…Yet another lovely voice.
Rebecca Ellsworth Menzie enjoys being a wife and mother, baking, quilting, reading, gardening, triathlon-ing, blogging, and most recently writing her mom's life story.
After you read Rebecca's letter to her mother, will you share your thoughts with her and us?
In July 1991, when I was 21, and serving an 18-month volunteer mission in Texas, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer; she passed away in May 1992 at our family home in Agoura, CA with my dad and her sister by her side.
At the age of 38, my mother (a mother to 9 children, ages 2-15) wrote the following entry in her journal.
January 13, 1982
Jeri Edwards was in town for a few hours, so Helen had several stop over and say “hi”. I truly love Jeri. I’ve just finished reading, Eliza, and kept thinking of Jeri throughout. She’s one of those special, vibrant, fulfilled women who just radiates love of life, the Lord, and family, and of being! I’m just one of the hundreds who count her their close friend, but I’m honored to be counted too. I wish I could just sit and visit with her for hours-just share my heart and get more of a glimpse of hers.
It would be quite something to be the kind of woman she is. Everyone loves being around her. She is truly called “blessed” by all who know her. She’s intelligent, philosophical, social, spiritual, joyful, creative, kind, compassionate–all that I’d ever, ever hope to be. I feel as though I really was the caboose of heaven–just sober, depressed, boring, stifled me.
Present-day (21 May 2009)
It’s hard to believe that you wrote this journal entry just 10 years prior to your death. From my perspective, especially since I've become a mother, you were a wise and faithful mother and woman. It’s hard to read your self criticism from 1982 when I see you so differently.
Yet, there was a time when your words could have been my own. When Wayne and I were engaged, now 15 years ago, after a visit to his family I walked out of his parent's home easily loving each sibling and parent, but feeling insignificant compared to Wayne’s mom.
She was superwoman in my eyes. She decorated, cooked, and crafted at a professional level. Next to her I felt like an immature, untalented person. I was so sure Wayne would be disappointed, that very evening I let him know that he was not marrying someone as talented as his mom. Certain that I couldn't possibly accomplish all that she did in a day, I cried, “I don’t even know how to tole paint!” When Wayne replied, “What is tole painting?”, I realized he wasn't looking for a professional crafter, chef or interior decorator; he was looking for me, and loved me.
I still admire Wayne’s mom’s talent and drive; she is a beautiful woman. But I no longer feel as if I'm in her shadow. As I've pursued my own path I've discovered talents and capabilities I never imagined I'd possess. I not only can make more than tossed salad, you will be happy to know that one of Wayne's former co-workers recently told us he still remembers the strawberry pie I sent to work with Wayne over 10 years ago. (I'm so glad you left the recipe!)
What a relief it is to finally know that I don't exist to fit another person's mold,
but to be true to my own self, to grow at my own pace.
In reflecting further on your letter, I'm reminded of my recent lunch date with a group of women, most of whom I was meeting for the first time. Each were beautiful, bright, articulate women, all of whom I'd gladly choose as a friend. Our different life experiences and thoughtful, candid self-expression made the conversation rich.
Toward the end of lunch, the conversation turned to possibilities…. Whitney asked, “What dreams do you have and how can I help you realize them?” The conversation wasn’t a spotlight on any one of us, it was a spotlight on each of us as individual women of worth.
Somehow, naturally, and without fully realizing how important it was, I realized I needed to share your story. My dear mother, you didn’t think you made a difference in the world. You felt “sober, depressed, boring, stifled,” and yet you expressed the secret, difficult feelings so many of us women feel, or have felt at one time or another… your words are like a friend saying, “On some level, I can relate. You're not alone.”
Thank you for keeping a journal. You thought it was pathetically sporadic, but I find it priceless. Through your words I know that you know how to help me as I journey through motherhood and womanhood. I’m sorry that you ever felt small, or that you had little to offer. I know differently about you. I see greatness in you, for I see the ripple effect of your love, devotion, and faith. Even as I write these words, I know you have spoken them to me, and I to my loved ones. Why is it so challenging to say these truths to one's own self?
I know differently about you.
I see greatness in you.
Wherever you are, I hope you can see the legacy of your life's offering. I hope that you see beauty, intelligence, strength, and honesty, and that you hear your loved ones call you “blessed.”
I love you more,
Because Rebecca's mother provided an unvarnished account of her life, Rebecca and her 9 siblings have a ‘real' person from whom to draw inspiration. As we increasingly journal publicly, do we risk not teaching our children how to work through tough times?