Leaving a Legacy

As I get older life seems to take on a whole different purpose every several years. Once my Mother-in-Law told me that you live life in 20 year increments or that life dramatically changes every twenty years. When she told me this I was in my early 20’s and didn’t quite know what to make of what she was saying. But as I am getting closer to my 50’s, I get it. I so get it.

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If you’ve followed this blog for awhile maybe you have noticed some changes over time, not only my little boys that have become men,  but in what inspires my home style and phases that have been rough for my family like moving a few times, raising teenagers and mostly… losing my Mom.

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I started blogging in 2012 to share home projects and decorating that I did for myself and others. But I couldn’t help but get personal as I developed a friend group here that are all so dear to me. I am grateful for the support and friendships that I’ve made, people I can only picture by a profile photo but I know and love them more than they could imagine.

Recently, one of those dear friends asked me a question and it got me thinking.

A brief little background on what I know of my sweet friend. She has 7 children. I believe she is near my age. She follows the religion I was raised in, Mormonism. Her children are mostly grown and she is funny and beautiful. I love her comments on my instagram stories and we laugh at the same humor. But a tragic thing happened in her life last year a few days before Mother’s Day.

One of her sons took his own life.

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(photo credit)

How does one go on?

I don’t know but my friend and I have messaged and spoke to one another over the last while about handling grief. I lost my Mom, which I know is very different than losing a child, but knowing another person who’s grieving when you are too makes for an instant bond. I never knew what grief felt like until my Mom passed away. When grandparents pass away, it is difficult and sad but it feels somewhat natural that they would, at some point, pass on. Little babies were still joining our family during those years so it felt like the circle of life was just happening right before our eyes. Through our faith we believed that these little babies got to meet their great grandparents as they crossed paths on the other side. That gave my family peace – in my perspective anyway.

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When someone goes to heaven too early, it’s different, I don’t believe there is truly a way to understand it other than to trust that our souls are on an earthly journey to learn and grow. I read once that prior to each life our souls want to do really hard things here on earth because we want to elevate our strength in the spirit world, advance in our soul’s growth. To be honest, that would have sounded like “jibberish” prior to the grief I have felt since loss.

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So for my friend, I know her path is harder than mine, I know she struggles more than I can understand but I believe there is a much bigger world than just this earthly life. She already knows that too but it doesn’t make moving on any easier.

Through losing my Mom I recognize now that when we leave, we are really not gone because our lives lived impact the world….forever.

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To my friend and anyone else who needs this, here is a small story of a legacy left by a wonderful woman, who’s shoes I can never fill but who has inspired me to think about the legacy that I, myself, will leave behind.

Here’s my friend’s comment that she left me in a private message through Instagram:

“Hey Holly, this is going to be a very strange request. Can you give me a rundown of what one day in the life of your mom would look like? I need to make some changes in my life and the first thing I thought of was your mom.”

I got tears in my eyes because I am so flattered that somehow I was able to let my readers know what a gem this woman was. Also, I know that my mom was wise woman with a genuine purpose for success here on earth.

My mind started swirling with all the things that I knew my beloved mom did. So many memories and good feelings came to me. I wanted to give my friend a more broad perspective than my own since I haven’t lived at home for 26 years. So I called on my family for help in explaining what a day in the life of that sweet mother of ours would look like.

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My group text message to them was like this:

‘Hey you guys! I have a friend who lost her son by suicide 11 months ago. She is having a super hard time. I met her through my blog and we communicate through social media but have never met in person. She’s LDS (Ladder Day Saints or Mormon). I am flattered that she would want to know this as she is trying to make some positive changes in her own life to help her cope.’

‘I am writing you all to help me by sharing a thing or two that you think mom did daily that kept her faithful, happy and positive.’

As I read the responses from my family I cried even more. I gave my sweet friend a quick instagram message of three things that my Mom did every single day but I couldn’t just stop there. So here I am, writing a little story about what we think a day in the life of our Mother would look like or at least habits that she had that helped her stay focused in her faith and loving her family.

There are six children, 3 sisters and 3 brothers. We remain close to this day.

From my Dad:

Your Mom would never go outside unless she was presentable to the public, even getting the newspaper or the mail.

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I remember during a difficult time in my life when my boys were little my Mom came out to Connecticut to help get me through my struggle. She got up every morning and put herself together as if we had a day planned for shopping or a lunch date. She saw that I would hang out in my pj’s until noon or so and encouraged me to be ready for whatever that day brings. It was important to her to be prepared for anything.

