Mom, I May Be Leaving, But You'll Always Be In My Heart

Mom, I May Be Leaving, But You'll Always Be In My Heart

We may not always see eye-to-eye, but I love you with my entire heart.

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Dear Mom,

You are my best friend, my inspiration and always my confidant. I don't know where I would be now without your wise advice and your strength.

Simply, you are the strongest person I know. Life has not been fair the past couple of years at all, but you always handled every situation with grace and dignity. You never let fear control you and you never slipped away from your mom duties. Through everything, you've always challenged us to be better. You never expected perfection, but always wanted just a little more effort than we were giving.

Thank you for always being my cheerleader at softball games, my teacher when I needed help on a homework problem, my karaoke partner when nobody else wants to jam, my movie watching partner and basically my taxi driver for 15 years of my life.

Most importantly, thank you for teaching me how to be strong, how to love, how to laugh, how to be the bigger person, how to be compassionate, how to show empathy, how to be respectful and how to be the best I can be. Thank you for inspiring me encouraging me to follow my dreams and always offering advice and support.

Thank you for raising me well and teaching me to be kind to everyone. Without you, I don't know where I would be at all. Thank you for helping me hit all these accomplishments and for always putting your children first. You are my biggest role model. You never fail to help someone in need and you make your students lives better each and every day. I know that I am older and it may seem like I'm around less often, but you will always be one of the most important people in my life.

Now I'm sorry, I'm sorry for all the things I said that I shouldn't have said, for all those time we argued, for all those times where I broke your bank account, for annoying you when I get bored and I'm sorry for everything I've done in the past that hurt or upset you.

Now, the next few months will be super quick and super emotional. Your only baby girl is following her dreams all the way 1,700 miles away. I could not have had this opportunity without you. You are going to be one of the most missed people back home in PA. Getting used to not seeing you every day, and not being able to go out shopping randomly with you will most definitely be rough and hard. But, I could not be more excited about this whole new experience.

I would never want a new mom, or someone to ever replace you. You are seriously beyond the best mom ever. I love you bunches and so excited about our new adventures and a new chapter.

Love always, your girl, your sunshine, Olivia.

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Working With People Who Are Dying Teaches You So Much About How To Live

Spending time with hospice patients taught me about the art of dying.

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Death is a difficult subject.

It is addressed differently across cultures, lifestyles, and religions, and it can be difficult to find the right words to say when in the company of someone who is dying. I have spent a lot of time working with hospice patients, and I bore witness to the varying degrees of memory loss and cognitive decline that accompany aging and disease.

The patients I worked with had diverse stories and interests, and although we might have had some trouble understanding each other, we found ways to communicate that transcended any typical conversation.

I especially learned a lot from patients severely affected by dementia.

They spoke in riddles, but their emotions were clearly communicated through their facial expressions and general demeanor, which told a story all on their own.

We would connect through smiles and short phrases, yes or no questions, but more often than not, their minds were in another place. Some patients would repeat the details of the same event, over and over, with varying levels of detail each time.

Others would revert to a child-like state, wondering about their parents, about school, and about family and friends they hadn't seen in a long time.

I often wondered why their minds chose to wander to a certain event or time period and leave them stranded there before the end of their life. Was an emotionally salient event reinforcing itself in their memories?

Was their subconscious trying to reconnect with people from their past? All I could do was agree and follow their lead because the last thing I wanted to do was break their pleasant memory.

I felt honored to be able to spend time with them, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was intruding on their final moments, moments that might be better spent with family and loved ones. I didn't know them in their life, so I wondered how they benefited from my presence in their death.

However, after learning that several of the patients I visited didn't have anyone to come to see them, I began to cherish every moment spent, whether it was in laughter or in tears. Several of the patients never remembered me. Each week, I was a new person, and each week they had a different variation of the same story that they needed to tell me.

In a way, it might have made it easier to start fresh every week rather than to grow attached to a person they would soon leave.

Usually, the stories were light-hearted.

They were reliving a memory or experiencing life again as if it were the first time, but as the end draws nearer, a drastic shift in mood and demeanor is evident.

A patient who was once friendly and jolly can quickly become quiet, reflective, and despondent. I've seen patients break down and cry, not because of their current situation, but because they were mourning old ones. These times taught me a lot about how to be just what that person needs towards the end of their life.

