The word Mama can be glorious or painful. A year ago it usually brought a smile to my face. And some days it still does. But a year ago my Mama was still here, a force of nature plowing through life as only Totsy could. She left a checkerboard legacy, but one that I think she would be proud of.
There was nothing left unsaid between us. She rarely allowed that. Her advice to “live your life in a way that you don’t have any regrets” was one of her suggestions for which I am most grateful. She taught me to be myself. And though I didn’t always live by the philosophy, I did buy into it completely.
She valued education highly. Her Mama, my grandmother, Mama Tot was the first person in her family to finish high school, as valedictorian. My Mama was the first person in her family to go to college. She got to see both of my children graduate from college in 2012. She was proud, but in true Totsy fashion expected it because her grandchildren were “extremely smart.”
This past Saturday my daughter, Mattie, graduated with her MSW, a Masters degree in Social Work. She made all As. I can hear my Mama say, “Well, of course she did. She’s smart.”
In the 6 months since she’s been gone I’ve realized that the firsts catch me by surprise. We made it through our first Thanksgiving and our first Christmas without her. Sunday will be our first Mother’s Day without her. It seems weird that she won’t be here for her 3 daughters to compete to see who calls first. (It was usually me because I am an early riser.) We’ll also be making our annual trip to Gatlinburg in May without her. #gatlinburg2019 will be different but it will also be a celebration of her humor and the quirky lens through which she viewed life. I still hear her pithy suggestions and see her funny faces. I’m wearing some of her rings and have used her purse since she died. I’m just not ready to change it yet. I’m not sure if I ever will be.
I want to share one thing I’ve learned. Grieving is as individual as each person doing the grieving. If you need to grieve the loss of a parent, child, sibling, marriage, or any other loss, then you do it in your way, in your time. Don’t add to your grief by trying to control it or make it conform to someone’s idea of what grief looks like. As Totsy often said, “Why would you want to be like anyone else? You do YOUR best, and that is enough.”
Thanks, Mama.


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