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  • Writer's pictureAllan Shedlin

My Mom is As Important in Her Absence As She Was in Her Presence

Updated: 2 hours ago

By Scott Beller

DADvocacy Consulting Group Director of Communications and Daddying Editor

As I sort through photos to print for framing and hanging in our new home, I've been thinking – again – about my mom. Many of these pictures I know I shared with her on social media at the time, or printed and framed for her on her birthday, or for Christmas, or for Mother’s Day. The newer photos, those I’ve taken of my kids since their grandmother died two years ago, are the ones I long for her to see most.

Those are the ones that bring the emotions to the surface. What DCG founder Allan Shedlin would call the “emotional ambush.”

There’s something else Allan often says about dads that’s also true about moms, particularly those that are no longer here: "They are as important in their absence as they are in their presence."

This past year of COVID isolation, I've been even more aware of how much I miss talking to my mom, the many occasions she missed that she would have absolutely loved (more accurately: occasions when she was missed and we’d have loved sharing with her), and a few things I'm honestly glad she missed.

Here are just a few things my mom missed in the past year:

  • Social distancing with her family in the Outer Banks at her daughter’s (my sister's) beach condo – one with a giant balcony overlooking the water, where she could relax, beverage in hand, and be refreshed by the ocean breeze and be warmed by the love of her kids, grandkids, and great-grands

  • Her 12-year-old granddaughter coming back from injury to earn her black belt in Tae Kwon Do

  • The chance to cheer (and potentially embarrass) her granddaughters during games

  • Watching our new house take shape and celebrating our move into the new home (also listening to me complain about every mistake our builder has made along the way!)

  • My Grandmother's (her mother’s) post-COVID death and funeral last summer

  • Enduring COVID lockdown while she rehabbed in the assisted living facility where she died. That she passed away just prior to the pandemic, in hindsight, was the smallest of blessings. My mom had several high-risk factors, including her age and diabetes, and I try not to think how much she might have suffered had she contracted the virus in such a place, as her mother did.

Small ways I’ve celebrated her this year:

  • During the holiday baking season (and around the time of her birthday, which is December 10), my 11-year-old and I made my mom’s legendary chocolate chip squares using her hand-written recipe. They weren’t quite the same but were still delicious. We may have overdone it with the chocolate chips.

  • Keeping music playing throughout the house as much as possible (currently and coincidentally, Alexa is treating me to Hal Ketchum's "Momma Knows the Highway")

  • On her birthday and again today, I listened to the saved voicemails I still have from her. Just to hear her say “I love you,” and “Give my little darling(s) hugs and kisses.” One is from April 27, 2019, when she called to thank my daughters for the postcards they sent her while we were on Spring Break in Sanibel Island. The other is her checking up on my oldest on May 4, 2019, after she broke her thumb playing soccer. Granny wanted her to know she had put “something special in the mail” for her. She’d first considered an edible arrangement or flowers but thought it would be better to send her a little spending money instead to let her decide what she wanted…or needed. Mom wanted to cheer her up. Thought maybe she’d like to have some money saved to spend when we went on our trip to Italy later that year. In just 1 minute and 28 seconds, you get enough of a glimpse to have a sense of my mom’s character: gracious, caring, generous, loving. Granny. But, of course, it will never be enough.

Times I’ve missed talking to her:

  • Every day.

  • January 20, 2021, the day our 1st woman Vice President was inaugurated

  • When working through the intense emotions of moving from our old house to the new in late-January

  • On my daughters’ birthdays, my birthday, and every holiday in between.

Most recently, I missed her this past Monday. That morning, I got a call from EJ Labossiere, one of the two brothers I mentored starting back in 2002. EJ told me his little brother Gabriel died on May 1. He was just 26.

An 8-year-old Gabriel and I

You may remember Gabriel from his guest post here on the blog last summer. To celebrate him and honor his memory, we’ll rerun that post next week with an updated introduction.

My mom knew both Gabe and EJ because I often took them by her house on our way to or from our weekend outings together. Sometimes going to see her was the highlight of their day. Mine too. She embraced Gabe and EJ as two of her own children. Fact is, I may never have even considered volunteering to be Gabe and EJ's "big brother" had it not been for the caring and compassionate example my mom set for me. Her love brought us together.

Hearing the shocking news about Gabriel brought on a different kind of pain than when I lost my dad in 2017, mom in 2019, or my grandmother last summer. Gabe and EJ provided me with my first experience in parenting before I was a parent. Like my mom, I’ve always considered them two of “my kids,” even though I haven’t been a regular part of their lives since they were in high school. I can only imagine the pain Gabe’s mother, Karen, father, Evans, and sister, Bianca, must be feeling.

I will see and express my condolences to Gabe’s family this weekend when they hold a vigil for Gabe, and later at his funeral. I grieve for them. This week, I’ve desperately needed to share that grief with someone. In my mom’s absence, my wife and Allan have shared that role. Although I have 1 minute and 28 seconds of her voice saved, my Mom can’t hear me now. And I miss her beyond words.

So, this Mother’s Day weekend, I have but one wish for every mother, including my wife Elisabeth, sister Jodi, aunt Barbara, niece Brittni, cousins Cari and Jill, and my many friends who are moms. May you all feel loved and appreciated when you are around and know that your families love you and ache for you to come home when you are not.

One of the photos I've newly framed to hang in my new home office

Scott Beller is the proud, imperfect dad of two mighty girls, Morgan and Lauren, and also Editor of the Daddying blog, DCG's Director of Communications, and a decent soccer coach. He's a seasoned writer and PR agency veteran with more than 25 years of experience helping organizations of all sizes reach audiences and tell their stories. Prior to launching his own creative communications consultancy in 2003, he led PR teams with some of the world’s most respected agencies, including Fleishman-Hillard and The Weber Group. As a consultant, he’s helped launch two other parenting advocacy nonprofits with DCG founder Allan Shedlin. His first book, Beggars or Angels, was a ghostwritten memoir for the nonprofit Devotion to Children's founder Rosemary Tran Lauer. He was formerly known as "Imperfect Dad" and Head Writer for the Raising Nerd blog, which supported parents in inspiring the next generation of scientists, engineers, and creative problem solvers. He earned his BA in Communications from VA Tech.


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