243: 19 Years Without My Mom

Hello, my friends. As you may know if you’ve been a longtime listener of 3 in 30, I usually publish new episodes on Mondays, but I’m here with an unexpected Thursday episode this week because today is an important day for me, and I really wanted to acknowledge it and share some of my heart as I process through it. I hope to start sharing more personal insights and updates in periodic bonus episodes like this, so make sure you are actually subscribed to or following the podcast, because then you’ll get a notification when a new episode is published, so you don’t miss these unexpected ones. You can do that by hitting the Follow or Subscribe button in your podcast app–or it might be a plus-sign which shows you want to add it to your library. That’s the way to make sure you don’t ever miss any of these surprise bonus episodes.


Okay, so why am I airing this episode today? Well, today marks 19 years since my mom passed away from breast cancer.


I have dreaded this particular anniversary for a long time because I was 19 years old when my mom died, so starting tomorrow, every day that passes means that I’ve lived one day longer without her than I lived with her. That is the craziest, most unfair milestone, and as I get farther and farther away her in days and years, I long to draw closer to her in other ways. To remember her and to share her and to honor her.


As I considered what I could share today I thought of an essay, a personal narrative, that I wrote about her shortly after she passed away. I started my sophomore year of college about six weeks after my mom passed away, and that fall, I happened to see an announcement for a writing competition that was happening on my college campus. I went to a religious university, and to enter this competition, you had to write a personal narrative about how your belief in God had changed and strengthened through a difficult life experience.


I immediately knew I wanted to write for this competition. I was carrying around so much grief about my mom’s very recent passing, and I didn’t know how to process it. I have never been a crier–I feel the pain but it just doesn’t come out in tears–and something in my soul told me that if I couldn’t cry, I could write instead. That would be my outlet.


I remember spending hours in my room at the house I was renting with friends–my beddoor closed and locked–pouring out memories of my mom, first in brainstorm form as big lists of the little things I never wanted to forget, and eventually as formulated words and sentences that I pulled together into a personal narrative. The narrative describes the experience of writing the talk that I gave at my mother’s funeral, and it includes flashbacks of my memories, as well as the actual words of the speech that I ended up giving at her memorial service. I’ve decided that to acknowledge this 19-year anniversary of her passing, I am going to read that narrative on the podcast today, written by a grieving 19 year old who was doing the very best that she could to always remember.


I am so incredibly grateful that I took the time to write this essay during that raw and heart wrenching time in my life. I’m grateful for the writing contest that gave me the push to do it! I had a very full class load that semester, in addition to a part-time job, and it would have been easy for me decide I was too busy to do this work of processing my grief. What a gift I gave myself by taking that time, and what a gift I gave my future self by capturing the memories when they were so fresh.


Revisiting this essay in order to record it for all of you has brought me a lot of peace as I face this big milestone–it’s helped me to recognize how much of my mom is still very much with me, in everything I do for my own children and honestly for this community of mothers. My mom is at the heart of the work I do with 3 in 30, and so I am grateful and honored to have the opportunity to share her with you today. Thank you for giving me a place to do that.


So I am going to go ahead and read the essay, which I originally titled “Bliss Complete.” It does have a lot of flashbacks, which are easier to follow when you read it because I notated those in italics, but I tried to make it as easy to follow as I could here in an audio format.  After the essay, I am also going to play a recording of my sisters and me singing a hymn called Love at Home, which we actually sang at my mom’s funeral, so I wanted to recreate that here. Thank you again, so much for listening, and I hope you know how much I care about you in your own challenges. I really truly care. I’m thinking of you today as I think of my mom today. So…here’s my essay, called “Bliss Complete.”