Her illness inspired me to search for something better.
Personal photo of the author, Lori Booty
I’m Finally Able To Celebrate My Mom
June 21st was my mother’s birthday. She passed away almost 13 years ago. This year, I finally felt like celebrating her. It’s not that I didn’t want to before, it was just too painful.
Every year, my older brother and my dad, would go to the cemetery and place flowers on her headstone. I never could do that. I just don’t think of her as being there. I think of her as being somewhere near me, in the bird that swoops down and lands on a tree limb in front of me, or the gentle breeze that blows off the ocean waves. She’s in the song on the radio, the flowers blooming in the spring, and the nudge to read a certain book, or listen to a particular podcast.
This year, I had the idea to make her favorite cake. One year, she asked me to make her a White Chocolate-Strawberry Cream Cake that she found in McCall’s Magazine in June of 1998. I made that cake many times for her birthday after that. She loved it! (I’ll share the recipe below. It was kind of a lot of work to make it from scratch, so I started cheating and using a boxed cake mix at some point. It’s still delicious!)
I told my daughter, Katie, that I was going to make that cake to celebrate her MeMe’s birthday. Katie had the idea to also buy yellow roses, another of Mom’s favorites. It felt really good to finally celebrate her! Normally, I would text my kids and my brothers, but otherwise, push the date out of my mind. I was too sad to think about it much.
Was It a Sign?
Later, that night, my husband told me he wanted to recognize my mom’s birthday, and that he knew I was feeling sad. I really wasn’t feeling too sad… melancholy, maybe? It was more appreciation for her, and I wanted to show my love.
He pointed out that I had never done anything like that before. He doesn’t remember me ever making that cake since we’ve been together (married for 15 years). I told him that I thought I was finally healed enough to celebrate her, instead of feeling deep grief. My husband said something I never dreamed he would say. He said he believed it was a nudge from my mother to do something positive on that day. She knew I wouldn’t want to go to the cemetery. She knew that it could be a bonding moment with my own daughter.
I hadn’t thought of it that way. I just thought I wanted to do something happy. I’ve been really working on listening to my intuition, and also signs from God and my loved ones that have moved to the other side. Like, the time I asked for a purple butterfly as a sign, thinking that would be unusual. Then my husband accidentally took a wrong turn after dropping my daughter off at a friends, and there was a giant purple butterfly statue in a neighbor’s yard!
Or, the time I asked for a cross as a sign for ‘yes’, or a patched up heart as a sign of ‘no’- to a question I had been worrying about. (Katie told me that wasn’t a great sign to ask for, because we have several crosses in our home. Maybe she’s right, haha.) Later that evening, I heard a rattling sound outside my office. I went to investigate, and it was an iron cross we have hanging on the wall. I’ve walked by it so many times, it had become invisible, until that moment. The air conditioner had come on and was rattling the wall. That cross had never made that rattling sound before, or since! (I did adjust it slightly.)
I thought my husband thought I was a little crazy, asking for signs, and thinking rare sightings were signs. I never expected him to be the one to point out that me having the urge to make that cake and buy roses could be a sign from my mother. Lol
13 Years Is a Long Time To Heal! (Or Is It?)
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’ll ever be completely healed from the grief of losing my mother. Loss leaves a hole in your heart that can never be healed completely. But, I was thinking, 13 years before I could celebrate her? I was judging myself a little.
Still, grief doesn’t have a timeline. Don’t let anyone tell you how long you should grieve. Everyone grieves in their own way, on their own time.
I hope to celebrate my mother every year from now on. Her birthday was always a time for family to come together, share a meal, and spend quality time. Maybe next year, I’ll have all the kids with me for the celebration of their grandmother’s life. After all, she lives on in all of us, and around all of us.