On the anniversary of my mother’s death, Ann* came over to teach me how to cook. We sat at my kitchen table as lunch baked in the oven. Ann told me stories from her life—how she met her husband, their wedding, how she biked the MS 150—stories from when she was my age. I shared my mom with Ann. I showed her pictures and the letters Mom left for me. I wanted Ann to know who my mother was.
In the summer, we went biking on the trails. Ann, who frequently tells me the importance of exercise and eating healthy, is in excellent shape at 60. At nearly half her age, I was the one huffing and puffing to try and keep up with her! We paused at a crossroads with a choice of whether to take the long or the short route. Ann said with a mischievous grin, “You decide. You are the lightweight here.” Not wanting to be outdone by a 60-year-old, I chose the long route.
“The trees have really grown,” Ann remarked. “There is a lot more shade on the trail than there was back in the day 20 or so years ago.” She was quiet for a moment. “You know, my ‘back in the day’ is now your today.”
Her statement struck me as profound. I contemplated the weight of it as we pedaled down the trail. I’m in the same stage of life as she was in her stories, but I don’t really have much to show for it. In the years since Mom died, I haven’t really been living—just existing. I’m just barely keeping my head above water, trying not to drown. Is this really how I want to live my life?
After that bike ride, I challenged myself more. I completed a 1-month, 100-mile bike challenge. Ann was there biking the last 20 miles with me, pushing me to the finish. She was so proud of me. She excitedly told people of my accomplishment, and that meant a lot to me. As my self-confidence grew, I decided to learn new things such as golf and made strides to further my career. Ann saw the potential in my life and gently pushed me towards it.
Ann has always been my support and encouragement. She listened calmly when I called her in a panic as my fire alarms went off and as dinner smoked in the oven. Also, when I got a promotion at work, Ann came with a small bottle of champagne to celebrate my success.
I have often wondered what it would have been like to know my mother as an adult. To have that adult mother-daughter bond of friendship. To do things together and have fun. To talk and share how we experience life, and always have her nurturing support. The early loss of her at 16 robbed me of that.
One day while biking the trails, I look over at Ann biking next to me and I realize, this is what it would have been like. The love and nurturing she has given me has helped fill the deep void left by Mom’s passing. Through this beautiful friendship with Ann, God has restored the parts of me that broke when Mom died. For many years, I felt like I was drowning in life, constantly struggling and lost with no direction. Ann reached out to me and set me on the right path. Our friendship has healed me in ways that nothing else could. For the first time since my mother’s death, I feel at peace with it.
Briefly I wondered if Mom would feel replaced. No, Mom is happy. Mom smiles when Ann teaches me a new recipe, when we talk about life while on the bike trail, when we work out at the gym together, and when we have our weekly chats on the telephone. Before Mom passed, she told those around her to be available to me. Mom is happy that someone is with me to advise, encourage, teach, comfort, and nurture me. She smiles when I laugh and have fun, since she can’t physically be here. My mother had the wisdom to know that I would need these things to grow and develop into the woman I was meant to be, so she sent me Ann.
While the Covid-19 pandemic has prevented Ann and me from cooking and biking together, it hasn’t stopped us from connecting. We frequently talk and video chat, lifting each other up during these dark times. These dark days are difficult, but in this friendship, I have found joy, comfort, and healing.