The Grief Diary: Mother’s Day

Exploring the Aftermath of Love and Loss. This is the sixth in this series.

No mother deserved accolades for Mother’s Day more than mine. Widowed at 48 with four children aged 10 to 15, she worked as a key punch operator for a men’s clothing retailer, a job she would hold for 25 years. She managed to hang on to our house. We were never hungry and did not know how precarious our financial situation was from week to week. She raised all of us to adulthood with an iron fist, ensuring we’d escape the missteps many young people raised in the city often make: unintended pregnancy, dropping out of school, substance abuse, incarceration. This was due to her fierce discipline, unconditional love, and huge faith.

A Life Built on Faith

Mom was deeply religious – 12 years of Catholic school – and had a commitment to God and church that lasted all of her 91 years. As a girl and as a young woman she went to church daily, a habit she picked up again after her retirement. She’d be out the door before 8 am for morning mass well into her mid-80’s. She prayed constantly. “I don’t make a move without Jesus,” she said. She often prayed to win money on lottery tickets or at Bingo to cover unexpected expenses, and she won, big jackpots. A $500 win once or even twice a month was not a surprise. She was lucky, or, as she said, “blessed.”

Playing bingo at the Club House.

A Promise

One sunny morning, years ago, we sat at the kitchen table having coffee, plotting our next adventure. She suddenly became serious and grasped my hand tightly in hers. “Look at me,” she said, and I gave her my full attention. “When I die,” she continued, “don’t be sad, don’t cry, because I’ll be with Jesus, and I’ve been waiting for that all my life.”

I took her words to heart, even pronounced them at her funeral to let others know not to be sad she’s gone. And for the most part I’m not sad she’s no longer here. I think of her every day, several times, but most of the time tears do not sting my eyes. I remember her words and think of her with Jesus, with my dad, and her second husband, and her mom, and all the others who left this earth before she did. They must be having a good time together in heaven. I hope there’s Bingo, and lots of lottery scratch tickets.

Remembering the Laughter, and the Fun

On this Mother’s Day I think of her and send kisses up to heaven, hoping she’ll catch them. I remember how funny she was, especially at the end of her life. I enjoyed her company so much during that time, in spite of her illness and debility and the difficulties they caused. We always made time to laugh.

Mom loved to be the center of attention and loved to have her picture taken. These shots were taken in the Memorial Garden at the nursing facility where she recovered from a fractured hip. I posed her with the blue hydrangeas and my daughter snapped the photos of her making funny faces, pure Marge. Then she added Snapchat filters and boy, did Mom laugh to see herself this way. She was a ham, and God, did I love her.

I miss her.

I know that Mother’s Day can be controversial. No one is guaranteed a good mother. Women who have been the best of mothers are still abandoned or neglected by their children. Women who yearn for children may never have them.The world is full of women with broken hearts, and hurting children too. Mother’s Day can open wounds, trigger old pain and hurt. On this day, let’s celebrate the women in our lives who have nurtured us, regardless of our relationship. Mothering can come in many ways.

A Mother’s Day Giveaway

In honor of mothers – birth moms, step moms, grandmothers, adoptive mothers, foster mothers, pregnant mothers, mothers of lost children – I have two free books to offer you. One is my novel, Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s love story. All of my stories have strong women at their core, and Sara, in Blue Hydrangeas, who has lost a daughter and carried on, is one of them. The Kindle edition is free through May 10th. Get it here.

And I’m offering free copies of AlzAuthors first anthology Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiving Stories for free on Kindle as well. AlzAuthors, my non-profit, is the global community of authors writing about Alzheimer’s and dementia from personal experience to light the way for others. In this book, 58 authors tell their deeply personal stories about caring for a loved one, often a mother. The stories are short and make for good reading if you’re a caregiver or just interested in the disease. Get it here through May 10th.

Please share both free books with your moms, friends, family, and fellow readers or caregivers.

An Invitation

Please take this journey with me. We can communicate with one another in the comments, perhaps find healing together. Subscribe to this blog to receive email notifications of new posts. Thank you.

New Release Spotlight! Start Your Beach Reading with Family Reunion, Nancy Thayer’s Latest

I can never wait for a new release by one of my favorite authors, Nancy Thayer, whom I had the privilege to meet a few years ago at a bookshop on Nantucket. She graciously accepted the gift of a copy of my newly published Blue Hydrangeas. I wonder if she ever read it? Here she is again with another one of her charming Nantucket stories sure to bring me back to The Faraway Land. You should go there, but if you can’t, read Nancy’s books.

Description

A longtime Nantucket resident is trying to make the best of a lonely summer. Her spirited granddaughter is learning what she wants out of life. Unforgettable surprises await them both in this magical, multigenerational novel from New York Times bestselling author Nancy Thayer.

Eleanor Sunderland loves living on Nantucket, in a gorgeous cliffside home that has been in her family for decades. Yet this year she can’t help but feel a bit isolated, even as the island begins to come alive with summer tourists and travelers. Her best friend has skipped town on a last-minute cruise, leaving Eleanor feeling lonely and nostalgic about her family’s weekend trips to the island, made less frequently in the years since her husband’s passing. Now, her money-driven children contact her mostly to complain and to beg her to sell her beloved home for a steep payout. Hoping to kick the season off on a good note, Eleanor decides her seventieth birthday may be the perfect occasion for a much-needed reunion.

