I made my favorite thing for dinner tonight … a reservation.
Sally Ann Corbley, AKA, The General
It was Saturday August 22nd, 2015, around 9am. Her breathe was shallow and I knew her time was about to come. Sitting next to her elevated hospital bed I noticed the rain coming down outside the window, my parents bed covers neatly made, and my mother’s dresser filled with clutter and covered in knick knacks. I stroked her velvety skin and reassured her that she could go. That she could leave me, if she needed to. I let go that day knowing my life would never be the same. A hole which would be impossible to fill and a piece of my heart that would go along with her. She was ready and I was going to have to be ok. As my mother grew paler her sips of air got smaller and smaller until they finally stopped. It was 9:22am. She was gone.
My mother Sally Ann, whom we lovingly referred to as “The General”, was the OG #ladyboss. If Sally Ann wanted something done, dammit, it was going to get done. A teacher, wife, and mother she always seemed to live life on her own terms and her generosity appeared infinite. She was the teacher at school who stock piled snacks in her drawer for the kids who never had enough to eat and would often surprise fellow staff members with an impromptu pizza lunch. Several children were the recipients of her kindness when she found out they needed glasses but could not afford them and she was even known to pay the occasional electricity bill for a family in need. Maybe this was her way of giving back and thanking the universe for all she had. Maybe it was just who she was. Regardless, she had this MAGIC that made people feel special in even the most ordinary circumstances.
While all of these things are true about my Mother it is also true that this was not always my experience of her. For me, my mother was my biggest critic and she had a passive aggressive way of making me question all my choices. Oh Beth, is that what you’re going to wear today? Beth, don’t you think you’ve had enough to eat? So this is how your styling your hair now? Beth, that’s not very ladylike. When I was in middle school our cheerleading squad wore royal blue spandex leggings for a new dance routine we choreographed to “Everybody Walk Their Dinosaur”. My mother didn’t think wearing spandex leggings was appropriate for a girl my size so I was not allowed to participate. She pulled me out of the dance routine and I was crushed. At age ten she dropped me off at my first Weight Watchers meeting, which I attended alone, and left feeling both humiliated and traumatized. Something must be wrong with me, I thought, and the belief that my brain molded all of this into was: I’m worthless.
In the end I never felt good enough for my mother and I’ve had to learn to merge the magic of her with what was most painful. Like everything in life, there is always both. Light and dark. The things worth remembering and the things we wish we could forget. It’s funny how your perspective can shift so much when someone is no longer here. I find myself reflecting on all the things I wish I would have told her that I did appreciate about her when I had the chance. Things I wish I could have thanked her for: for teaching me that life is about the journey and not the destination, for teaching me how to be a great host (God you threw the BEST parties), for showing me an example of a strong minded independent woman, and for teaching me there is nothing that a little retail therapy can’t cure. Although, my credit cards might disagree with you.
The greatest gift she could have given me, it turned out, were the things I learned after her death. That I am the master of my own destiny. That I am the answer I am looking for. That no one but me is going to save me. She even helped me learn, more authentically, about who I was. Part of me wishes I could have learned these lessons while she was still alive. Then maybe we could have learned them together.
I’ve heard that when you see butterflies it’s a loved one coming to bless you with their presence. Since my mother’s passing, I have never seen so many butterflies. They are everywhere in my life now. I see them when I walk, when I travel, when I shop, when I explore, and when I visit people I love. I know it’s my Mom popping in to say hello and for now that’s enough. For all of you who have struggled with loss in any way, I’m with you. Let’s find the best in ourselves and take the best from our experiences. Let’s cherish the beautiful memories which sometimes can be more challenging to hang onto than the ones that have a glint of pain. Choose to do better. Choose to be better. Right now, right here, this moment, this place. Follow me and let’s do it together.
Love, Lashes and Lipstick