Thoughts on Sunday 

I awoke late at night to a crescendo of crickets and a surge of fever. Mussed bedding trapped my limbs. Pain entangled my dreams. I heard a whimper and wondered who was crying. A shadowed presence appeared at my bedside, palmed hair from my forehead, freed my legs from sodden sheets, soothed until I slept.

My mother’s touch that fevered night formed my earliest memory. Later, when I was thirteen, Mom shaped the direction of my life.

We were the featured speakers during a Dear to My Heart night for mothers and daughters of our church. I don’t remember what I said in my tribute to Mom, but I do remember fussing endlessly with my bangs, gluing them in place with Brylcreem and hair spray, more concerned with my appearance than my words.

But I have a hand-written copy of Mom’s speech. She began with startling news: “Janet, from the moment I first held your warm, perfect body in my arms and gloated over your dark, curly ducktails — I actually had a baby with hair! — you’ve been a source of joy and delight to the entire family.”

The entire family? Even Bob?? Did they vote?

Later, another surprise: “I enjoy leaving your younger sister and brothers in your care. Even if the dishes are sketchily done and the furniture pushed awry, I know the little ones will be well cared for and also have fun with the games and stories you create for them. You’d be a good teacher, Janet.”

With those words, she directed me toward my future.

Mom made my heart soar that night; then, driving home, she returned me to reality. “Janet, we have to do something about those shaggy bangs stuck to your nose. When we get home, I’m cutting them. You look like a greasy Shetland pony.” Amused at the accuracy of her description, she giggled, and, despite myself, I chuckled with her.

When Mom was seventy-seven, I spent a week with her in Wyoming. Most of the time we talked. But other times I sat with a book in my lap and watched her sleep in a recliner; her hands unusually idle in the middle of the day. Soft window light bathed her lined face, and her breath seemed slow and faint.

Not wanting to bother her children, she admitted to heart problems, but told us her medicine and pacemaker helped. As I sat near her, watching her drift in and out of sleep, I refused to recognize the truth.

She died seven months later. With time, I recovered from the emotional turmoil of her death, funeral and burial — a poignant week I walked through with my father and siblings, united by our grief and love.

Then began the long-term ache of her absence.

Over a year later, in Carson City, Nevada, I absentmindedly drove a street of golden leaves let fall by tired trees. My neck tight with stress, I worried personal choices, professional puzzles, a life littered with busyness. Then I saw a woman who reminded me of myself: face beginning to age, flowing skirt and heels working-woman high. Her head inclined, she walked slowly toward a nursing home, tenderly holding the frail arm of a stooped, white-haired woman. Their smiles were identical.

As I watched, they paused and commented above a bed of purple asters. Without warning, my heart collapsed like a butterfly caught in a net, and I mourned: I never walked my mother through her decline; I lived far away, thought I’d have time; others were there. And she died so quickly.

I grieved that I hadn’t taken the time for more memory-making moments with her.

Sunday, I experienced the same regret.

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82 thoughts on “Thoughts on Sunday 

  1. Oh, Janet. We never know when that grief will rise up. You did it for me this morning. My mother too went quickly and without warning. We’d watched my dad decline for a couple of years and we’d both held his hands as he passed. I told Mom I’d do the same for her, when the time came, but to–please–give me a few years. She didn’t wait for me to be ready. Thanks once again for your human and heartfelt writing.

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  2. Oh Janet, what a flood of memories of you brought back of your Mom in that final week of her life. I felt so helpless not being able to stop that wild final ride. I loved her so dearly (I am crying as I write this) and I was not ready to let her go. I grieve of my husband’s last gift to his mother and his stubborn refusal to leave her side the night she died as he did not want her to die alone. He knew she was going. I don’t know how he knew, but he did.

    That being said, I don’t think you should regret the times you did not have with her, but celebrate the times that you shared together. I hope you carry those memories in your heart as well.

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    • I know you loved her with all your heart, Janice, and so did she. Every time I think of Mom’s death, I feel a rush of gratitude to JL for being there. I think his presence comforted all of us who weren’t with her. And thank you for the commonsense advice I’m come to rely on from you. I’m looking forward to seeing you soon.

