Without My Mom

mom girl

It’s 3:00 in the morning and I can’t sleep. Today, a hospice nurse told us my mom could be with us a few more days, she could be with us a month. But the sparkle has left her eyes, and even if it’s a month, the nurse told us her sparkle probably won’t return.

My mother hasn’t been healthy for much of my life and has been especially sick with failing kidneys due to diabetes for several months now. So, I thought I was ready. And I haven’t lived in the same city as she lives for over ten years now. So I thought I’d gotten accustomed to not having her a part of my every day life.

My mom has never been one to call me regularly, but she always called me on my birthday, always sent Valentine’s cards and flowers, always filled a Christmas stocking for each and every one of us, no matter how sick she was. When I’d leave for my trip home, or any road trip, she’d have snacks for me to eat on the road and would always ask me to text her when I arrived.

Now, to be so close to that time when she simply won’t be here for all those little things I’ve taken for granted–will never be here again . . . the feeling of loss before she’s even gone comes as a surprise.

familyThose who know me best know that at times, my relationship with my mom has been one of ups and downs. As the oldest of five children all born within six years and with a father who was often away on trips with the Air Force, I had a childhood filled with what I sometimes thought was too much responsibility, and for much of my life, I resented it.

But in the last few days, I’ve come to appreciate the responsibility it taught me. It may have made me a mean big sister at times, but it also made me a better mom.

Here are a few memories that first come to mind when I think of my mom:

photo (2)1) My mom often sewed dresses for us so that we’d all be dressed alike. Then, she’d buy an outfit to match for my brother. One of my favorite dresses she made was a pink polka dot dress with a poofy skirt, even though the slip was itchy. I still remember wearing that skirt to a parent-teacher conference at school. When I walked down the hall between my mother and father, I don’t know what I was more proud of: my beautiful mother, my father in uniform, my good grades, or that pink-polka-dot-poofy-skirt dress that my mom made.

mom model2) My mother was a beautiful, talented woman, and I believe she was happiest when entertaining in some way, whether modeling, acting, singing or simply being the life of the party. Somehow, I knew this even as a child. When I’d watch her put her make-up on, spray on the perfume she always wore, I would be happy, too.

mom fan








3) Sometime in the last year, after spending a few days with my mom, I had to leave very early in the morning. My mom got out of bed, even though I’m sure she’d just fallen asleep, and with her walker, rolled into the kitchen and began to fix something for me to eat on the road. She walked me to the door, and when I turned to wave goodbye, it struck me how old and frail she looked. Maybe it’s no coincidence that at the same time I realized it could very well be the last time I saw her, I felt so loved by her.

4) But one of my favorite stories of my mom happened while I was writing The Red Kimono. For those of you who don’t know, my eight-year old character, Sachi, was based on my mother, who was an internee as a child. It was hard for me to consult my mom very much while writing this book, because memories of her internment still brought tears to her eyes, and that was hard for me to see.

Yet, when I finished the manuscript, she asked to read it. This in itself touched me, because in all honesty, I’ve never known her to read a book. So, I put the manuscript on her iPad, and every time I’d go into her room, her nose was buried in that iPad. She finished reading it in only two days, and when she was done, she suggested a couple of minor cultural changes.

smallIMG_0855 - Copy (2)But the one change I loved best was about the scene where Sachi is stacking rocks in the internment camp. In the original manuscript, I had her stacking the rocks on top of the fence posts of the barbed wire that surrounded the camp. But my mom corrected the scene, saying, “Jan, there’s no way Sachi would have been able to reach the top of those fence posts.”

My heart filled with both joy and sadness. Joy, that she’d fallen so much into my story that she was right there with Sachi. But that joy was “corrected” by the sadness that followed, when I remembered, no, she really had been there.

Without my mom, there would have been no Sachi. There would have been no me. I would not have my kids. I would not have my grandson.

I’ll read this to my mom today and hope she understands it. Because I want her to know more than just “I love you.” I want her to know that in all the ways I listed, I’ll never be without my mom.

Mom and Jan (2) mom and jan2

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31 Responses to Without My Mom

  1. Dear Jan,

    I write through tears. I lost my mother thirty-four years ago. Up until her death from lung cancer, she called me every day. I still find myself wanting to call her and say,”Mom, you’ll never guess what happened…”

    The Red Kimono is a lovely tribute to your mother as is her daughter. Thank you for sharing this. You’ll be in my thoughts and prayers.



    • Jan Morrill says:

      Thank you, Rochelle. When someone we love is so much a part of a foundation of our lives, it’s hard for our initial reaction not to be in touch. Thanks for sharing your story about your mom.

  2. Donna Greene says:

    Jan your writing brought tears to my eyes. Though I never formerly met your mom, I feel like I’ve known her practically my entire life.

    Your sweet sentiments are certainly heart felt.

    Bless you my friend.


