It All Sounds So Cliche’

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by Bernadette A. Sahm

Sometimes it all sounds so cliche’ “do it now” “don’t wait” “live your best life” “what are you waiting for” “time waits for no man” “just do it” “life is a journey, not a destination” and the popular phrases and words of wisdom sometimes seem endless.

The truth is we have but one life, we never know just how long or how short that one life might be. Each day is filled with decisions from the moment we wake up until the moment we fall asleep. Most adults make more than 35,000 decisions each day. That is a whole lot of decision making!

Each decision that we make is also a decision NOT to do something else, we choose one thing and in doing so forgo something else.

In April, my husband and I celebrated being together for 30 years, living in our home for 30 years and later this summer, married for 25 years. Recently, I met a woman who is 75 years old and getting married for the very first time. Not only that, but she is moving from the United States to Italy with her new husband. All I could think was, “wow, that is so brave!” She is living her life, making big bold decisions and seems quite happy to do so.

I reflect on my own life and can’t help but think that I have made safe and conservative decisions. How many people can say they lived in their same home for 30 years and have stayed in the same relationship for just as long? Yet I am perfectly happy and content to do so.

At the same time. I thoroughly enjoy being a witness to how others live and make their decisions in life. Sometimes it is just fun to people watch and take joy in the life choices of friends and family.

Create the life that you love to live and always remember, “life is for the living, live it!”

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer

Living our best life …

Chipper

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by Bernadette A. Sahm

Our little “Buddy” Chipper

Chipper is our Christmas baby boy who was born on December 21, 2011. When I first saw him at the pet shop, he had a “reduced price” sticker on his crate. He was slight, the runt of the litter and his left paw turned inward.  I asked to see him and spent some time in a private room with him. We immediately took to one another. I gave him back went for a walk and called a friend. Should I get him? We already had another Bichon at home. Happy was born in 2009.

I couldn’t leave the area without taking him. I felt “the pull” of when you know this is for you. I bought him and a few new things for him. My husband and I were having a little tiff and not talking. Recently our daughter had unexpectedly left home. It felt right to bring a new love/life into our family.

I sent my husband a photo and he later said that when he received the photo, he said to himself, “that dog is in my house!” When he came home from work, he picked Chipper up and almost immediately bonded with him. We had talked about getting another pooch and with the help of my high school friend Joann picked out his name. We wanted a name synonymous with Happy and so Chipper it was.

My husband never liked when I referred to Chipper as having been on the “reduced rack” for a quick sale. To me it was humorous because he was the perfect fit for our family. Our son met him and said, “you are going to like it here!” Happy on the other hand took a little more convincing that this was a new sibling for her to learn to co-exist with.

In a few weeks his papers arrived from the American Kennel Club, he was a pure-bred Bichon Frise and much to our delight had the same parents that Happy did. They were true brother and sister just born from different litters. It was perfect and so was he!

Chipper never knew he was small and was always the alpha-male taking on much bigger dogs without fear. We had both Happy and Chipper from 2011 until 2018 when we lost Happy. I will never forget just weeks after her passing the deep throated howl of pain that Chipper let out. He missed her as did we miss her. For the next four years we had Chipper and took him everywhere with us.

We took him to New York and Niagara Falls; we took him to Nashville Tennessee, and we took him to Williamsburg Virginia. He loved to travel with us. He had accommodations in our home and beach house. He loved to run on the sandy beach.

As I write this, I am dreading our 3:30 Vet visit, he is sick and not eating and when you are just 8 pounds every ounce matters. We know that he is closer to his death date than his birthdate. My husband is leaving work early so that we both are present at the Vet visit. This past weekend we cried, and we cried. Our sense is the end is near and we are crying for ourselves because we already know the huge void that Chipper will leave in our hearts.

He is our baby boy; I spend every single day with him. I always feel the “pull” of what it is like to have someone at home that is waiting for you and loves you unconditionally. During COVID he became my office mate and attended every ZOOM meeting. He is such great company and made us better “dog parents” than ever before. We called him “Buddy” “Little Man” “Chip” “8 Pounds of love” and “Chipper.”

I leave work and not sure of what I will find at home, is he going to be alive and active or knocking on deaths door. Happy to report he barks bounces out of his crate and eats some chicken and drinks some water before going outside to do his business.

So … we just left the Vet, she thinks it might be his kidneys, we had him x-rayed and no broken bones, he has lost .8 pounds. Now we wait for all the test results.

