Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2015 Nancy Virden
I didn’t know what I was getting into.
It was my intent today to empty out some old files, fully expecting to load a large waste can. Plopping on my bed, I started to examine dusty records and irrelevant information. I landed on one titled “Encouragement and Blessings.”
Oh, I knew what was in there, old birthday and Christmas cards, thank you notes, and not much else. Instead of tossing the contents, I started to read.
The second letter pulled off the top took my breath away as soon as I saw the handwriting.
It was a love letter from my now deceased mother to her long-lost daughter – me. Dated 1991, she was responding to a note I had sent to her one week earlier. My correspondence had been an apology for my nasty attitude over the years. I could have given reasons why I retreated from our relationship, but chose not to.
It isn’t my letter that matters anyway.
My mom wrote of her love for me and how much she longed for our friendship. Up to that point, our relationship had been both hostile and cold. It was unhealthy, maddening, and all I knew. Nonetheless, we were trying to patch up the past.
When I first read her letter long ago, my tears were about regret, loss, and fear. We were venturing into new territory being nice to each other. I was wary and unsure it would work out.
Today however, reading that letter for the second time brought tears of sorrow because she died ten years after writing it. During that decade, shaky emotions threatened our fragile bond. It was a surprise a few months before her death when she told me I was her best friend.
Twenty-three years have passed since our letter exchange. We enjoyed a more normal mother-daughter relationship for only ten years. I can still grieve the coulda-woulda-shouldas.
Our time together on this earth is over. Yet I have this letter exposing the woman who longed for me as much as I once longed for her. She apologized for her part in giving me a low quality of life. (Imagine that!) She described how hard she’d tried to overcome abuse by my father. She wondered what she had done wrong to drive her only daughter away.
As a mother of grown sons, I can see how hurtful the absence of relationship with me must have been for her. We often have better eyesight when we look behind; in the moment is when we make half-blinded choices.
I encourage you to make a quality decision for kindness today. Don’t waste another minute in bitterness. Sixty seconds go by quickly, then sixty more and sixty more. Before it seems possible, ten years will pass.
I’m grateful for those ten years of richer connection to my mom.
NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.
– pictures from qualitystockphotos.com