I discovered this series of photos in January 2015. My mom died the month before, and my brother and I had just spent two days cleaning out her home. We saved going through her photos for last.
These were taken in 2000 during my mom’s visit to Wilmington to see me and my first son on his first birthday. I remember this being a stressful trip. My mom and I didn’t have a perfect relationship, especially when I was younger. I had a lot of resentments and in my naivety, I was unwilling to let them go. The only things I remember about this trip were the fight we had over dinner and the stress I felt by having my son’s routine disrupted. What my 22-year-old self couldn’t see and what my 36-year-old self could only see after losing her was that my mother loved me the best she knew how. She really loved me, and I spent a lot of wasted time in my younger years keeping her at a distance.
When I first discovered these photos 15 years after they were taken and one month after my mother’s death, I ugly cried with a heart full of regret. In four days, it will be three years since she died and I still regret that I didn’t do better. It’s probably the biggest regret of my life.
Maya Angelou said, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”
I know we did the best we could. My mother loved me the best she knew how, and I loved her the best I knew how. I just didn’t know better until I lost her, and maybe that’s what I regret the most. I wish I knew better sooner.
My relationships changed dramatically after she died. If there was unfinished business with someone, I spoke it aloud so we could work it out. I never let anyone leave without them knowing how much I love them. I give more hugs and speak more truths in my personal relationships. And most importantly, I don’t ever allow small things to be big things any more.
If I could see her now, there are so many things I would share with my mom. I would ask her to tell me the stories of her life so I could know her better. I would spend more time with her and work harder on the relationship we were building together as adults. I would tell her I’m sorry. And I would let her know I love her so much that life without her is just not the same.