Matt left for work extra-early this morning, so I took the boys to school, which Matt usually handles. Since we were already loaded in the van, I decided that sweet tea was a necessity (don’t judge) as was filling up the tank since gas has now dipped below $3/gallon in Missouri. (Illinoisans, before you get all upset about your gas being higher – trust me, we make up the difference in the personal property taxes we pay on our cars.)

Anyway. Not the point.

The point is, Jack Henry and I were out for a little drive in the early morning fog, and we were chatting as usual. There is no such thing as quiet in the car with JH.

“Mama?” he asked. “Did you have grownups when you were a kid?”

{Pause, pause, pause, translate what he just said into English…}

“Do you mean parents? Yes. I had parents. Papa is my dad, remember? And Nana was my mom, but she died.” (Jack Henry just figured out that Papa is my dad a few weeks ago, and was blown away by this information, and is clearly still processing it, because he frequently asks for clarification. It was awesome.)

He thought for a minute, and said, “Oh yeah. I remember. But I can’t remember what Nana’s face looked like.”

And just like that, I was in tears. I’m crying again as I write this.

I knew this would happen…he was a little over 9 months old when she died.

one of my favorite baby pictures of jack henry, taken about a week after my mom died.

He has no personal recollection of who she was. And honestly, there aren’t a lot of pictures of the two of them together. By the time he was born, she was so sick and her face so bloated that she barely looked like herself most of the time.

a rare photo, from christmas 2007. please ignore that i had food in my mouth.

I started thinking about whether I’m doing a good enough job of talking about her. Everyone says, “Do what you can to keep her memory alive,” which is much easier said than done. We do talk about her…the older boys remember a few details and they share those with Jack Henry. When I cook something that she made for me as a kid, I always point it out (secretly hoping it earns the dinner some bonus points). But as time goes by, it’s harder and harder. I mean, I knew her for 31 years, and sometimes, even I can’t remember what her voice sounded like.

Hopefully, as the boys all get older, they’ll realize that the way they best knew Nana was through how I parented them, which I hope, in many regards, is mimicking how I was parented by her and my dad.

PS My emotions are raw this time of year, I think, because her birthday would have been on Tuesday, and Jack Henry’s is Monday. Every once in a while, I get this “no one gets what this is like” kind of feeling, which isn’t true…my siblings and my dad get it. A couple of friends and my mother-in-law do, too And it’s certainly not like I want more of my friends to really be able to get it…I’d like them to be able to keep their parents around for as long as possible.

And I feel better now that I wrote this.

23 responses to “Remembering.

  1. And I’m crying as I read this…….HUGS to you Nicole.

  2. This is a wonderful post . . . one that, unfortunately, I can completely understand & feel from experience. Even in the split-second after reading JH’s comment about not remembering her face, I felt your sorrow. I remember being so grateful that your mom got to watch & hold Jack Henry–not for his sake, but for hers & yours. What a gift to both of you that she got to see your family complete!

    On a more upbeat note, that’s one adorable pic of JH & the apples!! I can hardly remember him as that chubby little baby!!!

    • And I know that you get it, too. I think of it so often…that you’ve been here, and to a much more shocking degree given how things happened for you.

      Re: cute chubby baby Jack Henry…I love that in the older picture, you can tell that he’d just started getting chunky! It was right around Christmas time that I noticed he was outpacing his brothers’ growth patterns 🙂

  3. Praying for you today. It is so nice that you have a picture of her with you and JH – he will enjoy seeing that as he gets older!!

    I LOVE the picture of him with the apples!

  4. Nicole, you are doing a good job of keeping her memory alive. Little kids can only take and process so much at a time. JH is figuring it out. So are you. And it’s sad. And that’s the truth. And you’re not alone in feeling this.

    I hate the tension of wanting to remember things like my mom’s voice or her expressions only to have them slip away with my failing memory. How can I ever share her with my son? I can’t, at least not fully. That’s the ongoing tragedy of death and grief. It’s a bunch of losses, not just one.

    Take good care of yourself during this time, N. I’m pulling for you. Much love, A

  5. this had me tearing up too.

  6. OK, so this one brought some tears to my eyes. I often think to myself it is not fair to Ashlyn (or JH, Will, Ava) that she never knew her Nana (and it also makes me feel selfish for thinking this cuz life just isn’t fair) and it makes me sad, but I want to try my very best as well to talk about her as often as I can to her (and them). I hope that your two older boys can help as the years go by to really let them (JH, Will, Ava, Ashlyn) know how wonderful of a person she was and how much she is missed! We were so blessed to have so many great years together!
    Great post! We all think about her often, as I like you, come across little things on a daily basis that make me think of her! Love ya sis!

