A Look Back on a Life

Each night, MJ says her prayers and blesses all the important people in her life. But the last name she whispers, the name she knows but for a person she has never met, makes me stop to catch my breath every time she says it.

It’s my mom’s name. And this week marks the tenth year we’ve been surviving without her.

Ten years ago on Thursday, my mom died of ovarian cancer. She battled the disease bravely for four years, and when we all thought she had kicked it on its rear, it returned more viciously and violently than ever, leaving us with only a few precious weeks before she passed away.

I could sit here and curse the unfairness of it all. How it sucks my mom never got to meet my incredible little girls. Or I could harp on the memory of crying in the Baby Gap nursing room because I couldn’t bear seeing the expectant moms and grandmas shopping for baby clothes.

But really, that’s no way to celebrate one’s life. So instead, I want to share a few ways my mom shaped my life, and in turn, how what I learned from her is shaping how I raise my little ones.

  • Mom instilled a love of musicals in me, a love I’ve passed on to my daughters. I’ll never forget the first summer after Mom bought our first VCR, spending the hottest days in the cool of the den watching Carousel and Bye Bye Birdie and Oklahoma! Now as I watch Hairspray and Mamma Mia! with MJ and KT, I wonder how Mom would answer MJ’s constant barrage of questioning - “Why does Sophie have three dads? Why doesn’t her mom know which dad is Sophie’s?"
  • My mom was a huge Elvis fan, and would often rub it in my face that she couldn’t see his last concert in Champaign because she was pregnant with me. When my friends and I went to Graceland at the time my mom was sick and stood at Elvis’ grave, a little bird started chirping. Some lady next to us whispered, “Listen – it’s Elvis; he’s trying to speak with us,” to which I immediately dissolved into the church giggles. As I tried to keep from snorting and to gain control of my shaking shoulders, I pictured my mom standing next to me, poking me in the ribs with her elbow and hissing, “Ssssh, this is a sacred place!” but eventually melting into hysterics herself.
  • Oh my lord, the key issue. My mom would always carry her keys in stores, and it would completely infuriate me for some reason. “Damn, Mom, I can hear you jingling your keys across the store. You have a purse – use it!” But today, I find myself doing the same thing. There’s no reason for it – my purse is an excellent key-holding contraption. And it would save me from accidentally leaving my keys in inopportune places – like the dressing room at JC Penney’s. Or a cereal shelf at Schnucks. Or on top of the maxi-pad receptacle in an Applebee’s stall.

But probably the genetic trait I’m discovering more and more now is my tendency to forget things. In fact, every morning I get to play the game – what can Mom forget today? It’s super fun, and I’m always the winner because really no one can beat me in terms of absent-mindedness.

When I was younger, my mom’s forgetfulness irritated me at times. But today, although my own obliviousness is extremely annoying, I know it’s a side effect from focusing priorities on two wiggly, energetic little girls. If anything, Mom taught me sometimes that little memory door in your mind has to close every once in a while to open a bigger space in your heart.

So, this week, besides my usual “know the symptoms of ovarian cancer” spiel, I just ask that you hug your mom tight and hug your kids tighter. And if you can, let those little annoyances you kick yourself about slide this week.

By Nicole Plegge, Lifestyle Blogger for SmartParenting

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Metro East mom Nicole Plegge is the lifestyle and pop culture blogger for STL Parent. Besides working as a freelance writer & public relations specialist, and raising two daughters and a husband, Nicole's greatest achievements are finding her misplaced car keys each day and managing to leave the house in a stain-free shirt. Her biggest regret is never being accepted to the Eastland School for Girls. Follow Nicole on Twitter @STLWriterinIL 

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