By: Danielle Ilacqua (Guest Blogger)
Last year at 1:17 a.m., instead of surfing social media, I sat in a hospital watching my only parent prepare to go to heaven. It’s been a year since my mom’s passing. The waves of grief this past year were amazingly difficult because you have to “relearn” to live – live without the physical presence of the person, that is. You survive the holidays for the first time, her birthday, your birthday, and even first special moments when you actually allow yourself to enjoy life. Then you are reminded that you can’t call her and share your victories.
I never thought it was possible to feel so much pain. The gambit of emotions this past year has been tremendous. Almost like a roller coaster that I could not get off. The pain ranged from a spectrum of not feeling anything and being completely numb, empty and void, to feeling like I couldn’t breathe and my heart was going to explode – like when you sprint for the bus 20 feet away as fast as you can and then can’t catch your breath. Or like when you swallow water down the wrong pipe and then for a second lose air and have a pain that runs down your throat and into your chest. Almost like a heart-attack.
I know deep in my heart there is no one that loves you more than God, and for me at least, my mom was next in line. I knew love. And I knew she loved me. Sounds ridiculous, but we live in a society where people don’t always know they are loved or even grow up in a loving home. I’m thankful for her love. She was my mother, my father, my sister, my brother, and in the end, I can say, without equivocation, she was my friend.
Mom was the epitome of strength and survived in a time period where divorce was frowned upon and being a single parent was doubly frowned upon. But she was faithful, strong, and had resilience like I’ve never seen. She was not like generation cupcake, where everyone needs a safe space and can’t handle much. That wasn’t my mom’s generation, and I’ve never met a stronger person in my life.
The first couple months after her passing I was heaven obsessed – because that makes sense – right? I wanted to know where she was and what it was like and all the things that, quite frankly, even with extensive studying of the Bible, do not give us complete answers until it’s our turn. But focusing on where my mom was helped calmed me. In fact, it gave me some peace.
Philippians 4:7 says, “The peace of the Lord surpasses all understanding.” I prayed and prayed, begging God for a dream. I wanted to see my mom in heaven. I wanted to dream about her. But nothing. I prayed God would fill the void I had in my heart and in my life. To fill me with joy that surpassed all understanding because I felt very despondent.
So now as a year comes to pass – what do I have?
I have a tremendous amount of fear that I will forget her. That I will forget her voice, her smile, her hands, the taste of her cooking, the sound of her laugh, and the smell of her perfume … things that photos don’t truly capture. I have cards that my mom sent me that I rifle through, as not to forget her handwriting. It’s all insane. But after 365 days of this, I realized today that the most important thing for me to remember and know for certain is that I have her heart.
I see her every day when I look in the mirror. I feel her every time I’m kind to someone else. I hear her when I speak encouragement into someone’s life. Because that’s who my mom was. She was strong, faithful, loyal, and trustworthy. She was brave. She was an encourager. She was a fighter. She was a hard worker, a devoted mom, a loving aunt and great aunt, an empathetic friend, amazing cook, strong woman, loved animals and children, could fix anything and sew everything, she cried at commercials and laughed at knock-knock jokes – and she had a servant’s heart.
So when the ugly thought of fear starts to creep into my mind, I cling tight to this verse, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40). That was my mom.
Every ounce of her being was to help someone else. Whether you wanted her help or not, you got it. Because she was reliable. She was dependable. She loved hard and showed it. I can only wish to become half the woman my mother was and be as strong, brave, and intelligent as she. So when I think I’m forgetting her, I look to Jesus. And I’m reminded of her heart and love, which was the greatest thing she could leave me.
God bless mom! I hope year 2 in heaven is even more amazing than the first! See you soon!