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Each year that passes, this day continues to leave an ache in the pit of my stomach.  I walk through it like I did eleven years ago...hour by hour, I replay the events of the day.  I was a 21 year old college student who was nannying that morning.  My biggest worries were my weekend plans.

This was my favorite art piece from Art Prize a couple years ago called 'Moment of Transformation'.  

I was probably a typical college student.  I was getting good grades, had a lot of friends, nannying part-time, had traveled, I'd moved to Oklahoma and back as a Legislative assistant, I was going to be an aunt for the first time, living at home.

My mom always called me her "thinker", which meant that I spent a lot of my conversations with her asking questions about life, ideas, politics, spiritual curiosities, doubts...I was always thinking.  I'm not saying it was a bad thing...in fact, my mom would encourage that in me, but what I didn't realize at the time is that until you live it, it means nothing.  I could spout some pretty good concepts, I'd pursued some significant dreams, but at the end of the day, I felt pretty selfish.

I don't look at June 11th, 2003 only as the day I lost my mom, but it was the day I was forced to grow up.

I laid in my bed with my best friend and said, "I don't feel like she was done raising me...I'm still just a kid."  But the truth is, she was done...beyond all our control...she was done...and I was now an adult.

It started that afternoon when I had to call friend after friend, family member after family member and deliver the bad news.  I'd hear the excitement on the other end as they'd exclaim what a fun surprise it was to have me call, I'd get the knot in my stomach as I'd brace for them to fall apart on the other end, and I'd deliver the bad news...they'd lost their best friend.  That grew me up.

It changed when I found myself sitting in class, and instead of taking notes, I was making a meal plan for the week 'cause my Dad would be home and I needed to buy us groceries...chicken stir fry it was...again. My poor dad.  He ate a LOT of chicken those first few years!  I think it's partly why I watch so many cooking shows now...because cooking was one of my biggest insecurities when my mom died and I was determined to conquer it. That grew me up.

I no longer had just my room to keep clean...it was the house.  I didn't have my list of chores...if I didn't do it, it didn't get done.  That grew me up.

A home of four became a house of me in 6 months as my sister got married and my Dad spent most of his time in Japan. That grew me up.

My biggest worries were no longer my weekend plans...I fell into survival mode. I hardly had time to mourn and process what had happened.  So often, I'd find myself laying in bed listening for the laundry room door to open, hoping somehow it was some misunderstanding...she was coming home.  But she didn't...and that grew me up.

I began seeing people around who had experienced loss or pain, no matter the scale in which it affected their life, and it was as if I'd been handed a gift.  I watched people love on me and reach out to me and I began taking lessons on how to love well, 'cause I knew it wasn't easy.  My world, which had felt so big, now seemed so far reaching it was almost overwhelming in the best way.

Losing my mom grew me up.  It's not easy to look past myself...it's a class I will always be taking.  But I learned that love isn't about being seen.  It's about seeing.  It's not about being heard.  It's about listening.  It's literally things like emptying the dishwasher, making chicken stir fry, and dusting fans. It's learning that just to have someone to make dirty dishes is the reward...it's never about keeping score.  It's all about what I can give...not get.

I was a little girl the morning of June 11th, 2013...and eleven years later, I still am in so many ways.  But I also know that losing my mom grew me up in so many ways and was the best thing that ever happened to me.  I often say that I wish she knew grown-up Tami instead.

Last year, 11:11 became significant to me as I'd take it as a reminder that I'm not in this alone. God's got my back. Today, on June 11th...on the eleventh anniversary of my mom passing, I needed that reminder.  The experience of losing my mom was the most difficult one to receive, but I am so very thankful for it because it grew me up.  But I'd be lying if I said I don't still feel like a little girl who aches for her mom on days like this...and somehow, I think that's okay too.


Amber said...

"But I learned that love isn't about being seen. It's about seeing. It's not about being heard. It's about listening. It's literally things like emptying the dishwasher, making chicken stir fry, and dusting fans. It's learning that just to have someone to make dirty dishes is the reward...it's never about keeping score. It's all about what I can give...not get." Just those words make me think of your mom for the short time I was blessed to know her . . .and how those are one more reminder of her fingerprints in your life. love you and praying for each of you girls today.

Lauren Wakefield said...

Love you to death Tam Tam!!!!! I didn't know your mom but I know she's one special lady because she brought you into the world. I feel so lucky to know you (and be your soul sister)...and big virtual bear hugs are coming your way today!!!!!

Brad Wieland said...

Tami, not only do you create wonderful photographs, you create moving word pictures as well. Your writing manages to avoid the common clichés. It stays simple, but reaches deep. And, by the way, thinkers are some of my favorite people. Good work.

Pam said...

Tam Tam, my heart is right there with yours! Love you so deeply!

Aunt Pam

~Christy said...

All those thoughts and feelings are okay. You are a combination of all those things (as we all are)... constantly battling responsibility with fear, growth with taking steps back. Always learning. Sending you all the hugs and can't wait to see you soon. It has been too long. xoxo

Brad Eisenmann said...

I got all the way to "to have someone to make dirty dishes is the reward" and teared up. Thanks for sharing, Tami.

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