By Contributing Mama Erin K. Butler
I am an emotional person. Ok, an over-emotional person.
Some say this is a sign of my strong empathy and sensitivity. Others think I need to get a grip.
Even before I was a sleep deprived, hormonal mess of a mother, I would tear up at those ridiculous Hallmark commercials and never make it through an episode of “Extreme Home Makeover” using less than a half of a box of tissues…but now, my weepy threshold is pretty much invisible.
As a mom, I know I am supposed to display a sense of confidence and calm around my daughter Katherine. But from her getting shots to hitting her head under the kitchen table for the one millionth time, her pain causes me instant tears which makes me wonder how well I am cut out for this job.
I am not sure how I got this way since my mom has always been able to exude such confidence even in the worst of times. And I worry I won’t be able to step up and be strong for my daughter when she really needs me.
But then this fall, my grandmother passed away. While it was not completely unexpected, it was still heartbreaking. My mom, even at her darkest hour, was strong for us. Of course there were tears and an incredible sadness within, but she had a way, even in her grief, of projecting such confidence that everything would be alright.
And I am learning; this is just what mothers do.
After the memorial services we went back to my grandma’s house. I was drained. I just wanted to curl up on the couch and cry.
My mom talked about how the services were exactly what my grandma would have wanted. She was our pillar of strength.
“It was a beautiful day for Gram and she is at peace now,” she said squeezing my hand and smiling.
And as always, I felt better.
As I walked around the house, with my daughter in my arms, I found myself blinking back tears. Everything in her house was a memory – the living room where we opened Christmas presents, the kitchen where she served us homemade spaghetti and meatballs, the dining room where we indulged in Thanksgiving dinner. They were incredible memories, which in time will make me smile but on this day just made me miss her more than I thought I could.
“Look at Great-Gram…She’s holding Mommy and Auntie when we were little girls. She loved us all so very much,” I say, showing my daughter pictures that bring back more memories and fresh tears and I wonder if I will ever get used to her not being here.
And then I see my mom across the room. She is without her mother for the first time in her life and still displays composure for the family and friends who have come to pay their respects and of course, for her daughters.
And I know, for my own daughter, now is the time to follow in her footsteps. There will be a time for me to grieve and fall apart in my own so-not-glamorous way…but not in this moment.
So while I am desperate to just sink into the chair where my Gram used to religiously watch Uconn basketball games, I channel my mother’s strength and pull myself together. I realize it’s important for Katherine to learn about her Great-Grandmother through laughter and joy, not tears of great sadness, and it’s important for me to be the one to teach her.
And though I hurt, I force back the water works, smile and tell her stories while I shower her with kisses until we are both giggling.
That’s just what mothers do.
July 2007 – One of my Gram’s proudest moments, holding her one-week old great-granddaughter Katherine for the first time, with her eight-month old great-granddaughter, Kyleigh, sitting next to her.