Capturing Moments in Time
July 30, 1979: “Please God take me before Joe and the kids. I just couldn’t bear it to lose them.”
This is an excerpt from my Mom’s personal journal. Little did she know how this one statement – of everything she wrote – would sting as much as it did, as I read it for the first time. Her prayer to God eventually came true on November 1987, my mom passed away at the age of 45. When I read this part of the journal, I immediately felt this squeeze in my chest… and then tears. Lots of tears. My poor Mom. How I miss her so.
Recently, my Dad came to visit me and my two daughters, and before he left he handed me a manila envelope. Inside of it were three journals. All that my Mom had written and I never knew they existed. I couldn’t believe it. I am sure most would scramble to open them, read them… see them. But for me… I put them in my bedside table and waited until I knew I would be alone and would have time. It was so precious to me. I haven’t had my Mom in over 20 years. I was so young when she died that I have very few memories of her (all good ones, though.)
So when I finally had time, I sat in the quiet of the house and opened her journals. Just to see her hand-writing was emotional for me. (That is what my Mom’s penmanship looked like! Amazing!) She starts by saying it is not a private journal – it is a journal to be read by her children someday. She wanted to chronicle time, her life and events. She didn’t write consistently – she wrote, as she says in the journal, “as the feeling moves me.” She writes:
April 5, 1968: “Last night Martin Luther King was asassinated in Memphis, Tenn. It is indeed a tragedy for he represented hope in that he preached non-violence. Now is the time I wonder about our world, our values and our destiny. We’ve lost something. I fear that Man will ultimately destroy himself if he can’t learn to live together peacefully.”
June 5, 1968: “Senator Robert Kennedy shot in California during victory ceremony in primary. At this point he is extremely critical… Once again I begin to wonder… what is happening in the U.S.?”
June 6, 1968: “ RFK is dead.”
July 16, 1969: “Believe or not, we are on our way to a landing on the moon. Today astronauts Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins were launched by the Saturn 5 Rocket on the Apollo 11 Mission to the Moon!!!!”
July 20, 1969, 10:51p.m. Sunday: “Neil Armstrong steps on Moon and says, ‘One small step for man… One giant leap for mankind.’
July 30, 1979: “On July 23, 1979 at 10:59pm, I lost my Daddy. What can I say? How do you write about losing someone you love? He suffered so. He was a good father…. helped me all the time. I pray God will keep him safe for me when we meet.”
When I was done I sat and cried. How I miss her so! But then I was suddenly so motivated. I needed to do the same. I needed to start a journal. Where to begin? I needed a book I liked and would be easy for me to write in… after all… in our day and age we type everything! Hand-writing has become obsolete! I settled on a notebook I liked and started to write. I used my Mom’s journals as a guide.
Here are some things I used to help me guide me:
1.) Always start with the date and year.
2.) Tell things that may seem silly, but really, when I read my Mom’s journals, I loved that she included! For example, the price of stamps, gas, what her mortgage was, what a car costs, etc. (I couldn’t believe when my Mom wrote that she made a little more than $300.00 a month working as a teacher!)
3.) Talk from the heart. My Mom spoke what was her truth. What she felt when she lost her Dad and what she felt about herself and our Country.
4.) You don’t have to write every day. That may make it seem more like a job or something to add to your ‘to do list.’ When you feel it is important… write!
5.) Write about the birth of your children. It was so heartwarming to read about my birth and what my Mom felt about me.
6.) Most importantly, even though my Mom wrote about tough things like assassinations, the death of her Dad, Vietnam, etc. My Mom still kept it positive. I felt VERY loved after reading it. She never complained about her children and her husband. She repeated over and over in the journal how much she loved my Dad, my brother and I.
7.) Just start. Don’t worry if your children are already 10 or 12. Just start. It’s never too late. And just talk from your heart and where you are right now.
8.) And finally, along with writing a journal, my mom wrote both me and my brother one letter each, sealed it, mailed it back to herself and kept it safe. It was a letter to talk to us ‘privately’ about how she felt about us individually. It is the most precious gift I have ever received.
I am hoping starting these journals for my two daughters (3 and 16 months) will help them know who I was, what I believed in and just how much I adore them.
My Mom wrote her journals starting at age 24 and wrote my special letter when I was a baby, without knowing the significance of them. Without knowing her fate would be that she would succomonded to cancer at such a young age. What a wonderful woman. I feel like I will always have a little bit of her with me now. And that is priceless.