As I add the photos to this post, my head and heart are instantly catapulted right back to the day that my life was forever changed. Though the memories still bring me a great deal of sadness when I let them consume me, I’ve had to learn to control them. I’ve had to take agency and decide which perspective I choose to frame this challenging experience in, an experience that we all as humans will eventually have to endure. I can either let the pain break my heart, or I can transfer the energy into something that expands my ability to love. I chose the latter. And in order to honor my mom, I need not root her departure in sadness, loss, grief or despair, but anchor her existence in love and celebration. On this day, I sit in gratitude and appreciation for her being my mother. Though she was not perfect, she was mine. And in her imperfections, she taught me a great deal about myself. Her love and teachings still live on within me and through me as I navigate in this world, not only as the strong man that I am but also the scared little boy.

Reliving the days I spent with my mom as she slowly slid into her transition was a battle that I didn’t know I was prepared for. I didn’t know the relationship that I was building and creating with myself and God over the four years prior, would be the fundamental foundation that got me through life’s toughest storm. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was slowing building a bridge for myself that would get me from loss to love. From death to life and from darkness to light. As I reflect back on the yearlong timeline, I now see the gifts that I’ve received and the treasures I’ve found a long the way.

The first thing that jumps out at me is my resilience and trust in myself. This beautiful surrendering to the unknown and the assurance in my ability to love myself enough to get me out of the internal dark places. To not only be the boat, but also the lighthouse that leads me home. When my mom first passed away I was a wreck. Instantly haunted by regret and the “what if’s” “why didn’t I’s” “I should have’s” and the loudest internal statement of all “why wasn’t I a better son?”. All of this self-deprecation and negative talk was on a loop as I replayed all of the missed opportunities I had to show or tell my mom that I love her. This space of regret and shame is a slippery slope and I knew I needed to be kind to myself in this delicate state. I needed to show myself some grace. I had to acknowledge that I’m only human and I’m doing the best that I can, using the tools that I have at the moment. Once I broke through that barrier a whole new perspective opened up for me. I went from deficiency to discovery and found a whole new toolset. I took ownership of my experience and began looking for the gifts. I embarked on the healing phase by honestly asking myself a couple of questions and answering them not from human logic, but from a soul space deep in my heart –  “Daniel, do you think momma wants you to be sad?” No, I know it breaks her heart to see me broken. “Daniel, how can you honor your momma?” To be the honest and loving man that she always prayed for me to become. To be happy and to continue to live in pursuit of my dreams. To be strong and show up for my family. To represent her in every action that I make, and to remind others of her sunshine. – And that, my friends, is what I continue to do.

There are so many personal lessons that I’ve learned from this. Some much harder to gather and implement than others but something that I’m very proud of is the bond that my sisters and I have garnered throughout this experience. There’s an unconditional love unlike anything I’ve ever received or expressed prior with my siblings. We’ve forged this connection that is deeply charged by compassion and love and it expresses itself in a way that makes us feel safe and supported. No matter how different our journey is or where we are on the voyage, we’re scaling the summit together. We’re hurting kids masquerading as adults who are trying to figure out how to survive without their emotional protector, and live in this physical world while being untethered to our external source of comfort – all while still trying to seek peace and freedom in the belief that she will forever live in our hearts and echo through our laughter. 

If there’s one thing I am certain of, it’s that mom is proud of us. She raised resilient humans. Her strong-willed children that can endure pain and somehow find the gifts in the discomfort. Adults who choose love in the face of loss and who expand through the toughest growing-pain of all, the one where a mother leaves, and the parent within has to show up. I had to look at myself in the mirror and say ”Daniel, you are safe. I love you and now it’s my turn to protect you and take care of you. We are going to be okay and we’re going to get through this. Just because you can’t see momma, it doesn’t mean she’s gone. Laugh with her, dance with her, take her with you wherever you go. Talk to her often because you know she’ll respond.

P.s. Momma, I could feel you next to me last night as I sat outside under the moon. I was playing the playlist that I made for you and when our song came on, we danced together in my mind. You were wearing a beautiful black dress and I was in your favorite suit of mine. I could hear you telling me how handsome I looked and how proud of me you are. It was just you and I but we were surrounded by love. I hate that I never got do dance with you like that in real life, but in my heart we will dance together for a lifetime. I love you and I miss you. Thank you for loving me and believing in me, even when I didn’t deserve it. – Until our next date, please save me a dance. 

-Your son, Daniel