    • Jan Morrill says:

      Thank you, Donna. I can’t believe after all those years of living across the street, you and my mom never met. She would have loved you, just as she loved Maria and Nina. 🙂

  3. frog5 says:

    Nice remembrance, Jan.

  4. Jo Ann Wardein says:

    I do believe you’ve “upped” the sale of Kleenex today, Jan. Sitting here with tears streaming down my face…you and your Mom and family will be in my prayers during these last days of her life…may you all be blessed by love!

  5. Staci Troilo says:

    What a beautiful tribute. Prayers and hugs for you.

  6. This is so beautiful, Jan. Thank you for sharing your mother with us. Sending you so much love during this difficult time.

  7. Anonymous says:

    As the youngest of all the cousins, I never got to know “Aunt Mike” as well as everyone else. That in itself saddens me. I know what a great woman she must have been – and still is – simply by the wonderful children she raised. Your words brought tears as I can’t imagine the sorrow that will come when these days happen to us. I love you all and pray for you as you remember all the wonderful things your mother brought to you in life and cherish every second you have left with her. God bless you, and all my cousins!

    • Jan Morrill says:

      Thank you, Maebeth. It’s a very tough stage to go through. I know you went through it with your parents when their moms passed away. Thanks for your sweet words and prayers.

  8. erinleary says:

    Oh, Jan – I know what you must feel. I lost my mom 4 years ago this week and I miss her still. Yesterday, my youngest got the news that he’d gotten in to his first choice college and my first thought was ‘I can’t wait to tell mom!’ But alas, I could only send up my thought and hope she knew. Sending you comforting thoughts and kindness – you have been blessed with one of the good ones.

    • Jan Morrill says:

      Thank you, Erin. I’m sure the four years since the loss of your mom feels both short and long. Congratulations to your youngest getting into his first choice college. Yes, I think your mom must be smiling from above!

  9. James Phillips says:

    Excellent. In tears. I wish I was there with you all.

  10. Dear Jan, Thoughts with you. This memo makes me aware of how little we teachers sometimes know of our students and their families. I of course would have liked to know your mom as the performer, but I did not know her at all. And I have not read Red Kimono, but will now. Ashamed to say as a Montanan, I know too little of the Native American “captivity,” and as an American, practically nothing of Japanese interment. Of parents who loved lavishly and without self, I did have the same experience. Every single time I returned from Scout Camp, college for vacation, the years in the Army,… I was always an honored guest in my own home. And I’m glad that FB somehow has put you on my priority “friends” list. I enjoy your posts always. Off to Barnes and Noble … and if there’s no Red Kimono on the shelf, there’s hell to pay! (Or at least an order to place.) Love, Mr. B

  11. tedstrutz says:

    Your mother will always be with you, Jan.

  12. You have seen all the beautiful and joyful times of your relationship with your Mom, and those you will never forget. It’s so difficult, though not to dwell on what we feel are regrets for the things we didn’t do. That is a natural part of grieving. May you all find peace.

    • Jan Morrill says:

      Thank you, Velda. There have certainly been some joyful times, even in these last days. There is nothing better than seeing her smile and laugh when she wakes and can have a conversation. Love you!

  13. Anonymous says:

    Jan, first of all I am sorry I have not had the privilege of meeting you in person rather than only via Facebook or Word Press. You sound like a beautiful, caring and loving person I would cherish in my life and enjoy spending time with discussing writing, blogging, grandparenting and all other things we could find mutual interests in. 🙂 Second of all, I lost my dear mother over five years ago at the ripe old age of 91, and I treasure too the times with her and the commitment she gave to raising my siblings and I. I have two older sisters and one younger brother. I am going to soon turn 68, am a mother of two girls, a grandmother of four great grandchildren, a Christian believer and last, but not lease a writer with a passion to write all I can and am inspired by. I am so sorry for the difficult journey you have, and are going through at this time. Those are times when we not only become strong or stronger, but more able to help our children and grandchildren cope with struggles in life as well and even maybe a friend who we can help sometime with their journey. Storms come, and they go in our lives and with each we are often like waves that flow in and out of the sea returning, sometimes calmed and other times with such intensity that it cannot but splash over onto those around us moved by our sadness or grief. I pray that God will give you strength today and each day as those times come. Your experience shared and your tribute to your beautiful mother may help another one reading it who might be helped through difficult times as well. I’m sure your mother is so proud of your accomplishment and publishing of your book and its success. Although I have not yet ordered it I plan to, as I have read from others how much they enjoyed it. God richly bless you.

  14. Linda Apple says:

    What you’ve written will teach, inspire, and encourage your readers for generations to come. I’m going to call my mom today. I love you Jan.

    • Jan Morrill says:

      Linda, in the whirlwind of the last few weeks, I’m just now seeing this. Hard to believe that when I wrote it, my mom was still with us. I hope you did call your mom. Nobody can really explain what it’s like to lose a mom, even a mom with whom there may have been challenges. Just love her every day, and I know you do. ❤

  15. Pingback: My 2015 Christmas Letter | Jan Morrill Writes

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