In first grade we put on a dance show to Lionel Richie for our moms.
The record player skipped as we danced around my childhood living room and our moms clapped at the finale.
She missed Girl Scout meetings often and had silky hair that I loved and her eyes were a little bit dark.
Her family went to Disney World because “nice people sent them” and I thought that was all it was.
I got used to the shine of her bald head and the bit of wispy fuzz that covered it and my six year-old self knew her only when she was well enough to see me.
I remember the sobs from my mom’s bedroom the day she was gone but didn’t feel it the way a grown-up heart did.
We missed school to tie a pink ribbon on the tree planted in front of the elementary she attended and I remember her mom’s smile.
Always a smile, through tears or clear eyes, her cheeks pushed up the corners of her face and I didn’t see the sadness behind it.
The days after I lost my own daughter, memories of my friend’s mom flooded back. With only a pregnancy and a few days of memories, the pain stung unbearably and I wanted to know the secret. I wanted to go back in time and ask my late friend’s mom about her smile and how she managed to create it.
Her survival of losing a daughter, the carrying of all those years of moments with her and then all those moments without her, I wondered where her strength came from.
I still do.
We recently reconnected through the world of social media and the first thing I saw was the crinkle of her eyes and the smile just as I remembered.
The mother in me saw what the child in me had not. The smile she wore for all those years was for everyone else and I can only hope that years of wearing it for others have turned into days when she can claim it for herself.
My friend passed away from leukemia almost 30 years ago. I will always remember the Before and After of her family. Few organizations nurture and support these deserving families while also raising money for life-saving research like the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Through their Light the Night Walk, they give people like me (and you) the chance to do a little something when we’re grasping at ways to help. Visit Light the Night to learn more about this powerful event and how you can get involved.
To read more stories of bloggers and organizations coming together to Light the Night visit SheKnows.com.
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I just found your blog via Moms who drink and swear and needed you to know that I LOVE the way articulate your family dynamic (four in my arms and one in my heart). So much so that I hope you wouldn’t mind me using those words to describe my family. Long story short (aren’t they all) our first son, Ethan, was born still. Two years later came Liam and 19 months after him came little sister Regan. I often struggle answering the question, “how many children do you have?” – not because the answer is too hard for me to say, but because I feel it is sometimes too hard for them to hear. My answer usually depends on the situation I am in but I always walk away feeling guilty if I say two, even though I know there is no right or wrong when it comes to loss. Thank you for sharing your story and for giving me an opportunity to share mine. Take care 🙂
I dont know how you do it, Jessica. But you have an incredible way of gripping hearts through your words. One minute I’m a little girl, dancing in the living room, and the next I’m a mom who lost her daughter. It’s incredible the journey you create. Please, never stop writing.
As, always you touch my heart with your stories, perspective, and writing. I have the same question you do, how does one continue to smile when the world will never be 100% perfect again? So many people have to do it, and I wonder how?
Mom On A Line says
Your words touched me so deeply–I was sitting in tears reading of your friend and her mom. I don’t know what it is like to lose a child, but I know that smile.
My great aunt lost a baby girl and then a teenage son to Leukemia. I always knew that my aunt was a very special person but never understood just how amazingly strong she was until I had children (alive and dead). After Jake died, I did ask her if there was a secret – she did not know one but just watching her continue to live in this world without her children helps me to try to do the same.
Sending hope and hugs to you and your friends family. xo
Oh wow, I can’t even imagine going through such loss twice as you have and as your aunt has. I know my friend’s mom can still barely talk about that time. I think we all just keep taking it one day at a time.
Jen @ Real Life Parenting says
This is just so touching. You move me every time. You have such a way with words that I can feel your pain and loss while I feel your positivity and hopeful spirit simultaneously.
What an amazing compliment, thanks so much Jen.
Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos says
Your words are beautiful as always, even when they bring tears to my eyes.
I hope someday the smile will be for you.
Bad Parenting Moments says
It is always a wonder to me…the perseverance of the grieving. I think of all of you so often. You get up, even if you don’t want to. You smile when you feel like crying. It is a beautiful and heartbreaking thing. This is a lovely tribute to your friend.
Thanks so much, I think of her so often and how in the world she made it through losing a child at such an age. I just can’t even imagine.
My daughter’s boyfriend just turned 18 and he has T-cell lymphoma. I just learned of these walks (thru another blog) and we are excited to participate this year.
So sorry for the loss of your friend.
So glad you are participating, wishing the best to your daughter’s boyfriend.