What we know for sure is that an average dog lifespan is 10 to 13 years, he is over 10. We have given him a good life and he has given us much joy. What more can we ask for? We love him so much and thank God for the gift of Chipper!

Update – Chipper died peacefully on Wednesday April 6, 2022. Our hearts are shattered but we are comforted in the belief that he is reunited with his sister Happy in heaven. Each death teaches us about our own mortality. We are doing our best to stay focused on all the joy, love, and happiness that he gave to us, RIP “Little Man” Chipper we love and miss you so very much! Our lives are so much richer from having you …

Bernadette on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer

When I Wasn’t Loving Myself …

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by Bernadette A. Sahm

This blog was started weeks ago and finally on Valentine’s Day I decided to finish it. I have been blessed with a 30-year relationship that is based on love and care. Many have called it “a marriage made in heaven by heaven” all we know is that we feel blessed, and we never take each other for granted. We still date each other, and we always put our marriage first. But it also begins with self-care and self-love. You cannot truly love and accept another human being until you learn to love and accept yourself.

I see it all so clearly now, what I couldn’t see back then, when I just wasn’t loving myself. Every bad decision, every destructive relationship, the times when I didn’t think I was good or good enough. What was I seeking? What was I looking for and what was I recreating to fix or to master? Why was I attracted to people or situations that weren’t good for me and ones that didn’t treat me right? Why was my younger self willing to settle for so much less than what I deserved? What did it take for me to finally know better?

Aging and self-reflection offer so many good answers. I had to grow into my best self. I had to experience the hurts, the pain and the loss of much to finally hit my bottom and get back up and in touch with my core and my best self. For years I valued others’ opinions of me over my own opinion of myself. In my younger days, I repeatedly gave my power away and in doing so, I gave my self-worth away.

When we love ourselves, we won’t accept what is not right for us. Loving decisions start with how we treat ourselves, how we speak to ourselves and our own inner dialogue. Loving ourselves enough to feed our mind, our body and our soul a diet of healthy good for us choices.

Sometimes we settle for less than what we should and/or we allow ourselves to make less than loving choices. Women are natural caregivers and often put themselves last, we have to learn that it isn’t selfish to love ourselves and put ourselves first. If we don’t love and care for ourselves, why would anyone else love and care for us? We teach people how to treat us by how we treat ourselves and by what we are willing to accept.

Our best life can only ever be achieved when we love ourselves enough to make our life the priority. What do I need to do to be my best? What is good for my mind for my body and my soul to be happy and whole and living my best life? We all have our own unique answers to these questions.

It’s been said “it is not about the destination. It’s about the journey.” Each journey affords us the opportunity for growth and development, and the chance to know and love ourselves. If your life isn’t what you love and it doesn’t make you happy, you alone can change it! Enjoy the journey …

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer

Let someone else enjoy it

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by Bernadette A. Sahm

I continue to be amazed at just how much “stuff” we have accumulated through the years. Things that we just had to have and purchased. Today we are streamlining all that we own. We recently found a good home for our piano that we purchased 27 years ago. It was a beautiful upright Baldwin piano that we purchased brand new for almost $5,000. It lived in our dining room for almost three decades. Letting it go was all about “let someone else enjoy it” and we just love the new found open space that its absence has created. Knowing it found a new home where it will be played and enjoyed makes us happy.

In the past few years we have rented two large dumpsters and filled them up with junk and things that no one wanted or would want. We have taken multiple trips to donation centers for both household items and clothing. Giving it away for free in hopes that someone else could use it and enjoy it.

Marketing firms target younger people for many purchases. Now that we are older, we think more about what we spend our money on and do we really need it. Do we want to manage more “stuff” and often the answer is no, not now.

Giving is for the giver! There is so much joy and happiness tied to our ability to give. Letting go of the things that we once held and doing so that someone else may enjoy it just feels so good.

What are you hanging onto that you no longer need or want, what if letting it go makes someone else happy and they can use it and enjoy it?

As we approach the “giving” gifts and the season of gratitude, what gifts do you possess that could so easily be shared and in doing so make another person happy?

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer

Living Faithfully

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by Bernadette A. Sahm

What does it take to live in faith? To make a commitment and then stick with it? Whether we commit to a God, a faith, a religion, a job, a career, a calling or to a marriage and children. To dedicate your life to one cause or one place or one person and then stick with it?

