Spring Cleaning

This is Sue.  She is a unique mix of creative and organized.  She takes some of the most complicated direction I've ever seen and then she graphically designs it to be beautiful and intentional. (I'm eternally jealous of her graphic design skills.)  Sue also grows. Some people get stale and resist change. Sue isn't one of those people- she leans into big challenges.  She rally's and bolsters her soul and moves forward, even when things are hard.  I like that about her.  I wanted to know Sue's thoughts on an event that happened to her last year: her mom passed away. (I've been asking friends to write thoughts. You can read my intentions here). Read on to learn more about Sue's thoughts.

This summer I lost my mom to breast cancer. From the time we brought her to the ER for extreme pain in her hips to the day she passed away was a little over 3 weeks. We had no idea that she had stage-four cancer. It took the doctors 10 days to diagnosis her. They couldn’t determine where the cancer started because it had spread throughout her whole body. One day in the hospital as I sat next to her holding her hand she said to me, “What would I have done without you?” to which I replied, trying not to cry, “What will I do without you?” It has been the hardest season of my life to walk through…and I am still walking through it.  

My mom and I had a unique and special relationship. We literally lived together our whole lives (I’m 43, married and have 2 kids). When I got married over 11 years ago, my amazing husband knew that my mom was part of the package. It sounds weird, I know! But in many cultures outside of the United States it is normal to have your parents live with you. We have been blessed to have my mom be a part of our daily lives all of these years.

While our kids were off of school for Spring Break, we signed them up for a nature camp with their cousins so that my husband and I could go through my mom’s room and clean it out. We had left her room the way it was the day we took her to the ER in July. I’m not sure if 7 months is too long to wait to do that, but I’m learning that mourning the loss of a loved one is very personal and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. I felt that it was the right time to tackle this sort of “Spring Cleaning.” It was a very draining week, but also a healing week. Not only did we completely clear out, clean and empty her room but I was also able to cleanse and refresh my soul.

This “Spring Cleaning” reminded me who my mom was, what was important to her and helped me answer my question of what I will do without her.

My mom saved EVERYTHING! I found every ticket stub from her grandchildren’s dance shows, piano recitals, school performances, as well as every drawing, card or craft they ever made her. She lived for and loved her grandchildren so much. She loved watching them excel in their talents and she supported and encouraged them to pursue their God-given gifts. I remember she did this with me as well growing up. She saw my interest in, and eye for, photography as a high school student and she bought me my first zoom lens. She loved to accompany me on many nature photo shoots. She didn’t understand what a graphic designer was as my chosen career, but she saved my first business card (that I actually found as a bookmark in one of her books). She was always so proud of all of us and was our number one cheerleader. I want to emulate her as I raise my kids, supporting and encouraging them to pursue and develop their God-given talents.

My mom loved to read. It was her passion and profession. She was our elementary school librarian. She would bring home old books that were being discarded and would rescue books from garage sales. She loved to read to my sister and me when we were little, and then to her grandchildren, fueling our love for books and reading. When she couldn’t get around easily the past few years, she would send me to the library with a list of favorite authors and I would delight in the look on her face as I lugged a huge bag of books into the house for her. Needless to say, she had a ton of books to go through. I found special treasures in a lot of these books (pressed leaves, family photos, little notes or cards, homemade bookmarks, etc.). I hope I can keep this love of reading and books going in our house.

Traditions and family were very important to my mom. She was 100% German and loved teaching us all of her favorite traditions, like celebrating St. Nicholas Day on Dec. 6th by putting our boots out to be filled with little treats. Or lighting Christmas German incense smokers, or counting down the days of Advent with her hand sewn felt Advent calendars. Food was an important part of her traditions. During our cleaning I found all of her recipe books. I am lucky to have watched and learned from her how to make a lot of her favorite German meals, and I am excited to teach them to my kids. On her birthday this past January, I decided to start a new tradition in her honor. I didn’t want her birthday to be filled with sadness (although, of course we miss her greatly). I wanted to celebrate who she is and was to us. So I made her favorite German meal (brats, red cabbage and dumplings) and picked up a small cake that said “Happy Birthday Oma.” Oma is the German word for Grandma and what we called her. At dinner we went around the table talking about the things we each loved doing with her, from building Legos together to painting nails, or playing board games and going to special tea outings. Making memories and keeping up traditions with family is something that I will gladly continue.

Spring-cleaning my mom’s room helped me resolve the unanswered question from the hospital 7 months ago. I am not truly without her. Living with her my whole life—she is just a part of me. We shared and experienced so much together. Her legacy continues through me, and what I am passing down to my kids. And as this Easter season approaches I am so thankful that I have hope and peace knowing that my mom is celebrating in heaven the power of resurrection with Jesus and that one day I will be living with her again…for eternity!


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