‘When my mother passed, she left behind an old tape she recorded in secret. She made it in increments. I couldn’t cry. It was my job to stay strong. I’ve listened to it dozens of times.’

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“Yesterday, I stood in front of the mirror, surprised to ‘see’ my Mother staring back at me. It took my breath away. It seemed like just yesterday I was a beautiful young woman and she was still here with me.

Courtesy of Debi Nevel Drecksler
Courtesy of Debi Nevel Drecksler

In that mirror, I saw her soulful eyes. I couldn’t look away. At 68, I have now outlived the courageous woman who raised me.

Courtesy of Debi Nevel Drecksler

My Mother died in 1991 from a painful, debilitating disease that slowly stole her life. I was 40-years-old. During her time on this earth, she taught me to dance freely to music that inspires me, write words that flow from my heart, and draw outside the lines. She was my mentor, the person who encouraged me to be strong and speak my truth, regardless of the consequences.

When you watch the parent you love drowning as they try to stay afloat, you reach for them, even though you know you can’t save them. You cradle their frail body and promise you won’t let go. The roles completely reversed. I was no longer the child.

Courtesy of Debi Nevel Drecksler

As this painful scenario repeated itself for days, weeks, months, and years, I refused to see the darkness. But one warm September day, wrapped in the arms of her soulmate of over four decades, my beautiful, brilliant Mother took her last breath.

The funeral was overwhelming. I couldn’t cry. It was my job to stay strong. With four children, I was painfully aware of the fact that I was now Motherless. Instantly, I went into protector mode, reassuring my children this will NEVER happen to them. ‘I’ll be there forever,’ I told them.

When I see myself, I am constantly faced with the reality that I am now older than she was when she died. I often find myself shutting my eyes and stepping into my reflection. In my fantasies, my mother and I merge as one and make our way fearlessly through this next chapter of life.

When my mother passed, she left behind an old tape. She made it in increments as her health declined throughout the years. In this agonizing account of her journey through hell, she expressed sorrow for putting those she loved, especially her husband, through this horrific journey. I’ve listened to it over and over again, clutching the ancient tape recorder as I release buckets of tears. I’ve heard it dozens of times.

Courtesy of Debi Nevel Drecksler

When I close my eyes, I hear my mother’s words: ‘Embrace this stage of life with fearlessness. Do NOT allow your age to define your vision of who you ARE, what you can DO, or who you can be.’

Today, I honor her by choosing to look in the mirror and see beyond an aging face that no longer resembles my youth.

I choose to see a face lined with wisdom and many years of life experience.

I choose to see eyes that will touch your heart, if you take the time to look at me.

I choose to see a smile that still has the ability to illuminate a room.

I see my Mother.

I am 68 years old and I refuse to let society question my beauty and worth.

I am authentic me and I am beautiful.”

Courtesy of Debi Nevel Drecksler

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Debi Nevel Drecksler of Candler, North Carolina. You can follow her journey on her blog here. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our free email newsletter.

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