Making Some Serious Lemonade on Mother’s Day

Posted by jill.ellingson • 7 comments

Hello Brave Souls!

I wrote the majority of this Blog post in February of last year actually, and then life circumstances took a major shift in a shitty direction (more on that coming).  As a result, I’ve written A LOT in the past year, but published nothing as the timing just seemed off.  And to be honest, it didn’t feel like a priority at all given everything else.  But, I’m a listen to my gut kinda gal, and today, I felt a very strong heart tug that it was time for this one (thank you, Mom).

It’s not been an ideal Mother’s Day – First, I don’t have my Mom anymore.  Second, Covid got in the way, as it has for many families and festivities, so I’m unable to see my own kiddos for the first time in 28 years.  But, I decided today is about making some seriously great lemonade out of those lemons.  And the inspiration for that comes directly from…my own Mom – who was the most positive person I knew.  How am I making lemonade?  Re-framing the shit out of this day and being so grateful for the gift of motherhood, the gift of having such a loving Mom, and for raising three incredible kids with hearts of gold (all who blessed me in their own special ways today).

My mom passed away a little over a year ago and my heart is forever broken, changed and yet grateful for all the years I had with her.  I wrote her the below letter early last year, as I sensed she was in her last months of life.  I intended to publish it in February of 2021, entitling it “Happy Valentine’s Day to my first love – my Mom.”   Instead, I read it to her two days before she died – while sobbing – and she looked at me with the most kind, loving, mildly (stoic German) tear-filled eyes and her smile with the trademark “Jane gap” between her two front teeth, and said, “Thank you hon, that was really nice.”

So whatever Mother’s Day is to you – fun, terrible, stressful, blessed, good, bad, whether you have a Mom or had a Mom, or have a Mom you’re not particularly fond of, are missing your Mom, are a Mom or aren’t a Mom and wishing you were, or glad you’re not – I’m with you and thinking of you.  And I wanted to share my last meaningful words I spoke to my amazing Mom.  I’m so grateful I got the chance.

Dear Mom –

I want to thank you for what you have lived out through example and taught both me and our whole family, about LOVE – what it is, what it isn’t, and all the different ways to show and express it.  You’ve taught me that there isn’t a right or wrong way to love, and that loving imperfectly can be even more beautiful at times.  You’ve shown your love a zillion times to a zillion people – through your words, your touch, actions, laughter, discipline, forgiveness, facial expressions and even silence.  So, today, I wanted to share and thank you for many of the ways I have felt and experienced your beautiful love.

I AM SO GRATEFUL FOR…

  • All of the experiences you gave us as kids – camping, the cabin, playing outdoors from sunrise to dark every day we could, working hard for things we wanted and helping to pay for them, teaching us problem solving skills.
  • Your encouragement and telling me I could always do anything I put my mind to.
  • The times you were hard on me (forcing me to take swimming lessons and overcome my fear of water). Clearly I hated it at the time, but am so grateful now – not just that I can swim and am not afraid of water, but that you taught me that facing my fears and literally jumping into the 10-foot end of the pool is the only way to overcome them!
  • You teaching me about grieving. I can’t imagine what it was like to lose your husband (Dad), at the age of 47.  You taught me what it looks like to carry on with pain that never ends, and showed how it’s ok to be open to love and hurt again after the most unbearable losses in life.
  • Your passion and persistence in talking about problems and feelings in our family, when it was a very non-traditional thing to do. “We talk things out in this family,” was one of my favorite mottos of yours (maybe not so much at the time). I am certain that is one of the major contributors to my becoming a therapist.
  • Getting to pick out school clothes from the JC Penney & Ward’s catalogues growing up. That was one of my absolute favorite things to do every late summer…circle all of my favorite things and anticipate getting fun, pretty new outfits to wear for school.  I thought that was just what people got to do as kids, but now I see what an absolute privilege that was.  You inspired my sense of fashion before I even knew what that was!

I AM SORRY FOR…

  • The times I’ve been unkind or hard on you. I know you always did your best and as a mother,  I see that even more clearly now.  I don’t think anyone can fully appreciate their parents and the sacrifices that they made until they have children of their own.
  • Times I’ve disappointed you. I know I have, I’m human.  And you have loved me through every single one of them.  Thank you.
  • Stealing the caramel from your box of chocolates and blaming it on my brother. I know we resolved this when I was 8 or 9 years old, but what a shit I was!  Thank you for loving me through that and teaching me about the importance of honesty and forgiveness.

I LOVE…

  • Your strength and humility – you face adversity not only with strength, but also with joy, gratitude (and humor!) in the journey.
  • Your positivity – rarely do you complain about ANYTHING, and you have an enviable positive perspective on life and all the shit sandwiches it can serve.
  • That you still call me “kiddo.”
  • The fact that you can still do the cartwheel splits!
  • When you get your laughter rolling and the “Jane laugh” kicks in!
  • Your delicious cooking and beautiful gift of hospitality.
  • That you never stopped me from pursuing anything! I remember coming to you in middle school and saying, “I want to take piano lessons, guitar lessons and dance lessons!” and you told me to go for it. I looked up all the different places in the yellow pages (dating myself big-time here!), called a few places and signed right on up.  I didn’t become a musician or a dancer, but you certainly weren’t going to stop me from trying despite you knowing my natural abilities did not lie in either of those areas.
  • How you celebrated my birthday every year! Making me feel so special. To this day, I am a very annoying “birthday person” and LOVE my birthday and making a big deal about it. I love that you started that tradition in me. And taught me that it’s great to celebrate yourself once in a while!
  • YOU, with all of my heart and soul. I think one of the main reasons I love so hard and so much is because of how fiercely you love me and others.

Mom, you are a living example and the best I know of someone who walks the talk – you do what you say you are going to do, you follow-through, you love unconditionally, you call someone out if you need to, you see the good in people and you are a positive force of love to everyone who gets the pleasure of being in your presence.

I am forever grateful for you, your love and all that you have taught (and continue to teach) me.

All My Love Forever –

JILL

 

7 Responses

  1. CHRISTINA PHILLIPS says:

    This. Is. Beautiful.
    Wow.

    I’m so touched.

    I value your vulnerability. Your rawness. Your heart. Your cussing.

    Friend- I feel like I know your mom now.

    Thank you for sharing her with me.

  2. Gary says:

    Very moving, real and a wonderful tribute. Truly inspirational. A caramel thief huh? Love that.

  3. Mary Jarussi says:

    Tears running down my face – so eloquent and on point.

    (Your bd card truly is “in the mail” – well, sitting on the table by the door on it’s way to the PO for the past few days because someone lost track of time and didn’t get it to the PO timely!)

    time time often gets away

  4. Ally Bowen says:

    I am in tears! This is so Beautiful! Thank you for your willingness to share! Your mom was a wonderful example of God’s love and so are you! I am grateful to have known her!! And I miss you!! Hope to see you soon and give you a squeeze!!! ??Ally

  5. Elliott says:

    This was so touching, so lovely. Thank you for sharing. And Happy Mother’s Day, my friend!

  6. Jane says:

    Jill, what a moving and loving tribute to your mom. Your mom sounds like she was a pretty cool lady…no wonder you ended up with that personality trait as well. I am sorry that this Mother’s Day was not ideal. It is difficult to not be with the ones you love most on this day, however, I am happy you were able to reframe it all by making “some seriously great lemonade out of those lemons.”

  7. Mary Leone says:

    Jill, this is a beautiful tribute. And I see all of these lessons from your mom — through our friendship. You were lucky to have such a great role model and now you are same to your kids…and many others. Thank you for sharing.
    And, you need to publish more!

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