Messages from Mom

Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake

To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.

Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Excerpts from Be Still My Soul

The day my Mom’s church choir sang this beautiful song she had requested for her funeral, I was barely listening. I was numb; trying to keep my composure as I was scheduled to speak after my brother’s eulogy. The words she loved so much were simply lost on me then.

But thanks to a conversation at our last family gathering, and a strong prompting from Mom, I was able to re-discover them and more importantly, share their promise and comfort with someone who really needed it.

As the conduit for her message, I would even receive confirmation. But only during a phone call, did I understand it all.

My brother Darren and I talk about music, and often share song lyrics and links to music videos we love. Especially since Mom’s death, it is the way we communicate where we are emotionally. Anger, regret, melancholy…it is all there in the music.

When he told me about a particular performance of Be Still My Soul by the BYU Men’s choir during a priesthood session several years ago, I saw everything in his eyes. He talked about the profound effect the music had on those fortunate enough to be in the hall that evening. But even though he had made several inquiries and searched the internet after that, he had never been able to find the recording or video.

On Monday morning, nine days after he told me about it, I came to work with this strong feeling that I must search for what had eluded my brother. I was surprised when within just a few minutes, I found this website:

Not only did it include the original recording (the words had been changed to paraphrase  Mormon scripture…2 Nephi: 4 and the name of the song changed to I Love the Lord) but the enthusiastic, grateful responses from people who had also been searching included the performance video from YouTube!  I promptly sent it to Darren. He wrote back to me in just a few minutes and was delighted, moved, and grateful.

Early yesterday morning, I rounded the corner in my subdivision to see a lone mourning dove standing in the road. Almost white in my headlights, it did not move. I slowed down and had almost come to a stop when it took flight toward me; wings fluttering up over the roof of my car.

Driving home last night, I phoned my brother in response to his text… “Had I listened to the song yet?” I knew he wanted to talk about it. With Mom’s quiet reserve, he told me how much he was hurting. He confessed he had spent much of the night before in tears, almost beside himself missing her.

Of her four children, Mom was closest to her only son. She and Darren spoke by phone daily. He came to depend greatly on her counsel and perspective. I have no doubt her unwavering devotion was a constant, empowering force.

Even my own loss seems to pale in comparison when I consider how intertwined the two of them were with each other’s daily lives.

We talked about the beautiful words to the original Be Still My Soul, and how “Mom” they are. He told me that he had been reading Mom’s old e-mails. During a particularly trying time a few years ago, she had sent him the lyrics to comfort and encourage him.

She was doing it again.

Reaching out to send messages of love she knew we would both understand.


Bonnie Rae’s Daughter

When I started this blog almost two years ago, I was driven mostly by grief. Something cataclysmic had happened to me and I needed an outlet for all the new, overwhelming feelings that accompanied my mother’s death. I wrote about things I often couldn’t say out loud. Over the months that followed, I kept writing and created a journal of life’s adventures and realizations.

And for months, I wrote nothing.

Today, on the two-year anniversary of my mother’s death, I want to write again. The memories of that day and the ones that followed are still painful. The burden of Mom’s prolonged struggle and the trauma of watching her take her last breath left me scarred and changed. Losing her altered the way the world feels. It left me with an identity crisis from which I have yet to recover.

I miss being Bonnie Rae’s daughter. I realize now how much I relished this role. The highs and lows of loving her and of being loved by her will never be matched. Being my mother’s oldest daughter with our history and drama is a bigger part of me than I ever acknowledged…so much of who I am. 

After 730 days without her, here are the things I am missing:

• Knowing she is in the world, doing her own thing 100 miles away

• Knowing she is waiting at the end of my excited, rock-and-roll blaring,
   very fast drives to Cache Valley

• Laughing with her and Dad at the kitchen table

• Talking with her for hours, sitting at each end of the comfy couch

• Her thankfulness and gratitude for every gift or kindness

• Her southern grace and reserve

• Her drop-everything-to-listen and be-with-you charm

• Her smell

• Her voice and the way she said my name

Now I am her.

I am the mother. And like her, I have three daughters…it is melancholy mothering déjà vu. Not surprising, I feel Mom’s spirit (and miss her most) when I am with my girls. They crave and seek my acceptance of their individuality. It insures that my relationship with each is unique and evolving…I love that. They energize me with their perspective and opinions. They make me think. They make me laugh. Being with them lifts me up.

I also secretly believe that some of their youthful beauty rubs off on me with every hug.

Like Mom did with me and my sisters, I sometimes can’t separate myself from my daughter’s struggles. I worry and hurt with and for them. And I am humbled by all the times my dramas sent Mom sprawling on her bed in tears.

Being a mother to daughters has helped me see Mom in a more compassionate, empathetic light. Parenting is hard. She never gave up trying to get it right, even though her childhood was filled with poverty, anger and desperation.

She used to tell me, “It is never too late to try again to do better.”

For all the remaining days that I am blessed to be a mother, I will cherish most what I learned from being Bonnie Rae’s daughter.

I miss you Mom….