    • I definitely feel some guilt (unwarranted, I know, but that’s how it feels) that my older two were the only ones who got to know her. They love to tell the few stories they have, and I know they’ll share them with the littler cousins, too! Love you!

  7. Jenny & Jill were 5 & 3 at the time of my folk’s accident (10/23/72). This will always be a somewhat melancoly season for us as well. I always regretted they did not remember the folks much as time went by either. We did have photos, as you do.

    After Steve’ Dad passed five years ago, Tanner & Trace could not remember him other than the 3 years he was in the nursing home. Jill made a special scrap book of photos of him and Gram and T & T at the farm together. I thought it was a really neat idea and kind of fills that visual gap.

  8. Hugs Nicole. My heart goes out to you.

  9. Thinking of you Nicole, Jake, Zach, Hailey and Rick….. especially next week on your mom’s birthday. She was a wonderful woman!!

  10. Oh my….you have me in tears too. I like the picture of you, JH and your mom…I haven’t seen that one before. Keep talking about her and reminding the boys of things she did or said. Do you have any home videos? It might be really difficult for you, but it might be good/fun for the boys. Thinking of you and your family…

  11. I was immediately in tears after reading JH’s comment. I just want you to know I admire you so much. I think you’re doing a great job raising your boys and I see Mom in you all the time.
    Yesterday I found myself wanting to take a walk with her again, the ones that she used to have to drag me along on. I would give anything to take another walk with her. This time of year always brings up that raw emotion for me, also. Like Jake said life just isn’t fair…and that in itself just plain sucks.
    Love you guys!

  12. You *are* doing a good job, Nicole. You have set that goal of telling the boys about your mom and you do find ways to do that.

    I find that the older my girls get the more opportunities there are to tell them about my dad. They are older and can understand so much more. They can ask me about him themselves and take it in and connect all those stories to their lives and to what they know and see of me and my siblings.

    Give yourself grace and know that your purposeful heart and their natural maturing process will allow you even more ways to share her with them.

  13. I completely agree w/ Jan’s 2nd paragraph. I never talked much about my parents when my kids were little, mainly b/c Mom & Dad were gone b/f any of them were born, so of course the kids had no reference point at all. However, as teens–and really more as young adults–they had/have more natural curiosity and want to know what they were like & what my life was like. growing up! I’m sure this will happen w/ your boys too.

    I also can identify so much w/ Aimee’s 2nd paragraph about her sadness at not being able to easily & immediately recall her mom’s voice & really “see” her. There is a sort of panic in trying to remember how both my mom & dad sounded & to recall their laughs & expressions–and having it be very elusive. But–it’s all inside me, and really that ‘s enough.

  14. wow, *tears*. i love what you said about them best knowing nana by how you parented them. so true. they will ask questions the older they get for sure–i’m so curious about my mom’s parents and love when she talks and tells stories about them.

    on a happier note, APPLE JACK!!!!

  15. Nicole, I remember after having Paige thinking – why didn’t anyone tell me how absolutely amazing/miraculous this experience is? (As if maybe I was the first to experience it). I would imagine that is what you are trying to explain when you say that no one gets what it’s like. Because the whole truth is that one can imagine it, hear it from others, and feel the emotion, but she never *really* will know until she’s faced with it. And then she’ll think surely she’s the first one to experiece such sorrow.

    But the truth is that you are SO your mom! And that is SUCH a compliment! And there have even been pictures of you lately where I have seen your mom in you…which means your boys – all three – see her everyday.

  16. this post makes me sad that you had to lose your mom so early, but it also makes me very proud to be your friend and see how you have handled it…with strength and grace. and your boys will see that one day too (if they don’t already pick up on it).

    your mom will be remembered by so many. as a matter of fact her name came up in a conversation with my mom and sister last weekend. and your boys will know who she is…because they know you.

    i will be thinking of her tomorrow. 🙂 happy birthday arlene…

  17. What an emotional post….I’m totally in tears right now. Hugs to you and your family.

  18. Tears from me, too. I especially like Karen K.’s 2nd paragraph, that “you are SO your mom.” And you have a lot of understanding friends and relatives. I have a picture of the three of you that last time we visited and i will try to find it and send it to you.

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