No Greater Love
Ever since I can remember, I’ve always wanted to make my mom proud. It wasn’t for acceptance. My mom loved me very much and was always extremely proud of me. I was always a sweet girl and an honor student. I rarely misbehaved and sort of stayed to myself. I was such a Mama’s Girl. I adored her so much. My dad? Well, we’ll save that for another time. But, there’s something about having your mom’s approval that makes you a special kind of happy.
My mom was diagnosed with cancer when I was 9 years old. I remember so clearly sitting in the hospital with my mom when she got the news. I wasn’t in the room with her, but I remember waiting in a room and she came in and told me about the hand she was just dealt. Ironically, Stepmom, starring Susan Sarandon and Julia Roberts, was one of my favorite movies at the time. I watched it all the time. Don’t ask me why I was so young watching grown movies. Enough, with JLo, was also one I watched maybe too often. Anyway! I immediately started to cry because all I thought about was Susan Sarandon’s character, Jackie, dying from cancer, leaving her two kids behind. My mom assured me that God was still in control, and I believed her. I still believe to this day.
Throughout my childhood, I witnessed my mom going through relapses and recovering, then eventually relapse again. No one was there, but my mom and me. My sister had grown up and gone off on her own. Family members didn’t live very close to us. I didn’t really have friends because I didn’t fit in anywhere with my peers. I know now that it’s because God called me out of the norm. My mom became my best friend. There were times I kept a distance from her because of my fear of losing her. I cried just thinking about it, so I tried not to. Seeing my mom sick weighed a lot on me. I didn’t say anything, though. How could I? She was the one who was sick. I had no room to complain. What I found helpful was imagining the future.
I grew up in the smallest city in Connecticut, Waterbury. (Side note: Not to speak badly about the city I’m from, but, if you’ve never been, it doesn’t need to be on your bucket list.) I dreamt of the day my mom would get the news that her cancer was gone and we’d move away to start a new life. Far fetched because she had an incurable kind of cancer. But, I had hope! I just knew God was gonna work a miracle. After all, my mom was the most spiritual woman I’ve ever known. Jesus was all in her. She heard from Him every single day. Whatever she said God told her, you could take as law. If I wasn’t a Christian, I’d think she was psychic. They say all mothers have Mother’s Intuition, but she had the Holy Spirit, which I’m sorry but chumps Mother’s Intuition anyday! Why wouldn’t God heal his daughter who loved Him dearly. She was faithful no matter what. She never talked down on God or questioned whether He was there or not. Surely, if we kept the faith, she’d get the life she deserved, right?
Wrong. I’d just like to pause and say none of us deserve life. We’re granted life through faith in Jesus Christ. He died for the murderer just as much as He died for my Mama, who was basically a saint.
Unpause. Okay, but my mom was faithful. She never treated anyone badly. She gave and gave and gave some more, even when she was dried up. She didn’t exactly have it easy in life and now this? This can’t be all God has for my mom in this life. I refused to accept it.
I remember when my friend was killed in high school and I had to go to therapy. I felt sick every time I ate and lost about 10-15lbs. I went to the doctor, who saw my bracelet that said “RIP Chloe Monique Ottman.” See, her story was all over the news and the doctor recognized her name and asked if we were friends. I said yes and the doctor recommended therapy. Apparently, my body was acting out from stress. So, I went to therapy. I ended up sharing my entire life story with a wonderful lady, named Sharon. (My mom’s name is Charon , but pronounced the same. Just throwing that out there.) One thing I remember so clearly was me telling Ms. Sharon that God wouldn’t let my mom die. I don’t believe that’s how the story ends. She looked me dead in the eyes and said, “ you sound angry when you say that.” I was a bit embarrassed. Why would my faith in God make me sound angry? But, I was. I was so mad that my mom had endure such pain all the time and she couldn’t do anything she wanted to do. I wasn’t angry at God, per se. I was angry at the situation because I didn’t understand. What I always learned growing up, though, is that we won’t always understand. God’s ways, thoughts, and desires are so much higher than our own. So, I just trusted what I knew, no matter what.