Recently I witnessed several religious celebrate 60 years, 65 years, 70 years and even 75 years to their religious community. They made a commitment and stayed with it. I can only imagine that not every single day was a great day. There had to be times when they reflected upon and questioned their faithful commitment.

To have stayed in a community for 75 years that you entered in your early twenties and stayed throughout your twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties and well into your nineties. That is the absolute definition of living faithfully.

Today few people stay in a job or a career for a lifetime. It used to be that if you had more than two jobs on your resume’ the question was why can’t you keep a job? There was value in sticking with a job and working it until retirement. Young people today think little or nothing of moving from one job and one career path to another and doing so frequently. They gain experience and diversity in their abilities to adjust and adapt to various jobs and positions.

I never viewed myself as having the goal of a lengthy marriage or in living in my same home for 30 years and yet next year I will have achieved just that in being committed to the same person my husband for 30 years. We have been faithfully committed to each other.

Here is what I know about being “married” and staying committed in marriage for so many years. First and foremost it is not always easy and not every single day is going to be a happy day. It takes work. It takes commitment. It takes compromise. It is about taking one day at a time and making that commitment again and again.

“The secret to a long and happy marriage is a short memory.” Lou Holtz.

There is truth in that quote, You have to be willing to forget the times when it wasn’t great. You have to stay focused on all that is good and it has to be based in love and in understanding. You have to want it and you have to want it even when it is a challenge and difficult.

My marriage is good and at times even great but it is not perfect. There is a whole lot of love between us and also passions. Passion that cuts both ways where its good but also can be destructive. I heard a recent interview from Country Music Artist Tim McGraw about his marriage to Faith Hill. He acknowledged that yes they have a happy and committed marriage. But it doesn’t come without their share of stuff. He states that marriage isn’t a linear process and you say we won’t fight in front of the children, and guess what, you fight in front of the children. It happens. I give him credit for his honesty.

My husband and I work on our marriage and treat it like the living breathing thing that is it and we strive to keep learning and growing together. There are many types of stress that find their way into a marriage. Raising children and having a family is some of them. So are jobs and career choices. We do our best to minimize outside influences impacting our union.

There is a joke that goes; “Marriage is like a deck of cards. In the beginning all you need is two hearts and a diamond. By the end, you wish you had a club and a spade.” Anyone who has be married for a length of time appreciates this thought.

We have built a life together and as my grandmother used to say, “a rolling stone gathers no moss.” We have acquired history together something that only happens when you put both the effort and the time into living faithfully. Given the choice neither one of us would choose to live differently, we appreciate the marriage, the companionship, the friendship and all that living faithfully as a couple has afforded us.

Thanking God for today and all the days of our lives …

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer

Beautiful Things

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by Bernadette A. Sahm

Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

It has been said that “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” we all have things that we find beautiful. Some things most others will agree and some just may be beautiful to us. The older I become the more important “beauty” is to me. I seek beauty in beaches and in bars, in gardens and in garages. I seek beauty in nature and in people, I seek beauty in animals. Most often I seek beauty in my environment. For me a beautiful surrounding makes me feel more peaceful and more beautiful within myself.

Philocalist a lover of beauty; someone who finds and appreciates beauty in all things. An aesthete is someone who loves and appreciates art and beautiful things and that would be me!

Simple pleasures like the cast light of the moon glowing on the ocean as the sun sets. The opening of the rose buds and all its many layers of color. The cut watermelon in its pink and red glory. The gray sky as it rains a harsh windy forceful driving rain. The small child in the grocery cart who smiles at you when you are a complete stranger.

The voice of a good friend, a chat with a new neighbor and the sounds of the sprinklers keeping the gardens and grass looking so healthy and beautiful. There is so much beauty in the world and in our every day life and travels.

Beauty is always there if we are open to seeing it. Like happiness being a choice so is living a beautiful life with beautiful things …

My Father’s Art

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By Bernadette A. Sahm

My father’s art always spoke to me and I was thrilled during his last days before his death that he gifted me two very special paintings. They remain in my office today. Recently I enjoy seeing several red cardinals in my yard. I believe as the folklore goes “Cardinals appear when angels are near ” they are heaven-sent messengers of love for you. They make me think of my dad.

“Dad: a daughters first love …”

My father was far from perfect but I loved him and I knew he loved me too. I am his namesake, the son that he never had with my mother.