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  3. We never forget and will always miss our mothers. As a mother and a grandmother, I don’t want my children to think of me with sadness or regret. I have told all of them to remember the good times. I am sure your mom would want the same for all of you. I promised my mom I would. I do miss her and always will, but, I try to remember all the good times and her beautiful smile.

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    • Of course, you are right about remembering the good times; and I have many to remember and do so 90% of the time. But, usually around Mother’s Day, my regrets float to the surface. I know she would not want this to happen but still it does.

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      • It sounds like your missing your mom on those special days, and that’s normal. You could buy her favorite flower and set it out somewhere special. I am sure she would love that. It’s fine to miss our loved ones but don’t have regrets. No mom wants her child to go through that.♥♥♥

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      • I like your idea about a flower; with my mom it could be lilacs, daisies, buttercups, hollyhocks, or roses. I think I’ll use roses. the good thing I can say about my regrets is that they cause me to be more concerned, thoughtful, understanding and nurturing of my important relationships.

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  4. This is a lovely and poignant tribute to your mother, Janet. It sounds like she was proud of you and it sounds like you made her happy. It also sounds like she prepared you well for the life you’ve had.

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  5. Beautiful story which gave us a good impression of how your mother was. Ask yourself if she was reading this what would she say. I get the feeling she would say we have our good memories, think about those because they are what was important. 🌹

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  6. Janet, we never know what comes tomorrow. How beautifully you brought your mother back to life. When my mother passed away ( I still find it hard to say “died”) 34 years ago, I was left wondering just who she was. I did not know if she took cream in her coffee. How simplistic that after a lifetime I had not noticed. Who was this woman who became my mother? Do our daughters see us? An unsolvable mystery.

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    • It is hard to say “died,” in reference to our loved ones, isn’t it? Perhaps it’s because they are still so alive in our minds and hearts. How thoughtful your comment is, Kayti; it sent my mind spinning on mothers and daughters and what we do and do not know and what I, at least, never asked.

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  7. Aunt Janet, we all live with regret. I know I do! I have my own regrets when it comes to taking life for granted, and missing out on times spent with loved ones. The memories I have of my Grandmother have helped cement my life together. Even though they are few, they are precious. No matter the distance between mother and daughter, I feel that there will always be regrets when one is no longer available. But, as a daughter that is watching her own mother age, my only hope is that the memories I have with her will carry me through until I am in her presence again. Thank you, Janet, for reminding me just how precious life is and more importantly how precious family relationships are. ❤

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    • Ah, the day is good: I heard from Dawna. Your sweet, thoughtful spirit never disappoints me, Dawna; it’s always present in your words. I like the phrase “cement my life together,” and think Mom would like it as well. You’re right, there will always be regrets in any loving relationship. Mine with my mother are few but never forgotten. I hope all goes well with you and yours, Dawna. As I remember, you will not be able to make it to the reunion. I’ll miss you.

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  8. Dear Janet, I am a 72 year old mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. Your beautiful writing makes me wonder about all the relationships in my family, past and present. Yes, good family relationships are very important, and the older generations can do a lot to establish a feeling of belonging among the younger generations.
    Growing up I hardly ever felt that my mother and father were one item, and yet I depended on both of them. I feel, that all my children, have a need to be close to their father as well as to me. I feel blessed that after 60 years of marriage I am still together with my husband, and that my husband is cherished by my children as much as I am. It is strange, that none of the children want to talk about it that maybe soon it may be time for one or both of their parent’s passing – – –
    The passing of loved ones can play such an important part in our lives. We are overjoyed when a baby is born. We also may feel some joy about a long life well lived at the passing of an elderly loved one – – –

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    • Correction, I am 82 not 72.
      I don’t know, why instead of an “8” there appeared a “7”! Wishful thinking perhaps? Well, both my husband and I are well and truly 82 already. Sorry, about this mistake.
      “Aunty” Uta. 🙂
      (Yes, I am an aunty too! I do have one niece, who is my brother’s daughter, meaning I am also a sister.)

