Over the past three weeks, we've been installing hard wood floors on the top floor of our house. Any of you that have done any home renovations knows that involves a lot of packing up and moving around. Last Monday when we were home for Martin Luther King day, the girls and I were charged with clearing out our guest room and closet. I keep most of our memories...scrapbooks, high school yearbooks, my wedding dress in a bridal chest, and several boxes of my mom's things, including pictures...in the guest room closet. Well, you can imagine how distracted we got.
At one point, Olivia and I were sitting on the floor surrounded by old pictures. As Livvie was looking at an old picture of my mom, she asked that question again: How did your mama die? I talk to the girls about my mom quite a bit; I want them to at least have my memories of her if they can't create their own. They've asked me many other times how my mom died, and each time I've just told them that she died of a broken heart. I knew they never fully bought that line, but I just didn't think they were ready...or I was ready...to learn the full truth of that statement. But that Monday afternoon, surrounded by old pictures, something told me it was the right time.
I hesitated for a moment before I finally said, "Livvie, my mama took her own life....she killed herself....do you know what that means?" She hesitated for a minute before she quietly answered, "Yes, ma'am." After another moment, she asked me "What did she do, Mama?" I told her that Mom swallowed several bottles of pills, and she just sat there quietly for a minute absorbing that. After a few more minutes of distractedly looking through pictures, she quietly said, "I'm really sorry, Mama. I know you really, really miss her."
Several minutes later, Sarah came back into the room and started looking through the pictures. And then as if on cue, Sarah asked again how my mama died. Livvie looked at me like "Well, you gonna tell her the truth this time?" And so I did, in the same words I told Livvie. And Sarah said, "You mean like Ivy on Smash?" "Yes, sweetie, like Ivy on Smash." (If you watch Smash, you know that last season's cliff hanger ended with Ivy sitting at her dressing table about to swallow a bottle of pills.) Sarah thought quietly for a minute and then just gave me a big, long hug.
I still don't know if they fully understand what suicide means; I didn't use that actual word with them. But now they know my mama took her own life. That I think they understand. In that moment, I realized that I didn't want to wait until they were teenagers to finally tell them the hard truth, and then have them be angry with me that I hadn't been completely honest with them for all that time.
Today is my mom's birthday; she would have been 68. I had pulled a couple of those old pictures to share with you on her birthday and I've unfortunately misplaced them already. So I chose this one of my girls, taken on the first day of 4th grade. I chose this one because they are starting to look so grown up, so much like they just might understand a hard truth like that. A couple days after I told them, Sarah was sitting at the breakfast table with me when she told me she had an idea. She said that I could write a letter to my mama and we could tape it to a balloon and send it up to Heaven for her. I thought that was a fabulous idea. I am so blessed by these girls, and I know Mom had her angel's hand in bringing them to me. Happy Birthday, Mom. I miss you every day.
I shared my mom's story here.