I drove away from my parents home with a frozen heart, my mother’s words still ringing in my mind. You are no longer my daughter and you are not welcome, here, any longer. I was shocked, numb. Yet, like flint, my mind was set to leave my husband for another man, who I believed I could not live without. My husband was a good man. He was a hard worker, affectionate, and loved our children. His flaw was that he drank. He was never cross or abusive, just affected. My father always drank, too, and…so did my new lover.
My mother and I, previously, had a close relationship. We confided in each other, even when it wasn’t appropriate. I loved talking to her at the kitchen table, while we drank coffee, and my mom smoked a cigarette. I came home from college, on weekends, just to be with her. My father, being in the Air Force and a drinker, was often absent. Weekends were lonely for my mother and, since I had few friends, I was only too happy to keep her company. My mother wept on my wedding day, saying how much she would miss me. I was only moving to the next town but, to my mother, it may as well have been China. After I had children, I appreciated my mother so much more. I understood the sacrifices she had made for me because of the deep love I had for my own children. I would call my mom, often, just to talk. I valued her advice and listened to her suggestions. I loved the closeness we had and the comfort she gave me.
Looking back, I can hardly believe I made such a horrible mistake. It cost me my marriage, my home, my relationship to my parents, and ruined my children’s happy home. It also caused my boyfriend problems in future relationships. Months later, my mother called me on the phone, several times. She was terminally ill and was desperately trying to “save me” before she left this earth. Putting up my defenses, like a brick wall, I would say, “If you are calling me to leave____, I will not talk to you.” I was determined make this new relationship work, even though it was the perfect example of co-dependency, similar to my mother’s emotional dependency on me.
A week or so before my mother passed, she called and begged me not to hang up but to please come visit her. She promised she wouldn’t try to talk me into anything, but that she needed to see me. I came. Mom was weak, thin, and was having difficulty breathing. She had terrible difficulty walking down our small hall to the bathroom. I offered to help, but she refused. When mom was settled back in, I sat on the edge of the bed while she spoke from her heart. I don’t remember her exact words, but she apologized for trying to force me to stay with my husband. However, when I told her I had considered going back to him, Mom, immediately, pleaded for me to do so. Cutting her off, I said, “I don’t think I can.” We both sat there…. silent.
We said our “goodbyes”, me not knowing this would be the last time I would talk to my mother. I tried visiting her, at the hospital, but her roommate insisted that I turn around and leave. I believe Mom did not want me to see her suffer. In later years, my father also told me to go home, when he was critically ill. Wish I hadn’t listened.
I was teaching, when the hospital called to tell me my mother was dying. I remember not wanting to go, telling the nurse the school would need to find a sub for me. Hearing this, the secretary said, angrily, “Go see your mother!” So I left. When I arrived, my father was standing, on the right side of mom’s bed. My cousin, Jane, sat, holding mom’s hand, on the left. My aunt was at the foot of the bed. “How long have you and Ann been married, Jim?” she asked. “Almost 40 years. It doesn’t seem like that long, now,” Dad replied, his eyes filling with tears. We talked softly about mom’s labored breathing. The nurses had been giving her Lasix, a medicine used to drain excess fluid around the heart, but it had stopped being effective. When I mentioned that maybe they could give her more, we asked the nurse about it, who did what we asked. It was a relief to see my mom’s breathing slow down, but the priest, that had now joined us, told us mom was in the final stages. My dad, my aunt, and I all tried to hold Mom’s hand but she just dropped them. She did hold Jane’s hand, which reinforced the idea that my mother truly had abandoned me. In my absence, Jane had been present for my mother, so it made sense that mom would be comforted by her. Still, it hurt.
As my mother breathed her last, my aunt cried and my father choked back tears. I felt numb. I left the room and, walking down the hall, I said, ” It is hard to see my dad cry.” Jane replied, “You are the one who needs to cry. Don’t be afraid to cry!” That weekend, I went through the motions of caring for my three young children. I remember laying on one of the beds in my daughters’ bedroom, while they played, staring at the wall and crying silent tears.
As time passed, I forgave my mom for the emotional injuries she inflicted on me (like giving the china I had picked out, as a child, to a young woman she loved) and for abandoning me. I forgave her for pushing me to marry (she probably knew her life was shortened and wanted to see me walk down the aisle). And when I learned about my adoption after both parents had died, I understood why my mom, secretly, hoped I would become pregnant before marriage, so she could have another baby in her life.
In spite of the mistakes my mother made, it cannot compare to the injury I caused her or to my family. After attending a Celebrate Recovery group, I prayed to Jesus for forgiveness of how I had hurt her and how sorry I was for not being with her during her final months. I prayed for forgiveness for my infidelity and sought healing from them, which I have received. 1 John 9 tells us: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our unrighteousness. NIV. And as I asked forgiveness from my sins, I needed to forgive my mother for hurting me. Jesus says in Matthew 6:14-15: For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. I have not been able to do this, all at once, but little by little, over time.
There are times I reminisce Mom’s wonderful cooking, our shopping trips, our intimate phone calls, and her love for her grandchildren. I appreciate the sacrifices she made so I could take ballet lessons and so she could buy my cotillion and prom dresses. I remember the delicious salads she prepared for me on my lunch breaks from lifeguarding, in the summer. I remember how she loved hearing me sing and watching me dance.
There is no anger but there is sadness. I feel guilty when I see tributes to mothers on Mother’s Day. I feel sad that she suffered and died at 59 years of age. Although forgiven, I regret abandoning her, in her last year.
The one thing that sustained me was Jesus and his unfailing love for me. I am ashamed to say that I was a born again Christian when I had the affair. I truly believed in Jesus and thought I was committed to him, but I was not obedient. By his grace, he stayed with me, protected me, and gave me another chance. “It is the Lord who goes before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:8 ESV . However, there were consequences for my actions and repentance was needed before God could forgive me. I am so thankful for God’s love and mercy for me and truly want to live a life in honor of him. I often fail but he always forgives and lets me start, again. He can do the same for you. All you have to do is ask. “Repent, then, and turn to God , so that your sins will be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. ” Acts 3:19 NIV.