her heavenly home does give peace.
But I can’t help but feel like a part of me died with her on that day.
I’m still reeling. My ears are still ringing from the after-blow. I’m still stumbling through the blinding ash with my arms extended, certain of the perils around me. Wondering if I will ever see the light of hope through the haze.
I’m just a girl grieving the fact that my momma will never get to be the grandma she wanted to be.
Even though she met both of my children, she was sick for a majority of the time she knew them. Her love still made a lasting and deep impression on them both, but I know it killed her that she couldn’t play or adventure with them the way she wanted to.
I’m just a girl grieving all the “you should be here” moments.
My brother graduated college right after mom passed. Shes going to miss adoption day for her first grandbabies, shes going to miss their first trip to Disney. She wasn’t here to witness my sister start a new life for herself, something she never stopped praying for.
There is a lot of speculation as to what a soul experiences in Heaven, what they know and can see about life on Earth. However, I’m still living in the ever-poignant absence of my mother’s physical presence.
So forgive me, my friends, when I can’t immediately sense the immense joy that is supposed to follow a saint gone to glory. I hope that day will come for me.
But for now, I’m just a girl missing her momma.
And to my momma on her 58th birthday:
It’s been a year and I still can’t believe you’re gone. I know you’re enjoying Heaven right now and I hope it’s more than anything you’ve ever imagined it to be. I hope you’re having long chats with Jesus and singing in the angel choir.
Gosh, how I would have loved to see you lay eyes on your momma for the first time in a while.
I know you’d be so proud of all of us, momma.
We walked for life in your memory and Daddy was determined to make 33 laps to honor 33 years of the marriage you shared with him, and he did it… blisters and all. Your grandbabies found your pictures on the luminaria bags and Ricky bent down to kiss your face. Kassie thought you would be resurrected on Easter just like Jesus. 😊 You’d love the little people they are turning out to be.
Your grandbabies will be officially yours in about a month or so. I try every day to be the mother you taught me to be. A mother that never misses an opportunity to let their children know how loved they are. A mother who always finds time for laughter and fun. A mother who teaches her children to love Jesus and walk in His way. A mother who prays.
Sometimes I hear your voice in the back of my head telling me to “loosen up” a little. Thanks for the reminder. 😉 You’re right, this life is too short to get hung up on the little stuff.
Grief is a funny thing. Sometimes you’re able to anticipate the blow, and other times, it hits you in the gut out of nowhere, leaving you gasping for breath.
Holidays come and go and a grieving heart can brace itself for feelings that are certain to come bubbling to the surface.
I lost my momma on a Wednesday afternoon in April of this year.
She had been admitted to the hospital for a procedure that had become familiar to her during her time spent battling endometrial cancer. A procedure that we were certain was just going to be routine and that she’d be sent home in a day’s time.
I had only been at work for a few hours before I got the text from dad, “the doctor has advised the family to gather, mom has been transferred to the ICU.” My pulse quickened and my mind blurred as I fumbled for my keys and rushed to the hospital, not certain what I would find when I got there.
It was her birthday. As her birthday was approaching we would ask her what she wanted. She’d joke with half a smile that made her tired eyes squint and say, “a cure for cancer.”
Her chemo treatments left her with little to no energy and profound nausea. She chose to shave her chestnut brown hair off in December of last year shortly after she started treatments when it began falling out. She asked me to be there when her hairdresser offered to cut her hair in the comfort of her own home.
Her friends comforted her with ideas of wigs and scarves to cover her bald head but wigs were expensive, scarves made her sweat, and she was one of the few that actually looked good with out her adorning wavy locks (even if she didn’t think so).
She always looked good.
She hardly went anywhere without getting made up. Hair curled, makeup done, and wouldn’t even run to Walmart with anything less. She had good reason though, she knew about half of the people in our little city. We could hardly go anywhere without adoring children running up to her or waving with cheesy grins from afar when they recognized their beloved “Mrs. April.”
Though there were tears, I was humbled to watch her handle losing her hair with such bravery. She handled herself with poise and grace as she smiled through it even though she felt anything but happy. If it were possible, she looked even more beautiful to me in that moment as her hair fell in clumps to the floor around her.
Without her hair, her eyes were accentuated. Her big brown eyes that lit up when I walked into the room. She had the habit of making me feel like the most important person in the world in those moments. A feeling that my dad and siblings share in common. A sight I always was eager to come home to when I spent my college years in a different state. A sight I ache for now.