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    • Uta, so good to hear from you; and what wonderful words you wrote in this thoughtful comment. I sounds like you’ve lived a long life filled with loving relationships. Congratulations on sixty years of marriage to a man who must be as dear as you to have so many who love him as well.

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  9. Oh gosh…..you had me laughing and sad…all in one piece…..it’s the price we “pay” for our independence and living so far from “home”….your Mom and my Mom brought us up well. They gave us wings and taught us to fly, but forgot to cut the strings tugging on our hearts….You wrote a beautiful tribute to your Mom, J. Honest, funny, beautifully crafted. Thank you for sharing yourself with us and expertly taking us on this emotional journey of sorts… (((Hugs))) ❤ Lucie

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    • Thanks for the feedback, Lucie. We do pay for our independence, but, as you noted, that’s how our mothers raised us; but, oh, those strings do tug at our hearts. Writing this one was an emotional journey for sure.

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  10. I”m so sorry for your loss, Janet. No matter how long it has been, we do re-mourn periodically. The best thing to do is to move though it, which you have done with this post. Perhaps next Mother’s day will be easier. It takes courage to continue. I know your Mother would be proud of that.

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  11. Well now for a good cry…I to was far away for my Ma’s decline..but forgiveness is golden. As you know, I live over looking a tent camp- Sunday morning I got up early to watch “Planet Of the Apes”- below my window on the dock, a young man had overdosed, the second this month. I thought of a mother somewhere getting that phone call, thankful for my Ma’s wisdom keeping us off that road. Dug the Brylkreem, used it to, great post Janet.

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    • Ah, a fellow aficionado of Brylcreem. Wonderful stuff wasn’t it? I like your phrase, “Forgiveness is golden,” and I know it’s true. So sad about the young man and your thoughts about his mother. Our mothers did possess a wisdom that helped us in so many ways. I always look forward to your comments, Sheila.

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      • Too-Rah, Janet. My grandma, ever practical found the Brylcreem on the bus, she rarely visited,( terrified of bears) and gave it to my brother, at 8, I gooed down my hair playing Elvis- Ma sent me to school that way. I wish she had saved all the letters home. For your guffaw- we have a rodent at work, ate a whole basket of Grapefruit soap, possibly crawled off and died of foam..

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      • Thanks for detailing your experience with Brylcreem;it was even funnier than what I had imagined. And as for the probably deceased rodent, only you could think of “…possibly crawled off and died of foam..” Too funny.

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    • You are so right, and I do remember and celebrate the many good times I had with my mother up to the telephone conversation I had with her three days before she died.I think my regrets flow from not having more of them as I would have if I’d lived closer.

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  12. Hi Aunt Beulah,
    I popped in to read your latest stories and so glad I did. I needed to replace the contents of my brain with emotions rather than cob webs. I knew you would be just the ticket I needed. Right up until I read this story I had well and truly had my fix and felt like my loud chuckling, actually I was snaughing at times ( that is when you laugh so much you snort ) Aunt Beulah, well I thought now the cob webs were gone.
    I’m sure you would have snaughed before??

    Then I read Thoughts on Sunday
    I also lived miles away from my budiful Mum, for many years we had long distance phone calls, Christmas, Birthdays, Easter, milestones for both her and Dad and also Pete and I and our boys ( her Grandies ). All these important dates in our lives were lived out over the damn telephone. I remember thinking for many years that Mum would be there forever, this story certainly made me smile all the way, yet behind that smile were hidden tears. There must have been a few cob webs left in there to soak them up, me thinks Aunt Beulah.
    I was on the tarmac at the airport, my two only sisters who had been at Mum’s side around the clock, both decided to come collect me from the airport. On our journey back, she knew all her family were back together, she didn’t wait for me to see her leave, no rather she waited for me to arrive. Her family were united to celebrate the wonderful life she lived and cherished.
    Your budiful Mom watched your journey in life, soared with the highs, rode out the bumps with you Aunt Beulah and you done her proud..
    Regret is a wasted emotion, because it only comes with hindsight.
    Know how dearly we loved our Moms, they always soothed our fevers even if just over the phone, love, hugs and kisses can always navigate distance.
    We were blessed Aunt Beulah to have our budiful Moms, we only get one and ours were one in a million!!!
    Love, hugs and kisses headed your way, there they just landed on you with this message
    From
    Annie in Australia 🌞 🌴 🌊 💜 💜 💜 💜 💜
    P.S Brylcream, you might be onto a brilliant idea…resurgence of Brylcream….ideal for both guys and gals…style your do with this amazing goo BRYLCREAM!!!!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I smiled with happiness when I saw I had a comment from you, dear Annie. And I continued to smile as I read it. Thank you for identifying with the difficulty of being separated from loved ones by so many miles and for understanding my thought that my mom would be there for me forever. This thought of yours made me cry with its skillfully state truth “…they always soothed our fevers even if just over the phone.” This sentence as well summarizes my experience; “Her family were united to celebrate the wonderful life she lived and cherished.” Blessed we were Annie. Thank you for your love, hugs, and kisses and please know I return them a hundredfold to you every time I think of you, which is lots.