Next year I will celebrate 30 years with my husband and I believe that little girls often grow up and marry men like their fathers. My husband does share many of my dads best traits and thankfully not his not so good ones. Girls without dads are often attracted to men who are absent and a zero. I see this time and time again in life. Without a father figure a little girl often grows up and finds men who are not really there for her.

Dad was the first male figure to tell me that I was beautiful and the first man to view me as good and as worthy and that I was valued. I had my share of relationships with men who were much like my fathers dark, angry and destructive side, the ones that aligned more with the negative traits in my father. Again we are attracted to what we know and what feels familiar to us.

I accepted my father as he was and for who he was, I tried to understand some of his anger and his difficult days. Never making excuses for some of his behaviors, I grew up to view him through the eyes of an adult rather than of an immature judgmental child. At the end of his life, he called for all 8 of his children to make peace with them before he died. I have so much respect for that final act of love that showcased his character and what was important to him.

Sometimes in a weak moment, the little girl in me wants him to come and protect me from the pressures, pains, disappointments and heartaches in life. Yet I know that between the red cardinal visits to my yard and his artful paintings hanging in my office, he lives on through me. I am at peace and I know he lives on in my heart and in my many memories. So thankful for so many gifts that he bestowed upon me.

If you still can, call your father, call your father!

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer

A Few Things My 35 Year Career Taught Me

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A Few Things My 35 Year Career Taught Me

By Bernadette A. Sahm

Every year I look at when my “retirement” year will be and lately I reflect on all that I learned in the 35 years of my professional career? What lessons did I learn along the way? What can I share with those that come after me?

  1. Get along with your co-workers.

You do not have to love or even like your co-workers, it helps if you do. Be willing to learn from them and in getting along with other professionals, you model behavior that your supervisor wants to see in you and that you will appreciate seeing in those that you supervise.

Join networking groups and professional associations that allow you to learn and grow while growing your network.  Exposing yourself to new and different people and exchanging ideas with them can be so satisfying and helps to keep us current.

Play nice is not just for kindergarten, do not take what is not yours, give credit when credit is due and if you can’t say anything nice, it might be best not to say anything at all.

It has been said, “be kind to the people you meet on the way up as they are the same ones you will see on your way back down.” Treat others with the same respect that you would like and most often it works. The way you treat the custodian says a lot more about you than how you treat the President.

Many of my good and best friends were born out of my professional relationships. Colleagues that began as co-workers and became friends and like family to me.

  • Self-Motivation

After leaving the restaurant business I began what I consider my professional career and a more structured job in real estate. I was always self-motivated however becoming a Realtor would demand it.

On my first day in my new office my manger showed me my desk. I had a desk and a phone and a good luck from her. It was up to me to make it happen. I went to training and I mingled with my new associates. If I wanted to be successful, I had to go out andsecure my own buyers and sellers and I did. As the youngest person in my office at just 26 years old, I consistently ranked in the top 25% in sales and listings. I was hungry and I wanted to succeed. Clearly, I was not the most experienced Realtor in my office, but I had the drive, the determination and self-motivation.    

No one is going to do it for you, set goals and go after them!

  • Leadership

Leadership begins and ends at the top, I have been fortunate to work with and for great leaders. I learned so much from them and witnessed many styles. My first favorite manager was from real-estate where my manager had such a high opinion of you that you never wanted to let her down. Marianne believed in you, period. Her positivity was contagious and a winning strategy.

The second would be when I went into non-profit and was managed by the President of the organization.  He was/is a visionary and encouraged you to take risks. His take on a mistake was “at least you were trying” and under his leadership, I became part of a 16-member leadership team. We gathered every two weeks and learned from different paradigms. It was a room with teachers, doctors, lawyers, social workers, development team, facilities managers, admissions, and others. We came from different fields but were united in the same mission of advancing the organization. Dr. Ross was secure in his position and loved hearing a variety of perspectives. We all learned from our leader and from each other.          

I like to think that my management style is a reflection of both and much of what I learned along the way. 

  • Professionalism

Dress the part, act the part and get the part. If you are a professional, it is important that you present yourself as one in your attire and your actions and in all of your communications. Model the behavior you want to see in others and that you have witnessed yourself in the leaders who have succeeded.  

First impressions matter and how you present yourself in the professional arena makes a difference, it is worth the effort.

  • Building Your Sphere of Influence

A large supportive network of people that believe in you might just be your greatest asset. It is so important to build your sphere of influence. Remember the people that opened a door for you and helped you to be successful. Make them proud and stay connected to them.

