Listen to Your Mother will always be entwined with memories of my parents’ last days, an unexpected avenue for processing their loss. My LTYM story is about receiving and sharing the truth that “you are deeply, deeply loved and so cherished”; the closing words in a note I found from my mom, the message I received at the grocery store from a display chockfull of pink beady-eyed Beanie Babies, the comfort two of these pink creatures gave my mother during what turned out to be her last days on earth, an email I wrote my mom that she never got to read.
Through the encouragement of Misti Pryor, Executive Producer and Director of LTYM-OKC, I wrote my story several weeks after my mom died. As she did with many contributors Misti encouraged me to submit a piece. She knew of my mom’s support of my writing and also of her recent death. After listening to a piece by Shannon Hahn “She’ll Need a Dress” (LTYM Northwest Arkansas 2012) about her choosing her mother’s funeral dress Misti wrote me this message:
It may very well be too soon and no pressure whatsoever. But with our conversation about your writing…well…Shannon’s words resonated with me when I posted this on my wall today. She said, “I’d just like to add that facing my pain like this was freeing. Everyone deserves to feel that.” Maybe consider writing for LTYM. It might just be the risk you’re looking for and the band-aid too.
I listened to Shannon’s story and wept at my computer. Her words so tender and so strong. I wrote Misti saying both her and Shannon’s words inspired me to submit a story. Whether my piece was chosen or not, I knew putting it on paper would be worthwhile and enough. At times tears flowed with grief as I remembered my mom and her beautiful smile amongst the pain.
Within a few weeks word came that I was invited to live-audition my piece, but as I looked over the audition form these words stopped me short: If cast, there is a mandatory read-through / rehearsal 1:00 pm April 28, 2013 for all LTYM cast members at the Girl Scout Office (6100 N Robinson Oklahoma City).
You see April 28th would have been my mother’s 75th birthday. If my story was selected would I even be able to rehearse the story especially on this day? A personal commitment I made six months earlier to take more personal risk is what kept me from backing out. So I said “yes” trusting that if my story was selected courage would come when needed.
My dad was readmitted to the hospital several times over the next month and then a phone call in mid-April prompted my emergency trip to Colorado. My sister was unsure he would make it through the next 48 hours. I stayed with him and my sisters for the next few weeks taking each day as it came both the ups and the downs.
My dad’s health seemed to stabilize somewhat so I kept my plans to return to Oklahoma for the LTYM rehearsal. Captured in a memory I will always cherish, the day before I left I practiced reading my story with my sisters and my dad in his hospital room. What a joy to remember Mom in their presence and to speak these words from the story, “I just wanted to whisper in your ear that you are deeply, deeply loved and so cherished. By your family for sure (Dad, Marcie, Pam and me)…”
With this memory in my heart I met the LTYM cast members on April 28th and we read through our stories. Laughter, tears, joys, sorrows, memories both old and new…all precious. By the end I knew that the courage to share my story came from my fellow cast members. The safety in that room; the gentleness. Their stories gave me courage to tell my story. That’s the way it is with Listen To Your Mother and I experienced it again just a few days later when my sisters called with news that my father passed away. Heartbroken, but grateful he was no longer in pain I wept in my husband’s embrace. Later that morning my sisters and I started working through the practical things that needed to be done. Both sisters were emphatic that they wanted me to stay and read for the show to honor of my mom and my dad. I messaged Misti and she asked permission to share my news with the LTYM city directors. “Prayers are lifting you up from Spokane to Providence” is what she later wrote. That evening she forwarded beautiful comforting messages from across the country.
My fellow OKC cast members and I spoke our stories on May 5. As we walked onto the stage I happened to see my husband’s face in the audience, a tiny glint of light catching his face and I felt calm. When my turn came I walked to the podium thinking about my sisters feeling their presence and their prayers AND I also felt my LTYM cast members behind me. My strength from their strength. My courage from their courage.
Listen To Your Mother was a balm to my soul during this tumultuous time. A gift not a burden. A safe place to share my heart from writing down the words, auditioning, rehearsing, and finally the show. Every single moment immersed and carried in love.
Watch Lisa’s video HEREby