Does a heart ever truly heal?

On Saturday, October 6, my beautiful, perfect, angel mother lost her battle against ovarian cancer.

Mom in remission

She had been fighting this horrible disease for approximately two years and four months. She fought a good fight. She was, and always will be, the toughest, strongest woman I know. While I am so glad she no longer suffers, I miss her more than I ever thought possible.

Losing my Mom has always been a fear of mine. She and I were very, very close. She was my best friend, my confidant, and my biggest cheerleader. When Dave and I were first married and we would visit my parents or they would come visit us, after we parted I would cry and cry. I would say to Dave, “what if that’s the last time I ever see her?”

He used to ask me, “Do you love your mom more than you love me?” I never gave him a straight answer. It wasn’t that I loved her more, just differently. There is a deep bond between mother and child. My Mom, or Marmie as we sometimes called her, are as bonded as any mother and child can be. My heart feels emptier now, my insides ache and I am more sad than I have ever been.

There is so much that reminds me of her, and always will. My sister and I were talking about how we need to make that a positive thing, instead of allowing it to make us sad. My Mom and I had a lot of inside jokes, and talked often about Downton Abbey, Larkrise to Candleford, the latest version of an adaptation of a Jane Austen book, or any other good movie/miniseries that was current. She taught me to love good and uplifting music. She had the best sense of humor and loved a good practical joke. We all learned to be on guard every year on April 1st.

We had to walk three blocks from our hotel to the subway with all our luggage. In those short three blocks, we got caught in an East Coast summer downpour. Everything was soaked. Once we got on the subway, we laughed and laughed, and everyone just stared.

We had to walk three blocks from our hotel to the subway with all our luggage. In those short three blocks, we got caught in an East Coast summer downpour. Everything was soaked. Once we got on the subway, we laughed and laughed, and everyone just stared at us like we were crazy.

As I write this, tears stream down my face. I was so privileged to have the best mother for 36 years of my life, and I am so grateful for her good influence. I know that she will always be my guide in how I should live my life. When I think of how good she was, I think of the 13th Article of Faith because that is exactly how she lived her life.

We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

Setting the best example to all of us, as she and my Dad set out on their mission to Hong Kong.

Setting the best example to all of us, as she and my Dad set out on their mission to Hong Kong.

One of the hardest things is that she won’t be here to see my girls grow up, to be at their baptisms, weddings, mission farewells & homecomings. I was comforted by knowing I’d have her help along the way. I’m going to need someone’s help because I have NO idea what I’m doing.

Teaching Inez (age 3) how she used to wear scarved in her hair

Teaching Inez (age 3) how she used to wear scarved in her hair

A favorite picture of Mom with Gwen (age 2)

A favorite picture of Mom with Gwen (age 2)

Mom and Olive (age 2) just a few months before her passing

Mom and Olive (age 2) just a few months before her passing

Mom meeting Clara (2 days) who spent her first week in the NICU.

Mom meeting Clara (2 days) who spent the first week of her life in the NICU.

I expect our next greeting to be similar to this picture, but so much more glorious.

This was taken in the Buenos Aires Argentina airport when my Mom and I saw each other again after my 18 month mission.

This was taken in the Buenos Aires Argentina airport when my Mom and I saw each other again after my 18 month mission.

My Dad used this poem in the printed program from her funeral. It’s perfect.

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength and I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other. Then someone at my side says, “There, she’s gone.”
Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side, and just as able to bear her load of living weight to the place of destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her; and just at that moment when someone at my side sighs: “There, she’s gone,” there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices to take the glad shout, “There, she’s coming!”

I am comforted by my beliefs and what I know to be true. I know that I will see her and be with her again after this life. That takes some of the sting away, it does. But will I ever not feel sad? I am just so, so sad.

  1. Rebecca

    Ben & I are so sorry for your loss, Holly. Our prayers are with you. Your mom sounds like an amazing woman.