Her eyes characterized her trademark sassiness. Her eyes always told you just how she was feeling. And in her final weeks on Earth, she was tired.
Tired of not feeling like herself. Tired of pain, nausea, doctor visits and needles. Tired of the chemo treatments and pills, tired of how unfair the complication of cancer made her life. Just tired.
When my family met my dad at the hospital, we waited for what felt like eternity just to see her. When we were finally ushered through the doors of the ICU, a young doctor told us what to expect. The room was filled with tear-stained faces and echoing sniffles and the sounds of our hearts breaking caused the doctor to cry.
My sweet momma got her birthday wish.
Grief is a funny thing. You expect the twinkle of Christmas lights to seem a bit dull and the excitement of the Season not to make an appearance.
You’ll still dig out all the trimmings and put up the dusty decorations for the kids’ sake, but your heart isn’t in it. You’re just going through the motions.
You can expect the impending holiday to awaken feelings you don’t want to confront, but you don’t expect to be left in a puddle of tears by a Coldplay song about a breakup.
I don’t go a day or even an hour without thinking of her. I once heard that when your heart is grieving a loved one, it searches for them in everything around you. And suddenly the unpredictability of my grieving heart made sense.
Christmas will feel different without her loving attention to detail and carefully picked stocking stuffers. There won’t be a “Merry Christmas to my Christmas baby” text to wake up to on Christmas morning or the following texts anxious to know when we’d be on our way to her house.
This year we unpacked boxes upon boxes of Christmas trinkets and my mom’s beloved snowman collection. My dad selected the perfect tree and we decorated it together with generations of ornaments. We shared smiles as we recalled our favorite ornaments and the memories behind them. Me and my siblings made jokes to distract from the obvious heaviness of the moment. Dad placed the angel on the top of the tree and busied himself with making sure it stood proud and worked properly.
After all the trappings were properly in their places, we were still painfully aware of a glaring absence,
and an emptiness in our hearts that this world will never satisfy.
But the thing is, it was never meant to.
Christmas was momma’s favorite time of year. She was giddy with childlike expectation for Christmas morning. She loved the lights, the music, the bright décor, the snow (which she sorely missed when we moved to FL) and the birth of our Savior. And she instilled the love for the Season in all of us. Her joy was contagious joy.
And even though I’m hurting, I can feel a small stirring in my spirit reminding me of the miracle of Christmas joy. It’s in the look of wonder on my children’s faces as they admire our tree, it’s in their voices when they sing the songs of the Season.
It’s in the spirit of giving, it’s in a stranger’s kindness.
It’s in the pregnant hope of meeting our Savior.
My momma taught us the miracle of joy at Christmastime.
And it didn’t die with her.
“Those Christmas lights
Light up the street
Maybe they’ll bring her back to me
Then all my troubles will be gone
Oh Christmas lights keep shining on”
Take one step inside the Watson residence and you will see evidence of life in the midst of chaos. There are tiny socks hidden strategically in corners of my living room and dog hair tumbleweeds in the dark and forlorn corners of the entertainment center. Take a walk through the kitchen and your shoe might stick to the tile if you encounter an isolated area of unidentified stickiness.
Actually, you don’t even have to make it in the door to detect that small children of some sort live at our address. The unmatched shoes and random happy meal treasures abandoned on the front porch are a dead giveaway. (Just for the record, no, this doesn’t match my housekeeping ambitions in the slightest…)
It has been over a year now since we answered the call to foster. We opened up our home to rigorous inspections, visitations, and best of all, a brother-sister pair. Two little toddlers full of life and in need of our love. We have come a long way since that day, but I still find myself bewildered by the way our lives have been flipped upside down – in mostly good ways. 🙂
Before these two little additions it was just my husband, Joe, and I, and our two dogs. We had just settled into our sweet little home-for-two as first-time homeowners, and we were ready to expand our family. We had been trying to do so for a few years prior, and reluctantly realized that it must not be in God’s timing for us to start a family organically at the moment… a story for another day.
While we were caught between trying to make our house a home, work, and other commitments, we couldn’t deny that the yearning to parent was so strong for us we couldn’t ignore it any longer. Through much soul-searching, moments of quiet meditation and prayer, we felt the call to foster… separately. That’s right. Without even having a conversation, Joe and I were feeling the same nudging toward opening our home to less-fortunate children.
