If you asked her, she would recall the moments she feels she most failed at being a mother, the moments she thinks she missed the mark, misunderstood, or caused further damage by not knowing better. This is the response of a pure and tender heart, one whose only mission has been to give life, to teach love, to nurture. When she feels she has done anything less than that, she’s left with deep regret.

Each year, pretty things — flowers, jewelry, fragrance, favorite memories framed. But most important, the card. I love picking out cards for people, especially Mother’s Day cards. They are all so bright, floral, sparkly, and everything springtime. “Mom, you’re the best ...” “Mom, thanks for all you do and then some ...” “Mom, you taught us love ...” “Mom, there are no words, but this card will try ...”

But this year was a little different, because this year Mom and I started over.

We have spent hours upon hours confronting stored up injury and misinformation. No blame falling on either of us, but on the oppression that we were heavily burdened by. We found one another again, solid hearts that have always been stretching out to be connected, however misinterpreted.

Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. To communicate is to save lives. To communicate is to love. This is the only way you keep love from being hushed by all the noise that comes to drown it out.

We are still very much in process. Momentum gained has not been rushed in any way at all. It would be a disservice to us both, to this sacred work we are doing. At times, it is very difficult and we both fight the urge to shut down and abandon communication. We don’t. We take resting stops when needed on our journey up the mountain, but always continue. It is solidified in us both not to quit. Love does that.

People often take glances at others’ lives and make very unkind assessments of journeys they cannot truly begin to understand.

I think the ones who judge the quickest and criticize the harshest are only avoiding their own pain. They see something that has rubbed up against their own denial, the wall of denial meant for self-protection.

But, denial just makes the heart bitter, and that bitterness spills out on others causing more unnecessary pain. If a heart is buried and cannot breathe, it will not be able to properly lend itself out to others — no matter how much it may want to.

We all have choices to make. When confronted with truth we can choose to see or choose to ignore. There is a moment that passes quickly, a short window in time that comes for each of us, when there is distinct clarity — when all blinders are off for an instant. What one does with it is completely up to them.

A part of a poem I wrote in my adolescence comes back to me now, “... when the truth, it comes a calling, will we see or will we run?”

Mom chose to see. She chose Love. She chose courage over everything that surely tempted her to keep painful things hidden, buried out of sight.

So, I honor my mother. For spending the last year fighting by my side. For slaying dragons, defeating monsters, and for not only saying it, but proving through her fierce love and devotion that “everything is going to be all right.” She has been facing down the darkness with me. It has been her alone, out of a lifetime of people.

Avoidance, rejection, abandonment, denial — these all perpetuate the madness. The pain of confronting secret things is short-lived compared to the lifetime of bitterness that carrying the load causes the heart. It steals purpose and pleasure, it squanders good seed and precious time.

In the words of my favorite poet, Mary Oliver: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

My mother’s call to action rescued me. That is what she did.

Born in Rome, Olivia Gunn returned to her roots after a brief time of study at a university in Scotland. She is an honors graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in English from Gordon State College and is currently working on a book of essays and poetry as well as a memoir.

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