Without supportive people and “references” it is almost impossible to gain traction in your profession. The network that I created in business and in my real estate career were paramount in my success as many followed me into my transition into non-profit work.

  • Mentoring

For about six years I worked for a “mentoring” organization that served youth and young adults. It was there where I learned the importance of mentoring and teaching young people. First by modeling professional behavior and then by engaging interns that would gain career knowledge and experience by working along the side of a professional.

My first true intern came from Loyola University and was a young girl from Chicago, she was a dream come true. She needed college credits and hours and I received much than I can ever express. She was great at marketing, business and writing and computer savvy. I could bring her into a committee of established professionals, and she held her own. We did much together from shopping at big box stores to hosting a black-tie gala successfully. It was hard to see her go. For many years I served as her reference and I was always delighted to help her move forward on your career path.

To this day I enjoy entertaining interns and helping them learn more about development and fundraising. And in all honesty if it was not for young people and many interns, I would never have gained the first-hand knowledge of social media and many tech related apps and computer related programs and technology. Mentoring is a definite win-win!

  • Volunteer

Give back and volunteer! I started volunteering at just 13 years of age, first as a Candy-Striper in our local Catholic hospital where my parents worked and later as a C.I.T. (Counselor in Training) for a day camp and 2-week resident camp during several summers. It was so fun working in the hospital and taking patients their mail and flowers. My “pay” was lunch in the hospital cafeteria and I loved it! I learned CPR and how to make beds with “hospital corners” and I learned the value of commitment and my confidence grew knowing that I was contributing and had value.

My camp experience was wonderful and still after 40 years I am friends with another C.I.T. that I came up with and worked together at both the day camp and resident camp for many years. Memories were made and many skills were developed.

Today many organizations insist on age 18 but when I was coming up it was the most natural thing to do as soon as you became a teenager.   

There are always volunteer opportunities within most organizations, using your skills and giving back as a volunteer is meaningful work and benefits both the volunteer and the organization. A volunteer experience can last a day, a week, month or become ongoing. If you are talented in your field most organizations will want to engage you and welcome you with open arms.

  • Skill Sets That Transfer

Most of the skills I acquired in the business world were easily transferable to the nonprofit arena. In my mind my own personal mantra has always been “if you are out of money you are out of business” it didn’t matter if it was a for-profit organization or a nonprofit organization.

We have all had those “starter” jobs in retail or in restaurants and these are the jobs that teach us customer service, and how to work with others. Skills learned in “starter” jobs are skills that we take with us during our entire career. No one is spinning more plates and organized and prioritizes like that of a good waitress or bartender.

Every group every job and every work-related experience taught me lessons that I carried forward, the way I responded as an employee was not the same way I responded as a business owner or as a manager, however as I grew in my profession the stepping- stones is where I gained much knowledge that allowed me to be an even better executive officer and director.

  • It is Your Career Path

Every person has their own unique career path, some will have a variety of jobs and opportunities others may settle down with very few jobs and be equally as successful. There have been positions I wanted or thought I did that never materialized, others that fell in my lap and some I all out went after. Positions came to me without me asking for them, and I have even accepted positions that I almost immediately left because once inside I knew it just was not for me. It is okay to try and then make another decision and turn around and say, thanks but no thanks.

Taking classes are important but so is on the job learning and every class and every position held brings about opportunities for learning and networking.

Not every job is for every person, the culture and the environment must fit on both sides to truly be successful.  Only you know what is right for you, believe in yourself and go after what you want and make it happen. 

Be open and willing to learn and adjust and adapt as your career path deems fit and always do what is right for you!

Bernadette on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer

Books by Bernadette on Amazon and B&N

Living during a pandemic

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Living during a Pandemic

By Bernadette A. Sahm

Recently a question came to me about how has life been and changed for you while living through COVID-19. So many thoughts came to mind …

First thought was I am having lunch tomorrow with a friend of almost 25 years, we haven’t seen each other in over a year since before the pandemic started, normally we get together a few times every year. Together we are high energy and we talk about everything from careers to family, to friends, our travels our husbands and more.  We know one another well. I am already viewing tomorrow as more than “lunch” but like much needed “therapy” we need our girlfriends. I know that I do.