I didn't need to understand why they were upset or what they wanted to say.

The somber tone and tired eyes let me know that what they had to say was important and worth hearing. What mattered most is that someone who cared was there to hear it.

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To My Beautiful Mother, Thank You For Everything

Here's the best "Thank You" I can put into words.

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Today was not my day.

We were in the middle of a CVS and I started crying because I saw this Mike Wazowksi stuffed animal, and it reminded me of how fast I'm growing up. It was really, really stupid. You gave me your sunglasses to cover my blotchy eyes and told me to pretend we were at the pharmacy because I had an eye infection. I was sniffling and wearing these ridiculously oversized sunglasses (because sometimes you dress like an honest-to-god celebrity), and all the pharmacists and the people in line looked at us like we were insane. You didn't care. We drove around for a bit in your brand new car and you told me that there are just days like this and that I was going to be okay.

Later tonight, I went out for some fresh air. You picked me up in your pajama pants. I could tell that you were really tired. From the kitchen now, I can see the edge of your socks on our Michigan blanket. You were watching your lawyer show and you fell asleep on the couch again. Thanks for picking me up.

Dad says that when we were still living in that two-flat on Carmen, you liked to play Van Morrison and dance around in circles with me. "Into The Mystic" was our favorite one. To this day, I still love when I hear Van sing, "We were born before the wind." and when I'm away at school and they play"Brown-Eyed Girl" at the bar, I always think of our old house.

It used to be just me, you, dad, and a black lab. I was your first kid, and you and dad were barely 30 when I was born. You are both tan and happy in our first family photos. I like to think that the two of you were pretty excited to have me. I remember when dad painted The Cow Jumped Over The Moon on the far wall of my bedroom. There would be this big, bright-yellow saucer moon, and a smiling spoon holding hands with a dish waiting for me when I came home. I know that you wanted me to be a happy kid from the very first day. You dressed me like a chubby little corn on the cob for my first Halloween.

You watched "Monsters Inc." with me on the couch almost every night, and I know you got tired of it. You walked me around the neighborhood with stroller shaped like a little red car and we were the coolest chicks on the block. I lost my favorite stuffed animal, this spotted little dog, and we searched together for hours. You even helped me make "MISSING" posters and post them around the neighborhood, in case I left him at the park or playing outside. You brushed out my curls every morning before school even when I screamed and cried and fought you. You drove me to violin practice on Tuesday nights and let me play my Taylor Swift CD's on the way there, as long as you could listen to your music on the way back. One year you even took me to see her in concert at the Allstate Arena. You bought me a Taylor Swift poster, and we watched her music videos together on the home computer. You worked hard so I could have a good childhood.

You opened your own law practice and saved up money so I could go to this fancy, private school in the West Loop. The people there were different than me. They dressed differently and talked in a different way than I'd grown up with. To be crass, the majority of them had lots of money- and they acted like it. So, what did you do? You busted your ass off, and in addition to paying what was essentially college tuition, you took me shopping at Vineyard Vines so I could fit in with the kids at school. That was almost too nice of you. Like, maybe you should have just told me to shut up, wear the clothes I had already, and deal with it. You're too giving for that.

During the winter when the days were hard and everything just felt crappy, I took the Taylor Street bus to your office after school. You always gave me money to go get Chipotle across the street. You cleared out the conference room so I could either nap or do homework. We drove home together from downtown and the traffic was always unbearable, but we talked about what was going on in our lives as we inched down the highway. On the days like those, I felt like you were my best and truest friend in the world.

You taught me to be down-to-earth, and that a glass of wine a day is good for the health.

You didn't bat an eye when I told you I wanted to major in journalism. You stayed up late with me one night when I was a little bit... "sick", and ran a marathon the next day. I watched you run a political campaign and win fair-and-square. You refused to play into the games of politics, and I watched you become a Cook County Judge because of how fair and genuine you are. You taught me that dark hair and red lipstick will never go out of style. You taught me that a clean house is essential for peace of mind. You told me to never go to bed mad at someone I love.

So mother, as I reflect on the day we went through together today, I want you to know that the way you care for me will never go unnoticed. You are a kickass, professional woman, but also a pretty fun lady to be around. Thanks for your wisdom.

Thanks for everything.

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