Posted On May 10, 2020
A few days prior to Mother’s Day 2016, Rylie and I went out on a little shopping date. I could always count on her to join me for an excursion and usually to bring a little laughter. Laughter at ourselves or at the items we were shopping for. This day was no different.
We headed to Charming Charlies, a mecca of accessories at an unassuming price. I wandered around the displays, searching for earrings that would be cute, but not too bold. I admire people that change their jewelry each day, adding a little spice and that extra note of care without going overboard.
Everytime I begin to branch out though, I feel like a fraud. I usually stay in a lane of comfort – silver and simple (cue those silver hoops I wear literally everyday that I actually remember to put earrings in.) As much as I love bold colors on other people, I just can’t bring myself to go there.
As I wandered, gently trailing my fingers over this pair and that, Rylie trekked off to the clearance area. She was a bargain hunter to the core and I knew she was on a Mother’s Day mission, so I let her be.
Then on Mother’s Day, Rylie presented me with a small gift bag and pride beaming off her face. I opened the bag to find a faux gold necklace with three blocks on it. The blocks, much like the ones that my kids stacked when they were little, had three letters – M O M.
I lifted my head, plastered a smile on my face and managed to squeak out, “Oh, Rylie it’s beautiful.” She beamed. She glowed. Her pride, at being able to purchase a gift for me without any help, and at finding something some she deemed as perfectly suited for me, was brighter than the gold of the necklace.
How was I ever going to wear this necklace in public?!? How could I NOT wear this necklace in public?!?
My skin crawled. This necklace was so far out of my comfort zone. It was gold. It was gaudy. It had blocks on it… Nevertheless, while my skin was crawling, I knew. I knew that I would have to wear it. Rylie was so proud, and for that I was proud. My pride, however, had a limit. It was my pride that was getting in the way.
A good mom would don that necklace and wear it like a badge of honor. Instead, I was placing it around my neck and calculating how quickly I could take it off.
I wore the necklace all day that day. I put it on at least one other time. A time when the neckline of my shirt could strategically be placed over it when Rylie wasn’t in sight.
I cringe now thinking of this. I cringe knowing that Rylie was likely not blind to what I was doing. She was acutely aware of other people and their behaviors. She was attuned to what those behaviors meant. I’m sure I was fooling myself in thinking that she didn’t see through my wardrobe choices that covered her necklace. I’m sure I was fooling myself that she didn’t notice that I only one time put on her necklace and that was at her suggestion.
That MOM necklace has hung in my jewelry box for years. Over those years, I’ve thought several times that I “should” wear it, but my pride always got in my way.
I am so ashamed of that now. I’m ashamed that I was concerned that someone might notice my necklace and think anything of it. I know in the deepest part of my soul, that very few people would notice and most that would notice, would probably sigh and think, “How sweet – One of her children must have gotten that necklace for her.” Yet, still I couldn’t do it. More correctly, I didn’t want to do it.
On the third anniversary of our accident, the one that ultimately took Rylie’s life, I found myself searching for something to wear that reminded me of her. I wanted to carry a memento with me on that day especially. Something that screamed Rylie.
I thought of a million options, but none of them were right. Then I remembered the gold MOM necklace. I gingerly approached my jewelry box, both with excitement and dread. I knew instinctively that the MOM necklace was what I needed to wear that day. I knew the gaudiness would still make me cringe.
I took it out, put it around my neck, instinctively lifted the neckline of my shirt to cover it up and cried. I cried knowing I’d done this exact thing years ago, instead of beaming with pride. I cried knowing that Rylie absolutely noticed, but never said a thing. That was just not her style. I cried because I was doing it again.
With much effort, I took that necklace out from behind my shirt and placed it on top. The gold blocks staring at me in the mirror. Daring me to hide them. I placed my hand on the blocks, and looked at my reflection. I paused while the most vile words rolled through my brain. Words of shame and judgement. Words that told me what a bad mom I was for not wearing that necklace with pride. Words that told me that Rylie, who was so proud in the moment of giving me that necklace, likely ended up in her room later crying because she could see through the facade I put on.
Then after standing there long enough, came words of grace. They came slowly. The came quietly, but they came.
It’s true, I very rarely win the award for “best mom”, but really how many of us do?
It’s true that I should have seen beyond my own vanity and considered the spirit of the gift, seeking to encourage and foster the intent of it, but I didn’t.
It is also true that beating myself up over this choice four years ago, isn’t going to change anything.
It is true that I am human and as a human my vanity will stand in my way more than I care to admit.
It is also true that there are so many times that my reactions towards Rylie and Tanner have been filled with nothing but love.
I tried to let these words of grace wrap around me. Too many times we hear words of shame and disgust and wear them like armor. It is far too easy to latch on to them and adopt them as truth. It is so much harder to reach for words of grace, hold them close and share them with the world.
So, yes, it pains me to know that Rylie will never know the regret I feel in the way I handled my response to her heart and her gift. It pains me to know that deep down, even if she were alive, I probably would not have had the courage to put her heart in front of my pride.
But I will give myself grace. I will use this experience as encouragement for myself and hopefully others. We can choose the spiral of shame. We can choose to cling to the should haves, the would haves and the what ifs, OR we can choose to accept grace.
We can admit that MOM does not have to be synonymous with super-human. Mom simply may be synonymous with our name, with human. This means we will make mistakes. We will hurt those that we love. We will let ourselves, and others, down periodically.
But we will also do things right. Every so often we will find ways to model humility. We will own our reactions, apologize, and grow from our mistakes. Every so often, we will model honesty, choosing to step into hard conversations that honor the importance and validity of both parties’ feelings. And every so often, we can model love, trying again and wearing the necklace.
My feelings about the gaudiness of the necklace haven’t changed. It still makes me cringe a bit. But as I stood there in the mirror looking at it around my neck, I saw it a little differently. I saw it with a little hope.
I secretly hoped that someone might notice and ask about it. I secretly hoped that I’d be able to tell the story, to talk about Rylie. I secretly hoped that recounting the story and the lessons I’m still learning from it might be a gift. That it might bring some peace both to my guilt and might encourage someone else to extend themselves some grace.
In that moment, I promised myself I would wear that necklace more often. Not because I want to be a “good mom”. Not because I think it’s beautiful. Not because I feel I have to. But because I want to. I want that tangible reminder of grace and love. I will wear it and remember that I am human and I make mistakes. I will wear it out of love, and because I am loved. Each time I will try to keep it outside of the neckline a little more, but I’ll also be okay with just having it close to my skin, knowing that Rylie loved me enough to let my humanness slide.