I have another dear friend who I met with twice during the pandemic one breakfast and one breakfast birthday celebration. We wore our masks and socially distanced. As awkward as it was initially we didn’t hug but after our lunch visit we did, that hug was “normal” and we needed and wanted some ”normalcy” in our lives. I walked away feeling healthier and lighter and in a much better frame of mind.    

The thing I miss most about the pandemic is seeing people, being with friends and with family and with co-workers. Right behind that would be travel. Since we are empty nesters the last several years we have travelled quite a bit. I miss it. We are fortunate to own a second home at the beach. It has been a lifesaver for two people that work hard and then enjoy weekends away.

During COVID-19 I have cooked more, baked more and read more books. Although I have struggled with writing. I have followers of my blog who have messaged me, “Are you there? Are you still there?”  I just haven’t had much to say. I don’t have the answers, like everyone else it is a struggle and a challenge living through a pandemic when all our “norms” have been uprooted.  

During this time I am most thankful that I am at peace. I am at peace with all my relationships and this was not always the case. I can’t imagine going through this period of time with any open wounds or unresolved conflicts. It would just be even more of a burden and difficult to manage during an already heavy period in time.

I am grateful for the work that I do and with the people that I work with who have become like family. A true blessing!  The one thing I learned that has been a saving grace is stop thinking about all the things you can’t do right now because of COVID and focus on all the things that you can do. This came after a much needed and most welcome face-to-face meeting with my Supervisor.

Often, I think about young people who are missing out on normal rites of passage such as prom, graduation, sports, and normal school related activities. As sad as the suicide rates have become with young people, it doesn’t shock me. My sense is that they do not have enough life experience to fully grasp that this will pass. It is not normal and will not last forever. 

Regularly and often I count my blessings, I have a loving husband and a precious pooch at home. I have work that is satisfying and relationships in my work that are meaningful and life affirming. So when I feel like complaining I remind myself just how blessed my life has been and continues to be before, during and God-willing after COVID-19.

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer

Motherless Daughter

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Motherless Daughter
By Bernadette A. Moyer

reflection

The mother is the one person who is supposed to love you no matter what. But what happens to us, our mother’s daughter when we lose the love, support and companionship of our mother? My mother didn’t speak to me for the last 23 years of her life. Our ending would come full circle with trauma just like our beginning. I was told that my mother almost bled to death when I was born and that they sent me home with my father and kept my mother in the hospital.

At the age of seven, I lived with my grandparents at their hotel so that my mother could finish school and receive her nursing degree as a registered nurse. During that year when I was in the second grade I got the mumps. When she finally came to the hotel she wouldn’t risk seeing me since the mumps were contagious. She didn’t want to get sick and miss school. I remember looking out the second floor hotel window as requested. My mother was in her uniform with her white starched nursing cap, white dress, white hose and white shoes. She was learning to take care of sick people and here I was her sick daughter and all she could offer me was a curbside wave. A seven year old won’t understand this kind of a decision; they just want the love and care of their mother.

There was a time when I told my mother I was sorry for any trouble I may have caused her. Her response to me was, “You were easy you never asked for anything.” Then I had this light bulb moment, I watched my mother work double-shifts to raise her five daughters, I watched my sisters constantly going after her for what they wanted. I was so afraid to ask for anything because it might be the one that sent her over the edge. So early on, I learned to take care of myself.

When I was just 300 miles into the 1,000 mile road trip I was on, I received a phone message from my cousin. She said, “Please call me back right away, it’s not good just call as soon as you get this message.” I retrieved this message at a gas station when my husband was inside paying for our gas. I immediately called her back. I could tell by her voice it had to be my grandmother or my mother. My grandmother recently turned 101 years old, so I thought it was probably her. But it wasn’t … it was my mother, she died. It was unexpected but she was gone. By the time my husband returned to the car, I was crying. How could she? How could she go home to meet her maker, to see God our Father without any reconciliation with me, her second born daughter?

She never once tried to make peace with me, not one time in 23 years and now she was gone. Less than an hour later I received a written message from my dad’s widow, “I think you should know that your mother passed away early this morning.” My dad’s widow would inform me just after my cousin. Not one of my four sisters ever called me, but it would be my cousin and later the women who replaced our mother, my father’s second wife who thought “you should know” that my mother was dead.

