Remembering Mom

Mother’s Day for me is always bittersweet – it’s a time to enjoy my kids (and be pampered a little). It’s a time to reconnect with other moms and let them know that they’re appreciated. And it’s a time to thank my own mom for all she’s done  — as a parent, confidante and trusted guide. This is my sixth Mother’s Day without her.

A true coal miner’s daughter, Billie Jo Siler was born on Sept. 17, 1939, in Pruden — once a tiny coal mining town straddling the Kentucky-Tennessee border in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  She was the youngest of seven children (six girls, one boy), and as was common during those days, began smoking when she was only 16. A tomboy and a hard worker, she joined the Air Force out of high school. She had a natural writing aptitude and was assigned to work on the base newspaper at Lackland AFB in Texas. She met my father after returning to civilian life. They married and eventually had four children. A devoted wife and mother, Mom made the holidays special and never knew a stranger. She also was my best friend. She passed away on Aug. 3, 2004, at age 64, when my son — her first grandchild — was only three weeks old. 

I spent that first year mourning her by penning a book, A Breath Away: Daughters Remember Mothers Lost to Smoking.  Each chapter featured a mother-daughter story (the common thread being the early loss of a loved one from lung cancer and other tobacco-related illnesses). Writing helped me grieve and heal; it made my loss less isolating. I discovered that many people have turned to the healing power of writing. In 2009, I attended a Wellness and Writing conference in Atlanta (see post, “Words Really Do Matter”) and that conference has since blossomed into an active online community interested in the connection between overall health and expressive writing as a therapeutic practice.
A lot has happened over the intervening years since Mom’s passing – including the arrival of eight grandchildren (thankfully, not all mine!). I often wonder what she would have thought of her kids as parents. I am in awe of her patience, grace and strength of character in the face of years and years of chronic illness and eventually, cancer. She never let it get in the way of what was most important to her — family. I know she would tell us to enjoy the blessings of family and never to take anything for granted. 
Here’s to you, Mom — for everything you continue to mean to me and my siblings…we miss you every day.