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  13. I’m sorry Mother’s Day is so hard. I often wonder that if whoever invented it actually thought about all the women it left out (infertility, mom’s who’d lost children, aunts who’d always wanted to be mom’s but were still aunts) and for children grieving their mothers. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great holiday and one I’m thankful for after 5 years of infertility, but every year I find myself wondering who is sad on that day…

    How wonderful that you have a printed version of what she said about you at church. Moms have a way of being so honest. I laughed out loud about your bangs and the Shetland pony!

    I love your description of the time you spent with her at 72, with a book in your lap. It’s easy to imagine you sitting there.

    Seems like regrets run high when we aren’t WITH our loved ones when they pass. When my grandpa was taking his last earthly breaths, I was on the interstate, halfway through a 12 hour drive, trying to get there in time. I didn’t make it. Those thoughts of being too late, are haunting. I haven’t been in your shoes, my mom just turned 71 last week, but your lessons in this are many. Thank you for writing it. Hugs to you for the days you miss your mom soooooooo much. ❤️

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    • What a beautiful, understanding response Jessica. Your well-expressed thoughts are comforting not only to me but to all who are sad on Mother’s Day. I am lucky to have Mom’s handwritten copy of her speech and wonder at the wisdom I possessed starting at age thirteen to hang on to writings of both my mother and my father as I moved about during my life. I’m so glad I did, because their written words enrich my life — and writing! I agree with you about the importance of being WITH, and, though I wasn’t, I’ll forever be grateful that my two youngest brothers and their spouses were there my mother and father. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me and others who will read them.

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  14. Janet, I am sure your mother knew just how much you loved her in spite of your living far away. You recall the funny and warm memories in your post and when reading it all, the tears started to flow here and I smiled all at the same time. I’m sure she knew you were writing about her, maybe she was guiding your hand, her way of bringing out the best while staying close to you.

    When my father was near the end I was in complete denial. We don’t see the inevitable; we only see and think they will be with us forever, and then they are gone. It’s devastating, but we must remember the good, the laughter, fun times together, and from the way you write, I know there is plenty.

    I can tell this came from your heart, and your mother’s. ❤

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    • What a lovely response, Karenlee. I like thinking my mother was present and even guiding me as I wrote about our moments together and my regrets. You are right that we don’t see the inevitable, or refuse to do so; and you are also right that there many fun and rewarding times with my mother as well. Your last sentence lodged in my heart and will stay there a long time.

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  15. Janet, you write so poignantly about your Mother—and your relationship with her—that it’s easy to understand and appreciate the empathy you showed to me last year as I mourned the loss of my Dad.
    Thanks for another touching piece.

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    • You are welcome, Rita. I’m glad you enjoyed the piece. I don’t think I knew how to be empathetic about the loss of a parent until I experienced it. Life causes us to mature in beneficial ways.

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    • I wrote the piece to illustrate the good relationship I had with my mother and my regret I didn’t spend more time with her as an adult. I’m happy that my words reminded others to cherish their moms.