Around 16 years old, I started thinking about what I wanted to go to college for. There honestly wasn’t anything I was interested in that I knew of at the time. But, I had to go to college. I had to make Mama proud! I thought about all the different things I could do. Then, BOOM! I remembered Rachel from Friends (isn’t Jennifer Aniston great?!). Rachel had a job in the fashion industry. That sounded fun! So I Googled her job. Fashion Merchandiser? What’s that? I get paid to shop for a living?! I’m all over that! So I told my mom I wanted to go to college for Fashion Merchandising. She told me to look up the Fashion Institute of Technology. I did. I looked at all they had to offer and I looked back at my mom and said, “I’m going here.” SATs, college apps, and a few tears later, I made it! I was a freshman at FIT, one of the top fashion schools in the world! My mom was happy, so I was happy. It was so crazy living in Manhattan. It had its ups and downs. But, all in all, I had a great experience and made awesome friends. My only motivation my entire first year of college was not disappointing my mom. I wanted to graduate and become a successful CMO of a big cosmetic company (I decided I liked marketing better). I’d be rich and have a lavish lifestyle. But, what I really cared about even more than that was giving my mom money to pay her bills. See, basically my whole life we were surviving off of her social security check and struggled. God bless anyone who’s helped my mom out financially. I pray God blesses you ten times over. I wanted to pay her back. She always wanted a house with a wrap-around porch and a porch swing. So country, but I’m sure she got it from my grands, who are from Mississippi. I wanted to give her everything she ever wanted. That was reason I was even in college, still unsure of what my passion is.
Not long before I left my mom’s home for college, my mom said to me, “you’re the one who keeps me going everyday. I don’t know what I’m gonna do when you’re gone.” Geez. Talk about heartbreaking words from the woman you love most in the world. I still had to go. I wanted to and she wanted me to. Sure enough, right before finals, my mom had gotten worse. She lost so much weight when I went home for a weekend in April. She was delusional from the meds and always falling asleep. I didn’t see her stand up once out of her recliner when I was there. She wasn’t my mom anymore. I knew her struggle was coming to an end. I just knew in my gut. I knew my mom better than anyone and this time was different than any other relapse she had in the past. I was right.
When my mom went on to be with the Lord, I was kind of relieved. She didn’t have to hurt anymore. She always told me she prayed for a new body, and she got it. Obviously, her prayer wasn’t answered how we expected, but honestly, how many prayers are? But, at the same time, I had nothing anymore. My mom, my whole world was gone. I made a post about her on Facebook. It was short, but one thing I did say was, “when you went away, my heart went with you.” Those words couldn’t have been more true. I felt like I lost my sole purpose in life. When I say everything I did was for my mom, I really mean it. I didn’t know what to do with myself. Me going to college wasn’t for me. It was for her. That wasn’t my passion. What was I supposed to do? I told my mom one day that I’d probably stay in bed depressed for three months if she died. She said, “no you won’t, because if you did, the way I raised you would be for nothing.” She raised my sister and me to be strong women of God who never let life keep them down. Those words still resonate with me, 5 years later. So, I stayed strong. I never admitted how badly it affected me. My mom spoke life into me every day. She told me I was special. She told me I’m gonna be a superstar one day. She told me I was talented. She told me I was smart. She told me I was gonna do great things in my life. I believed every single thing she said.