    I don’t think you have to feel like you shouldn’t be sad. It would really be tragic if you were not sad to be separated from your mother. Elder Bowen said in conference just the very weekend your mother passed, something that I thought was very freeing. Speaking of losing a child, he said,

    Sometimes people will ask, “How long did it take you to get over it?” The truth is, you will never completely get over it until you are together once again with your departed loved ones. I will never have a fulness of joy until we are reunited in the morning of the First Resurrection.

    “For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy;

    “And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.”3

    But in the meantime, as the Savior taught, we can continue with good cheer.4

  2. Holly

    Thank you for your comment, Rebecca. I remember Elder Bowen’s talk, and in fact, I cried throughout the entire Saturday morning session of conference. I had no idea that my mom was as close to passing as she was (she passed away during the priesthood session). We knew that she didn’t have much time left, but we thought she had months, not days.

    With her death being more of a reality for me than it ever was before, I was much more sensitive to any mention of death in conference and it seemed like it was mentioned a lot. It probably wasn’t any different than in past General Conferences, but my outlook was different that day.

    I was prompted through President Uchtdorf’s talk, Of Regrets and Resolutions, to go visit her between sessions on Saturday, and I’ll forever be grateful for heeding that prompting because it was the last time I saw her alive. I am so grateful for the comfort and knowledge the gospel of Jesus Christ has given me. I would be absolutely lost without it.

    Thank you so much for your words of comfort and for telling me that it’s okay to feel sad.

  3. creole wisdom

    You wrote something so beautiful. It is beautiful because it is honest. It is beautiful because it’s the kind of love we need to celebrate in this world. I know they say that the closest thing to Christ’s love is one from a mother to her child, but sometimes think it’s the other way around.

    What an incredible mom you have. Grief is hard, I have no words, but I’m sending you prayers from MN that you will fele comforted.

  4. Cherri Regnier

    I have enjoyed checking in on you and your darling family over the years. I loved reading about the relationship you shared with your mom. In reading this post, I could really feel the love you have and the friendship you cherished with your mom. I never know what to say, but I wanted to say that I am glad that you wrote this and posted it. It is letting others know about your mom and what a wonderful women she is. You are in my prayers.

    Cherri Regnier

  5. Melissa

    Holly, my heart truly aches for you. I’m so sorry, I know how close you and your mom were. I’m thinking about you and am admiring your strength at this difficult time.

  6. Rebecca

    p.s. I love the poem. I had to come back to read it again. Your love for your mom really came out it your post. Thanks for sharing her with us in the midst of your sadness. <3 <3

  7. brooke

    beautiful words and beautiful pictures.

    i truly believe that your mom WILL still help you, that she will be there at all those things for your girls, at every turn in your life, standing with her arms around all of you and restrained only by the gossamer thin veil and the weakness of our mortal eyes to truly behold her.

    do you remember that time we flew back to hawaii together and how you couldn’t stop crying? that is how i think of you now when i think of your face, and my heart aches for the tears you have, the sadness your heart must endure– and i say this as a truth and not a platitude: this pain is only for a moment. and there will be joy again. but in the meantime, be sad. let yourself. it’s ok.

    i love you, holly. hang in there.

  8. Andrea

    Oh Holly. My heart hurts for you and your family. I often think of how I would survive the death of my parents (we’re all VERY close you know) Although she may not physically be there for major life events for your girls, I know that she will be there in spirit. I can imagine her with her arm around you, whispering in your ear some gentle advice. You are a wonderful mother, who learned from the best. My girls too are sad, and we’ve had to answer many questions about “grandma kewish” and how much we will miss her too. I will always remember her with us in the delivery room when Isla was born. One of the most spiritual experiences on my life. I’m so happy she was here to celebrate that day. Love you Holly. I think about you and your family everyday and hope that time with help to heal your heart a bit. Please let me know if there is anything we can ever do.

  9. Katrina

    Holly, having lost a parent, I can somewhat relate to what you’re going through. Obviously everyone’s experiences and feelings/methods of grieving are unique.