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  16. Janet, I’m always moved when you write of your relationship with your wonderful mother. Like others, I’m reminded of the sad, sudden, and unexpected loss of my own mother, when I was so far away.
    “Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time. Regret for the things we did not do is inconsolable.” If I could ask her one question it would be…did you know how much I loved you.

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    • I’ve been surprised and touched by those who lived far away and lost their mothers too soon. We all have similar regrets. The quote is powerful, Mary. Do you remember who said it?” Your question is all important. How I wish I’d asked it as well.

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  17. The author of the quote is: Rev. Sydney Smith, died 1845.
    I also used that quote to justify spending the money to travel to Africa when I had the chance (she says with a smile).
    Seriously, that quote guides my life.

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    • I can see why it guides your life; it’s a good one. I’ve added it to the list I keep of meaningful quotes. Anything that prompted you to take your amazing trip to Africa is worth remembering.

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  18. This is beautiful, Janet. It’s impossible not to think of our loved ones, particularly our mother, on days like Mothers Day, Christmas, Birthdays (theirs and ours). And so many days in between. I don’t think the sense loss ever completely passes and while I agree that your mom wouldn’t have wanted you to feel upset, it really is such a natural thing. You were each a part of each other – literally – how could such a parting not be painful? I miss mine every day, and her passing was so hard. Hugs to you, Janet.

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  19. Dearest Aunt Beulah,
    What a beautiful, eloquent piece of your heart you have shared with us here. I share your feelings about how you miss your mother, and some of the regrets you have.

    I think, if we were all honest, we would say that there are regrets we all have. Some of us feel these regrets so deeply that we have to give them the chance of being heard, and acknowledged by us, ourselves.

    They are painful and I know personally that I wish all the time that I had done *this*, or shared *that*, or asked my mother something that I won’t ever now have the answer to.

    I also wish that I could have just five minutes more with my mum, to hold her hand and experience that softness of her skin once more. She had the softest hands, so delicate and gentle. I was with my mum when she passed on, and held her hand. But …. I wish I would have the chance to hold her hand again. And to take her on one last trip out in my car. To walk with her – anywhere. I wouldn’t care where … just that she was there.

    You’re not alone in your feelings Aunt Bealah. Not at all.
    We’re all stood beside you, around you, behind you, all wishing the same sort of things. All keeping you company on your journey. All just being your friend, each others friend and you being ours.

    Sending you my love, and a bucket of hugs, with a jar of smiles, and a hand to hold. ~ Cobs. x 🌹

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  20. Oh, Cobs, how wonderfully you described what I now realize is a universal emotion: regret that we failed to do enough, sorrow for what we can no longer do. I appreciate the way you shared your life and empathy with me and my other readers. You have a large heart. You and your mother were blessed to have each other. Thank you so much for your understanding and sweet words.

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  21. Janet, your poignant post echoes with my own yearnings of lost opportunities with my mother. We were close, but living in different states. Miss not just times but words that were unsaid.

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  22. I know that grief. My mother had me later in life and I think of all the times I cavalierly refused to entertain the notion that she wouldn’t be here forever. Perhaps that is a protection youth provides us. I hope Mother’s Day went OK for you, and you just allowed yourself to feel whatever came up. Sending a hug!

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  23. Oh my, regrets and Brylcreem.
    When in a painful spot, I try to pass along the goodness I have been given by so many. Your kindness is a gift to me in so many ways.
    These words are soft and kind and make me think of my Mom and I in her declining years.
    and back to beauty …. Dippity Do was my go to for unruly curliness and almost as ‘gooey’ as all the other creams. We now know that they do not make us beautiful.

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  24. I’m just catching up with my reading. What a beautiful tribute to your mom. I know from your other posts that you were one of many children. How wonderful that she had special memories of you –and undoubtedly of all her other children. I’m sorry that you lost her when she was only 77. I was lucky that my mom almost made it to 90.

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  25. I’m wondering how much influence your words have had on me, Janet, as I wipe my eyes, and become ever more certain your memoir prompted my renewed relationship with my mother. I suddenly saw her as a person in her own right – almost a stranger. I was as judgmental of her actions as my children are of me. Thank you for helping me become aware.

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