A brother wrote:

I think both Mom and Dad are good journal writers. It helps to chart a course of progress and provides a way to remember tender memories of the Lord when a person keeps a journal. Mom was a faithful gospel studier. She plowed through every Ensign (a church published magazine) and read The Book of Mormon. I think she made it a daily habit, and the Ensign was more applicable and understandable, so I think she looked forward to monthly issues. Attending the temple regularly is where Mom found her peace. – Mom wanted to gain strength to deal with life. She didn’t speak poorly of others, which made for one sided converstions (at times).

I miss her.”

Mom believed if she did those little things that don’t seem like much, that God would fulfill his promises as she understood them. It was her way of showing God that she was doing her part and she knew the little behaviors allowed her to get help from heaven.”

The other vital things like loving and serving others came naturally to Mom.”

A sister wrote:

I think the things that made Mom happy was making our house a home. She was always cleaning & rearranging furniture. There were six kids living in that house and you’d never know it. Mom was there to serve her family as well as others. She spent a lot of time in the kitchen preparing dinner or baking gooodies for us & sometimes even the neighors.-”

A brother wrote:

I remember Mom was always providing some kind of service for someone. If she wasn’t sewing something for someone, like Shauna said – she was taking goodies to someone. She was always bold enough to tell me when I was wrong but did it with love. She always showed kindness and compassion. I loved that she didn’t care if people liked or agreed with what she was doing or believed. She just did what was right wether it was popular or not. She always gave 100% …. sick or not. She said a mom’s job doesn’t stop just because you’re sick.

I had a friend who’d dad fell from a roof and died unexpectedly. She was 18. She struggled and I asked Mom how she handled her own dad’s death when she was 18. Mom said it’s important to feel the pain and let it run through you. To trust in God and believe that he [her dad] is always with you in memory. Live to make them live! Holly, you’re doing that!

A brother speaking for his wife:

“- Though she didn’t have the opportunity to get to know Mom like the rest of us she said she noticed that Mom always took a special interest in each of her kids. She was always involved in our lives wether that be through phone or living near by and always showed that she loved and supported us no matter what choices we made. She showed that she cared for our well being. She was affectionate. No one ever doubted Mom’s love for any of us. If she couldn’t physically give us a hug we knew she was there spiritually because we were either getting a phone call from her or receiving notes or treats in the mail. She was always thinking of her kids. Her temple attendance showed her faith in our Savior and [she] probably said many prayers for her kids. We know she was always thinking of us. Her love even carried down to her grandchildren. Family meant so much to her. She wanted to make sure we all stayed connected by holding family get togethers and dinners and made sure the cousins bonded. We always knew she cared about us and never lacked our mother’s love. She was the ultimate example of putting Faith and Family first.

A brother wrote:

Mom would wake up and – heaven forbid – if we saw her without getting ready…in my younger years she would drive me to school, later in life she would pack me lunch for work. She would do very little for herself. I never once walked in on her relaxing, reading a book or making herself a snack without already cooking for me. In fact, I don’t think I noticed her parenting anyone other than myelf…it was as if she was my own personal slave. She made everyone around her feel that way, as if she existed to take care of us as an individual. No wonder us kids are so narcissistic. Surprisingly enough we’ve survived without her.

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I laugh at the narcissistic comment because in a way maybe we all have a bit of it. BTW, that was from the youngest child. LOL.

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There is another sister that is super busy raising 5 boys, little and big. She knew my mom probably the best and her response would make a whole other story of it’s own.

I don’t know exactly what a day in the life of my Mom would look like but I know for sure she’d show up looking beautiful with a positive attitude, a caring heart, warm hugs, lots of energy and, most likely, a yummy treat in hand.

To my friend – you are loved. You are creating your own story and legacy. You are strong enough for this because your little man chose you to be his mother! You can do this, I promise!

Thank you to my family for lending support and cherished memories of our late Mother.

Dad, you are a rock star. A true example of strength and dedication.

If you are still reading this – thank you for being here.

My Mom

Mom, in heaven, thank you for your example for us all to remember and learn from. We miss you dearly.

With Love,

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Christine Vandormolen
April 7, 2020 5:26 pm

Oh boy Holly, this brought tears to my eyes. What a sweet post!!!

Nicole
Nicole
May 25, 2020 8:36 am

Such a beautiful post Holly! And that beautiful family picture.. Wow!! Take care!