Final Letter To My Mother

by Jennifer Barnes
Originally Published: 

This post is for you, my mama. You would always encourage me to write. I’d have the most vivid, complex dreams when I was little that I would tell you about over breakfast and you would say “you need to be writing these down, Jennifer.”

You gave me a journal when I danced in France at 16, another when I spent the summer abroad. I would start writing every time with this fascination that I would fill the pages with extraordinary tales. I had the stories I just could never commit to taking the time to write them down. I even started “a year in the life of a bride” journal I was going to give you on my wedding day of my thoughts and stories of the year I got married. After a few entries, I never picked it up again. Too frustrated with myself to ever even tell you about it. That’s why I love this blog. It doesn’t have to be some epic novel or filled journal pages. It’s just one thought, one day to focus on.

It’s been a month since you traveled home and left mine. I miss seeing you every day, but know that you are where you need to be now. I’ve watched you climb a mountain these last two years, and I’ve climbed right along with you; each of us knowing you would never reach the top. I have finally learned the lesson you have shown me my entire life. There was no false hope here. We knew forever was not an option, just some hope for more time and that’s all that mattered. You’ve been climbing the mountain before you were born, though.

Whenever you’ve been faced with the choice to rest or climb, you’ve always chosen to climb. You fought like a warrior throughout your entire life, struggled against adversity, sacrificed for those you love, found refuge in your many talents and artistry; until this retched disease won out. Turn around and see the view from where you are, you’ve climbed so high it must be a beautiful sight. Now rest my mama, there is no more choice. I hope you have peace knowing that.

Yesterday I cleaned the house, preparing for this trip. I could feel you in everything I did. Wanting the laundry done, the house pristine for Christian (my husband) who always has a hard time while we are gone, folding sheets for a houseguest who will arrive while I’m away. Wanting him to feel comfortable and not wonder where the towels were without me there to show him. It’s something I would have never thought of before. Maybe I was selfish or had too much going on. Maybe it took becoming a mother for me realize the value in that, or maybe it was losing my homing beacon, the one person who probably would have annoyed me pre sickness with reminding me of something I clearly wouldn’t have thought of. In any case, there you were.

I made banana bread for you, not knowing if you would be able to eat it, would recognize it, or me for that matter. I am so thankful we took the time to teach me your secrets before the tumor stole it from us. It has taken me almost two years to perfect it. I’m not saying it’s the best, but it tastes like home, like you. And for the rest of my life I will feel you every time I make it and will taste home with every bite. The love in how you layer the ingredients, it does make a difference! Veronica at a friends house, and Frankie with his buddy playing so well together and jumping in to help stir in the ingredients. Did I ever help make it? Was I too busy? Not interested? Do I not remember being there in the kitchen with you?

My memory is of the morning waking up to fresh banana bread and fighting over the end piece with my sister. You coming in and turning the loaf around and cutting the other end off. So simple yet beyond our thoughts. I can remember nothing of the process. After they’ve cooled, I wrap them first in plastic and then foil. Bringing the two ends over the loaf and folding down neatly just like you. I wonder why you do it that way. I can guess it keeps it fresher, but how did you know that? Is it something you learned in your grandfathers bakery? Trial and error? Or just for presentation sake?

I tried to prepare myself for the possibility of you being asleep for my visit, you sleep so much now, or not knowing who I am. Thankfully, you woke for moments. You saw me and I saw you. Your nails needed some tlc so I pampered you a little with a mani/pedi. Growing up you would never spend money on such a luxury for yourself. That never stopped you from having pretty toes. Week after week, I would watch you pamper yourself and make your hands and feet beautiful.

As the years went on, you found some value in spending money on such a luxury service and some of my favorite times with you were at a nail salon. At first only for special occasions, and then later as girls trips bonding with your daughters and granddaughters. I’m glad to have helped keep your toes and fingers beautiful these last two years. This one, probably being your last. I’m struggling with knowing this and still moving forward. When life is literally changing in this moment and I am helpless to stop it.

You tried to say I love you today, such a struggle now but our test over the past two years. Every morning I’d wait for you to say I love you first. If you could say it, I knew you were having a good day. Some days I needed to say it first and you’d repeat it and others even that was a struggle.

Today, I told you not to say it. “I know how you feel, I know you love me.” You looked relieved I let you off the hook. And sad. I’m sad too mama. Sad this disease has stolen so much, has been relentless and so cruel. Sad there is no more time. Scared to be motherless. I feel you, I do. And I will for as long as I am given. I will teach Frankie, Veronica, Sydney, and our baby boy how to make Mimi’s Bread and if I am lucky it will bring me close to them when I am far away, as it brings you instantly flooding in.

I hope there is a moment dad can read this to you where some may penetrate. I know you would cry if you could. We are both such emotional wrecks, cry babies, you and me. I’ve spent most of my life fighting for my dreams just like you. What I finally see, is that it’s most definitely not about reaching the top but how you climb the mountain. That my mama, is your legacy and the greatest lesson I have learned from you. You know you are loved. I only hope you also know how very special you are.

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