When I was twenty-eight years old I had to tell my mother that her husband was doing the unthinkable, he was abusing a child. My mother and I never had a fight, there were never words between us about what I learned and ultimately communicated to her. That last Christmas after telling her I would receive my last gift that she would ever give to me. It was a large bottle of Frangelico liquor and a $50 bill. It was the coldest and most impersonal gift she ever gave to me. I was certain the liquor was a re-gift and the $50 a last minute gesture.

As the years passed it would silently become clear to me that our relationship was over. Holidays came, birthdays, family affairs, special events and I was excluded. I would learn at different periods of time throughout the years that she came to town and when she did, she never once called me or tried to see me.
“Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from inside. We think that hating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do, we do to ourselves.” The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom.

For many years I had anger toward my mother until I came to acceptance. Early on I did the grief work. I had to process the loss so that I could get over it. I went to one therapist who said, “You need to live your life as though your mother is dead.” I tried this I told a few friends that she died. She had in a sense, and yet she was very much alive even though for me, it was a death. It was the death of my mother and our mother-daughter relationship.

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I have learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.” Gilda Radner

Through the years I filled the void that she left with “other mothers” older women who became my friends, my mentors and supporters. I had many girlfriends who shared their mothers and their friendship. These relationships helped me to fill the hole left by my own mother. “Ultimately, the abandoned daughter is never completely abandoned unless she, too, leaves herself behind.” Cause and Effort from Motherless Daughters, The Legacy of Loss by Hope Edelman.

Through my girlfriends I witnessed other mother-daughter relationships. Friends who are close to their mothers, have the normal holidays together, shopping and lunch dates and many who are now caring for their aging mothers as they assist them with their health needs. And I have girlfriends who have strained but intact relationships with their mothers. Some who have lost their mother due to untimely deaths. It is never easy. It has been said that the mother-daughter relationship is the most complex and complicated of all relationships, can offer the greatest of rewards and the most difficult of challenges.

The following “Dear Mom” letter would have been included in a book I wrote and never published. Reading it now I still sense the rawness and wrongness and yet I am finally and completely at peace.

Dear Mom,
It has been a few weeks now since you have passed on … there is so much I want to say… Was it your intention to leave me out of your obituary? Why would you deny that I was your second born daughter? Did you think I wanted this? Did you think I wanted to hurt you by calling your husband an abuser? What gain would I have had in doing that? Did you think my life was easier without you in it? Did you think my children’s life was better without having their grandmother? Well, it wasn’t!

I have a card you wrote to me in 1984 where you write, “You are a daughter to be proud of.” If you were proud of me back then you would be even prouder today since I have so many more accomplishments. What was I supposed to do when a child came to tell me your husband was abusing them? Did you think I wanted to believe that? I NEVER wanted to hurt you Mom!

As a kid I watched how hard you worked in your field of nursing and I knew how respected you were for your intelligence and drive. Throughout the years I tried to reach out to you first by sending my children’s milestone achievements and then years later a card. All that cards said was, “don’t you think you should try at least once before you die to make it right between us?” Inside I included all my contact information. And then after your husband died I tried again for the last time but never once did you respond to me.

I forgave you years ago Mom, I let it go so I could be free and light and happy. But you couldn’t forgive me? What did I do that was so unforgivable that you would deny me as your daughter?

Fast forward…
Today February 4, 2016 my mother would have celebrated her 80th birthday and today I am no longer living with an open wound. I have healed and I am truly happy. The people I surround myself with are supportive and loving and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I also feel her peace from heaven above, like me, she now knows the truth too.

For almost 5 year this writing sat in a “draft” file and now I finally decided to publish it.

Update 1/21/22

My mother wasn’t some uneducated toothless unloved wonder, she was highly educated and obtained her master’s degree in her 50’s after having five daughters. She returned to college being a divorced single mother. She came from a large close knit Italian family with three brothers and three sisters. Many people loved and respected her work accomplishments as she had a big personality and a ton of drive and determination to succeed. Her downfall was that she was the classic enabler. First my father who was once a raging alcoholic and a man that she married twice and divorced twice. Then there was her second husband who became known to me as a child abuser. 

Next month February 2021 my mother would have celebrated her 85th birthday. She died ten years ago. She has been gone from my life for more than half my life. I forgave her years ago. I did it for myself and for my own health and wellness. I am still that same “daughter to be proud of” that she spoke of decades ago. Things happen in life. Some things we learn from and some things we repeat, some make us bitter and some make us better. It is always our choice.

Peace and love to my mother and all of the motherless daughters out there, you are not alone.  

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer
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