Glennon Doyle to Oprah Winfrey……
“‘Hello my friend, my sister, my example, I’m sitting on a balcony on Cayman Island and right at this moment writing an essay about the word mother, what that word really means, how it’s less to me a fixed identity we can be or not be and more an energy we can offer or not offer. The essay is about how some of us who can check the box mother never really learn how to offer mothering love and how others of us who don’t check the box, harness it and offer it widely and wildly. The essay is about how much better off the world would be if we gathered up mothering love and used it like a floodlight instead of a pointed laser aimed only at the few we’ve been assigned.
As I’m writing this essay on the balcony, my sister just sent me a text that says, ‘G, Oprah’s mother died. She was 83. I wanted you to know.’ I just got that text a minute ago. I would never presume to guess what your relationship was like, how complex it was and is to be your mother’s daughter, what your feelings are this week, what your feelings have been or will be. I just wanted to say, that you are my example of how to gather up mothering love and use it as a floodlight to illuminate and warm the world. You are my and the world’s best example of grace, which means that we can somehow give what we’ve never even received. I don’t know much, but from everything you bravely say and kindly don’t say, I’ve gathered that you didn’t get the mothering love you deserved and needed as a little girl and a grown girl.
To me, that is what makes you a miracle. It is a miracle that somehow you took the broken pieces that she put in your hands, all of them and you spun them into gold and opened your hands wide and offered that gold back to the world. Which is not just a gift to the world, it is a gift directly back to your mother, because you worked with what she gave you, ensured that her legacy through you is gold. With your help, your mother’s legacy is gold. What a gift. If there is a Heaven, she can see that now. She can see that her miraculous daughter somehow, somehow turned her offerings to gold. God, bet she’s amazed and grateful. Well done, good faithful, miraculous, badass, servant. In your corner forever.’
Sometimes too many words can make a story impossible to understand. I have tried for years to explain to myself and to others how I felt about my mother. I faulted her for her behavior many times but I know that she was a very misunderstood person navigating a complicated world. Glennon Doyle gave me clarity on how I can love and thank her without a lifelong sadness that I did not get what I hoped for. I got more than I hoped for, I just had to wait until she was gone to appreciate her soul.
My mother put her broken pieces in my hand and helped me see myself as she saw me. She understood my need to express myself. She would sit quietly and watch me dramatize my emotional self. There were times she tried to keep me still and I now realize she was teaching me to listen. She brought music to my life and taught me to appreciate the words and that they can sometimes mirror feelings and dry my tears. To this day, when stressed, I play piano music with the vision of her playing while I lay down on the floor next to her.
In her dark days, when she reached for a drink to soothe her broken heart, her pen and paper gave her a voice where words were inadequate. Reading her stories carefully, I unlocked the mystery of why she was so sad. She took the parts of her life that she chose carefully and made them whole but died peacefully with her secrets of how many had betrayed her innocence and longing for parental love.
Her legacy is now clear. She listened and was kind. She found a way to say what was so hard to accept through her music and writing. On one of her last days, I walked up to her and smiled wide — she opened her eyes and saw me — she knew me and I realized that she had all along.