Fresh off the heels of her college graduation, Eleanor’s dear granddaughter, Ari, has just ended an engagement that felt less like true love and more like a chore. She longs for a change of scenery and to venture far from her parents’ snobbish expectations. Taking advantage of her newfound freedom, she heads to Nantucket to clear her head before graduate school, moving in with her grandmother and taking a job at the local beach camp. As she watches Eleanor begin to form a bond with an old acquaintance, Ari herself becomes completely smitten with a friend’s charming older brother. But just as grandmother and granddaughter fall into a carefree routine, a few shocking discoveries throw them off course, and their ideas of the future seem suddenly uncertain.

Eleanor and Ari make exciting connections, old and new, over the course of an unpredictable, life-changing few months, and learn to lean on each other through every new challenge they face in life and love, in this tale filled with Nancy Thayer’s signature Nantucket magic.

“Readers come to Nancy Thayer novels for the idyllic Nantucket beaches and lifestyle, but they stay for the characters.”—New York Times bestselling author Mary Alice Monroe

About the Author

I grew up in Kansas, surrounded by prairie, but thirty-five years ago I came to Nantucket to visit a friend who introduced me to the love of my life. Charley and I have now lived on Nantucket for 33 years–year-round, as we say, so I have a special feeling for this island and for the people who come here. I love the island most in the winter when the waves crash dramatically on the shore.

I have a bachelor’s and master’s degree in English literature from the University of Missouri at Kansas City, and I still go to KC often to visit my darling baby sister, who inspires many of the characters in my book. Yes, she is blond, and yes, she is 9 years younger than I am. I still love her.

For a few years, I taught freshman English in several states, and had short stories published in literary reviews. My first novel, Stepping, was published by Doubleday in 1980, and started me off on the career I’ve always wanted. I was a Fellow at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in 1980 and in 2015, I received the RT Career Achievement Award.

I’ve published 30 novels–all available on Amazon–including Secrets in Summer, The Island House, The Guest Cottage, Nantucket Sisters, and Island Girls. A Nantucket Wedding was my 30th. The upcoming Surfside Sisters will be out July, 2019! Champagne for everyone!

When I’m not writing novels–all 30 are available on Amazon–I’m walking the beach with my husband or entertaining our 4 grandchildren & their parents & our friends. All my novels are about family and friendships, which I believe are the foundation of a happy, if complicated, life.

Connect with Nancy Thayer

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

Books I Love! The Girls Are All (Not) So Nice Here, a Chilling Thriller

Two former best friends return to their college reunion to find that they’re being circled by someone who wants revenge for what they did ten years before—and will stop at nothing to get it—in this shocking psychological thriller about ambition, toxic friendship, and deadly desire.

A lot has changed in the years since Ambrosia Wellington graduated from college, and she’s worked hard to create a new life for herself. But then an invitation to her ten-year reunion arrives in the mail, along with an anonymous note that reads “We need to talk about what we did that night.”

It seems that the secrets of Ambrosia’s past—and the people she thought she’d left there—aren’t as buried as she’d believed. Amb can’t stop fixating on what she did or who she did it with: larger-than-life Sloane “Sully” Sullivan, Amb’s former best friend, who could make anyone do anything.

At the reunion, Amb and Sully receive increasingly menacing messages, and it becomes clear that they’re being pursued by someone who wants more than just the truth of what happened that first semester. This person wants revenge for what they did and the damage they caused—the extent of which Amb is only now fully understanding. And it was all because of the game they played to get a boy who belonged to someone else, and the girl who paid the price.

Alternating between the reunion and Amb’s freshman year, The Girls Are All So Nice Here is a shocking novel about the brutal lengths girls can go to get what they think they’re owed, and what happens when the games we play in college become matters of life and death.

My Take

Don’t start this if you have to get up early. This one will keep you flipping pages and then leave you with a book hangover. I couldn’t stop thinking about the characters at the heart of the story, Ambrosia and Sully, two of the most unlikable characters I’ve ever encountered. They’re so much “girls you love to hate” that I couldn’t look away. Both of them are beautiful, narcissistic, insecure, dangerous villains who team up to wreak havoc on the guys and girls who unfortunately enter their orbit at school, resulting in the tragic death of an innocent girl who unwittingly gets in their way. I think the story goes a little too far and the ending is a bit neat, but Ambrosia and Sully each meet satisfying (and well deserved) endings. Recommended for those who like a suspense novel with characters you love to hate.

About the Author

Laurie Elizabeth Flynn is a former model who lives in London, Ontario, with her husband and three children. She is the author of three young adult novels: Firsts, a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults pick, along with Last Girl Lied To and All Eyes on Her, under the name L.E. Flynn. Her adult debut, The Girls Are All So Nice Here, has sold in eleven territories and has been optioned for television by AMC. Visit her website LaurieElizabethFlynn.com or connect with her on Twitter @LaurEllizabeth.