My Candle in the Wind: A Gift to My Mother

I’m reminded of my mother each time I see a candle flame dancing in the wind. Life always seems to blow her around but never out. As a small child she seemed invincible. Memories of my life at that time are marred as though I suffer a debilitating disease preventing me from full recollection. At age three I glance around the room and it penetrates my childish mind that my mother is absent. For how long I can’t equate but her absence is noticeable. Inquiring of my father I learned my mother had turned in for the night. The thought was inconceivable. My mother nearly always watched the nightly news and absolutely never went to bed before me. Something was surely amiss. Standing in her darkened bedroom at her bedside I questioned her. It never occurred to me to let her rest. Young as I was I knew something wasn’t right. I learned that the only thing to send to my mother to be before me was the death of her father.

Growing up with an abusive alcoholic father, my mother was heard screaming, “Get in the car” on more than one occasion. Like a lioness protecting her cubs, she took the brunt of his abuse to shield my sister and I. I quickly learned to sleep in clothes that I could leave the house in. I never knew when the lights went out if I would sleep the entire night in my bed or be awakened to flee to the nearest motel. Regardless, my mother always seemed to have a plan. I never doubted her and as long as she seemed in control I wasn’t afraid. Her control made it as easy as possible to make the transition from sleeping child to fugitive. It would be that same control that I would balk at in my teen years.

I can’t say when the great divide between us began but it continued and deepened far more than it should have. Navigating the vast churning waters of the teen years my mother became the obstacle I simultaneously wanted to avoid and collided head on with. I found myself longing for her attention and despising myself for the notion. I’d spent years watching her be a strong independent woman from coping with my father to leaving him. I felt I fell short of what her daughter should be if I exhibited weakness of any kind. Ironically, the trait I had once so admired now was a wedge between us.

As history has a habit of doing it repeated itself. Now, I was the victim of domestic violence and the single parent. My mother watched helplessly from the other side of our broken family. The person that could clearly relate was the one I least wanted to open up to. Over twenty years of a cycle of yelling, fighting and making up were embedded in my soul. I was unable to break out of the hole I continued to dig. The relationship I longed for with my mother eluded me.

As the years unfolded they weren’t necessarily kind. I embraced a new relationship with Jesus Christ that tore the wound of my strained mother-daughter bond wide open. I’d always wanted my mother’s approval but I was now able to accept that I’m unable to force emotions upon someone. And wise enough to know no one ever truly knows the sacred emotions of a mother’s heart. It took me becoming a mother to finally understand my own. In order to repair the relationship with my mother I had to first repair the hurt little girl inside me. The journey of self-examination is never pleasant but mandatory if change is truly the desired outcome. It was a trip I had to take alone. Only from the other side was I able to adequately view the person my mother is and respect her as not just my mother, but a person.

I changed as did the relationship with my mother. We’ve been closer the last five years than we’ve ever been. I’ve watched time rob her of the health I took for granted. The effects of a hard life and smoking ravished the soul of the woman I’d at last come to know. Sunday afternoons of family gatherings at my sister’s for a cook-out and highly competitive. Albeit good natured game of croquet, became fewer and farther in between and eventually vanished. Silly Christmas games had to give way to more traditional celebrations. The effort of preparing the meal for the family became extremely taxing for her. Being the head-strong woman she is, she refused offers of assistance from my sister and I so we’ve taken to doing things anyway. Mom still objects but not as sternly as she once did.

It’s only been a week since the grim pronouncement from the doctor. The inevitable clock of eternity is ticking loudly. It’s hard to fathom that the stoic figure that once seemed so strong to me is now being destroyed from the inside out. The many years I had to say I love you have fallen away. The tender moments of a comforting embrace are fleeting. I can hardly cope with my own emotions let alone venture into those that she may be harboring. I’ve been through all the clichÃ?©s and the reminiscences of lost opportunity. Through the tears, heartache and regret and I’ve come to one final conclusion. As much as I desire to do so, I can’t undo the past.

To say I can fix our future is not enough for me. I long to give back what she’s given to me and explain all the stupid mistakes I made with her in the past. I want to open my heart to her but to do so gives credence to what the doctor’s say and I’m not about to give up on her. Mom isn’t one for long discussions of past heartaches. None of our family is, though my sister and I seem to be crossing that bridge one hurdle at a time.

Through the corridors of my mind echoes one haunting question; what can I do? What can I do to communicate to the most important woman in my life the love, admiration, respect and deep regrets I harbor? The question lingers with no answer for days. Then suddenly the answer becomes so clear it’s blinding.

Strains of the traditional Christmas carol the Little Drummer Boy slam into my heart with force of a care crash. “I have no gift to bringâÂ?¦” And as the drummer boy at the manger did I offer the only gift at my disposal; my life. As parents always expect to die before their children, it’s probable that she won’t be upon this earth to witness my entire gift first hand. Yet, I know it is the greatest offer I have for her and she would want no more.

So, for you mom, I promise to live my best life. I will fall upon the positive forces you’ve shown me and learn to forgive myself for the not so positive. I will never doubt, your love for me and promise to pass on a loving legacy from you to your grandsons. I vow to never sit upon the sidelines but always be a major player in the game of life. I’ll not allow my dreams to slip elusively through my hands but instead will chase them with the relentlessness that I learned from you. And when life beats me down and I wonder at the pain of it all, I will remember how you, my candle in the wind, danced about but was never snuffed out.

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