But once she left, it’s like those words died in my life. I no longer felt like the girl she believed I was. Yeah, on the outside I had it all together. I left college and graduated beauty school instead. I had a good job. I was going to the gym every day and had a blast with my friends all the time. But, on the inside, I didn’t like myself. I was lost just going through the motions of life. It’s as if I only believed those wonderful things about myself because my mom did. Everyone else said the same things she said. I’m so grateful for the people who haven’t lost hope in me. My mom’s words touched me differently, though. Because she was all I knew. Family members could compliment me left and right, but I figured they were just being nice because they didn’t know me, at least not how my mom did. Remember, my mom and I were best friends. No disrespect to my loved ones, but hers was the only opinion that mattered to me. Not having her around to believe in me made me no longer believe in myself. I said I did, I said I loved myself, but those were complete lies. The more I ignored my problems, the more I did things that I’m not proud of. Then, I got to the point I borderline hated myself because then I was just doing things I knew my mom would be appalled at. There are no words to describe the guilt.
Now, if you’re not a Christian, you probably understand why I felt the way I did. But, if you are, I know what you’re probably thinking. Hun, God has a reason for everything. He’s making you stronger. All things work together for good. You’ll see your mother again one day. I completely agree. I told myself that all the time. I fully believe she remembers her family and is with us always. I grew up in a Christian home and I know that God loves us more than anyone else ever could. Without Him, we’re nothing. I knew that. I continually told myself that as long as I have God, I have everything. I’ll be okay without my mom for a while. You want to know where I went wrong with that? I only spoke. I never took action. I never opened my Bible for guidance, I didn’t set aside time for me and God, nothing. I said brief prayers here and there. I didn’t give Him access to me so He can give me the love I needed during the worst time of my life. It sounds dumb, doesn’t it? Why not let the Creator of love, love you? I finally had friends, I had attention that I never had before, and I knew I’d be giving that up by going to Jesus for my needs. My whole life, I saw dedicated Christians as (Father, forgive me) weirdos. They dressed weird and acted weird. I said, “if that’s what I have to become, I’ll wait til I’m older.”
Pause again. I’d never recommend that to anyone. 1. Because we never know when we’re gonna die and there’s no guarantee we’ll have time to repent. 2. We don’t know when Jesus will return. 3. I’m a fully dedicated Christian now and life is the best it’s ever been!
Fast forward a couple of years that I wish I could erase from my memory. God called me home. Ugh! I’m so grateful. And some more good news: Christians aren’t as weird as I thought! I was at church one day and a man I didn’t know from squat told me, “I feel like God is telling me to tell you that He wants to see yourself the way He sees you. There’s a sweetness about you and He’s delighted in the way He created you.” He said some other things that hit the nail right on the head. Good job, man! Sorry, I don’t remember his name. It really took some time of me getting closer to God for me to forgive myself of my past and being able to see myself the way He does. Funny! How He sees me is exactly how my mom saw me! She wasn’t just saying words because I’m her daughter. She was telling me how God made me, how HE sees me. This whole time I was worried about not having my mom’s approval anymore, when I still had GOD’S approval. He used my mom for almost my entire life to tell me how He created me to be. All I had to do was embrace it and allow Him to takeover. Wow, that was a lot easier than I made it!
Dear friend, no matter what you may be going through, God is there waiting for you with open arms. There are a lot of misconceptions about Jesus. There’s only one way to truly know Him, and that’s through relationship. Allow Him to show you how much He cares for you. You are amazing to Him. You may not have your #1 Fan on Earth rooting for you anymore, but the only stamp of approval you need is from God. He can love you in a way and take you places your “person” never could in a million lifetimes. Turn back to your first Love. Let Him give you peace about everything the enemy has and will throw at you.
*Spoiler Alert: The devil already lost!*
God created you and He gave you everything you have inside of you: your looks, personality, talents, etc. He saw it all in you before you were born. Don’t let anything keep you from seeing the wonderful creation God made of you. YOU are special. YOU are gonna be a superstar one day. YOU are talented. YOU are smart. YOU are gonna do great things in your life. That’s the reason you were created. God believes it, so you better, too! Let God use you for His glory and see how drastically your life changes. Let Him give you hope and see how He gives you the strength to get through a life’s tragedies. God changes things, but only if we let Him. If there’s one thing I’ve learned through it all, it’s that there really is no greater love than the love of Jesus.