“I promise I will fix my marriage and we will have babies.” I repeated some version of this over and over to my mother as she lay in a hospice bed in the living room of our house. I was on the 3 a.m. shift while the rest of my family slept. Time was running out now, and I needed to whisper these things to her while I had her to myself.
I can still feel the begging in my voice, as if I was a little kid asking, “Please Mommy can we build a fort? I promise promise promise we will clean it up!” I needed her to hear me and believe that I would be okay, to not worry about me, even though in these last few months I had confided in her the worries I had about my marriage. Tonight I vowed I would clean it all up.
Two years later I was divorced. If you think divorce can produce feelings of shame, guilt, and catastrophic failure…try doing it after literally swearing to your mom during the final hours of her life that you would definitely not be doing it! I do not recommend it!
The mess I made was even worse now. People in my life assured me that Mom would understand. She knew my heart. She was in heaven now, looking down on me, seeing all of the intricacies of a relationship that could no longer hold together. She got it. I knew on some level they were right, but the feeling that I had let her down lingered for years. I bargained with myself: Maybe I could remedy this by keeping the second part of the promise, by having children. Maybe I could love another person, and have children with them one day. I could pass on Mom’s legacy to a child, and maybe even name them after her: Billie.
Billie loved children so much. In her room she had created a bulletin board covered in pictures of babies of friends and family. She loved her grandchildren more than anything in the world. She named herself Lovie instead of Grandma. Lovie was a perfect nickname, because she was all love.