We sat down for dinner one night and I was venting as I often did about the stresses of my current job. Through streams of hot tears, I shared my dream with my husband, hoping he would want to take my hand on this adventure. Making this dream a reality would require a lot of change. I decided my current job was too demanding to manage the doctor’s appointments, the sick days, the visitations, the training and the intensive parenting that would come with loving traumatized children. I was proposing the biggest leap of faith we would take as a couple thus far.
So there we sat, my words spilled out into the evening air. I perched on the edge of my chair and waited for a response as he looked at me with a knowing expression. After a short pause he opened his mouth and said, “I’ve been thinking about this too… lets do it.”
I was relieved and elated as it became evident that God had been imparting the same calling on both our hearts. This is the God we serve. A God that is always at work behind the veil of our circumstance. A God that already had this all figured out, He was just waiting for us to join the party. A God that brought us two beautiful children to love just two days after we obtained our license to foster.
And as if we still weren’t convinced God was at work, when the social worker arrived in the dark hours of the morning, she introduced us to a little boy with the same namesake as Joe’s father who had passed away just weeks before our wedding. She handed us that sweet little guy right there in the driveway and we shared a bewildered look as tears swelled to the surface and our lives as we knew them came to a crashing halt.
I’m sharing this story today to remember. To transport myself back to the time when we made this decision wrapped in all the “magic” and “fairy dust” we felt when we took the first steps in the right direction.
I’ve been home all weekend with a sick little girl and in just a few minutes we’ll be leaving to see the doctor for probably the third time in two weeks (not just for her, her brother was sick last week too). Not my idea of a good time.
Today I’m writing from a place of weariness that isn’t foreign to mother’s everywhere. The guilt that swoops in under the guise of human emotion and leads to a depleted spirit.
My sweet husband, who works so hard to provide for his family, is a bi-vocational family life pastor. So, apart from his demanding full time job, and being a wonderful father, he also has time he dedicates to his ministry at the church weekly. On top of that, he is pursuing his bachelor’s degree in ministry online so most nights after the dust settles from our daily routine, he is spending hours on homework. Needless to say he’s a busy guy.
Confession: Sometimes in the busyness of parenting, I miss when it was just us.
*Adds another heaping scoop of guilt.*
I miss when one of us would have a bad day so we’d go for a late night drive among the stars and talk. I miss going to the beach to watch the sunset on a whim. I miss spontaneity. I miss him.
I realize that this is just a season that we’re in. But add in a grieving heart (I lost my mother just 3 months ago to an ugly battle with cancer), and these emotions have a way of crashing down on you pretty hard.
After I bathed little miss sick girl and set her in her room with her beloved Mickey Mouse cartoons, I retreated to my room on the other side of the house. As I was getting ready for the day I heard the sweetest sound over the baby monitor. A little voice struggling through congestion to sing “Jingle Bells.” A smile crept across my face as I stopped what I was doing to lean in and listen close.
There it was, Christmas in the Summer time. Joy that surpasses understanding as a sick little girl sacrificing valuable breaths of air to sing the song in her heart.
I live for moments like these.
Moments that make our life among the mess of busyness and chaos oh so worth it.
Hello! Thank you for embarking upon this adventure with me.
This is simply a space for me to share my passions and experiences with those who will listen.
Emily Dickinson was one of my late grandmother’s favorite poets. Grandma Betty was certainly an “old soul” and one of my favorite storytellers. From a young age, my siblings and I would beg her to regale us with her tales of mischief from her childhood.
Dickinson’s poem, “Hope is the Thing with Feathers,” inspired the title to my blog. I love the animation of hope she depicts. I find myself identifying with the first stanza in the poem especially in life’s circumstances as of late.
I relate to the imagery of the bird that “perches in the soul” because I feel most in tune with my heavenly father when I am admiring His creation. There is a certain freedom in observing a bird in flight, and in the painted skies offering a grand farewell to the setting sun.
The human experience is one of love and beauty and relationship, but also one of pain, loss, and disappointment. My intention for this space is to share my honest experiences through creative expression in the hopes that my musings might meet someone where they need to be met…
Even if it means humming the sweet and somber “tune without the words,” when all that can be offered is a sympathetic ear.
As a soul who has found herself caged inside a silent struggle, my desire is to reach someone traveling the same lonely road and offer a friend for the journey.
I’m so thankful that we don’t have to struggle alone. Aren’t you?
Join me as I journey toward hope.
"Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all..."