    I sometimes wonder why my dad had to die at such a young age, when our family was still so young and impressionable. I sometimes wonder what life would be like if he were still alive and had had a strong fatherly influence on my life and the lives of my siblings. Sometimes I get sad that my kids don’t know their grandpa. But I can tell you that I know he is aware of us and concerned for us. I have had strong feelings and impressions since his death of his love for me, for my children, and the rest of my family.

    I’m sure you will have sacred experiences regarding your sweet mom that will bring you comfort. It’s okay to be sad, and it will get better. In the meantime, feel what you need to feel, and know that she is with you always.

  10. Jana

    I love you

  11. Holly

    Katie, Cherri, Melissa, Brooke, Andrea, Katrina, Jana, thank you, thank you, thank you! Your words mean so much and I’m grateful for you taking the time to reach out and express yourselves. I’m so grateful for the love people have shown, it is helping me get through all this! xoxo

  12. Candice

    My dear dear friend,
    What a gift it is for us to love so deeply that it hurts this bad at even a temporary parting. For me, grieving seems to come in waves. Sometimes I’m okay, and then other times it hurts like it was yesterday or today. Crying makes me feel better. Keep crying, but keep breathing. It does get better. It doesn’t get fixed, completely, in this life. But it does get better. Until then, I will cry with you. Don’t feel like you are alone! In the meantime, if you need to borrow a heart for transplant at any time, mine is available for loan. You are the best!

  13. Lisa F.

    Holly, I am so very sorry for your loss. Your post is beautiful. I love all of the pictures. I have so many wonderful childhood memories of your mom (and dad). Please know that I am thinking of you and your family.

  14. Cousin Andria

    I’m so very sorry Holly. I thought that this post was perfect in every way. Your mom sounds like a really amazing lady, I’m sorry I never had the opportunity to meet her.

    My dad, like your mom, was my best friend. My whole life he was the one that I turned to, relied on, sought counsel from, laughed with, and railed against. It was my honor to have helped care for him during the last thirteen years of his life. Over those years I was convinced that I was dying with him- each month brought some indignity for him and an opportunity to learn my own strength. Honestly, he was sick for so long that while I knew it was a terminal thing we were fighting I don’t think it really ever crossed my mind that there would be a time that it was truly over. Until one day, it was.

    Daddy told me once that the bond between parents and children is so strong that nothing as “insignificant” as death could ever sever it. I rolled my eyes at the time (before having a child of my own) but found that in the months following his death I would wake up with the sound of his voice ringing in my ears. It was like I woke up mid conversation or something. Crazy? Maybe. But I knew in my heart that he was never very far away. I realize now what Grace that was for me and I am deeply appreciative of it.

    Take all of the time that you need- be gentle with yourself. Maybe, just maybe you’ll find that your mom hasn’t gone very far away.

  15. Marit

    Dear Holly,

    I don’t know if you remember me. I also served in BAN, but had just missed you because my visa hadn’t come through in time. Megan Empey was my trainer. Anyway-

    I want you to know that I am heartbroken for you. My own mother passed-away from cancer 13 years ago. I was very close to her. I’ve often thought that our moms were so much alike (my mom was Norwegian. I can’t remember if the Norsk is your mom or dad . . .).

    There isn’t a day for the past 13 years that I haven’t woken-up and not thought of my mom. When our moms leave, it is a void that is never really filled. In a way, it is fitting. How could someone who is such a monumental part of who we are be replaced or faded-out? My big fear is that my own feeble mind won’t be able to hold onto the memories– the little ones. And as I feel a dark cloud of despair creep over my heart when I want her here, I have to push it away with the reality that she is in each of my 4 little children. In so many ways! I tell and retell stories about her to my children and they carry those memories with them. And you will feel her close to you. Moms never leave their babies.

    You and your family are in my prayers, Holly.

    With love,
    Marit

  16. Denice

    What a lovely tribute to you mom! I hope my kids can say something nice about me when I’m gone. Somedays I wonder, you know, amid the chaos. I think you will always have that empty spot in your heart, but it will be less painful as time goes on. Hugs to you as your heart heals.

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