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Blog Post #5: My Mommy's Shoes: A Mother's Day Tribute

Updated: Dec 20, 2023

Years ago a dear friend of mine was attending graduate school, and she had asked for people to submit stories about shoes for a project she was working on in school. She had grown up in foster care and had a very significant story about the impact a certain pair of shoes had on her life and how she saw herself. She put the request out for this long before my mom passed, and I had plans to write about something else, but never felt inspired enough to sit down and do it.

One night, not long after my mom passed away, I remembered my friend’s request, and it became an opportunity for me to write a tribute to my Mom in a way that to me reflected my deep love and connection to her. I wanted to honor her, and it occurred to me then that I may not be able to speak without breaking down during her Celebration of Life. I decided to write this story and had it displayed at her Celebration of Life; even if I was unable to speak on that day about how much I loved her, hopefully this would allow for my voice to be heard. This is my story...

My Mommy’s Shoes

(Written 2/12/2013)

When I was a little girl, the second my mom took off her high heeled shoes I would jump at the opportunity to put them on my feet. I can very clearly remember the time in my life when my mom was the center of my universe, and the most beautiful woman in the world to me. It didn’t matter that my tiny feet only took up a fraction of her shoes; I just wanted to be like her. My mom’s shoes bring about a flood of memories for me from early childhood all the way to her sudden and unexpected passing just weeks ago.

When I was young I recall a time when I had slept on the couch because I wasn’t feeling well, and she had let me sleep downstairs on the couch with the television on as a special treat. I could have slept through a bomb going off, but the soft sound of her high heels tapping lightly on the kitchen floor woke me up. From the time that I was around five years old, my mom worked full-time, and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see her before she left for a long day of work. I was always jealous of kids who had their mom’s home to greet them after school each day. At the same time, I was proud that she had a job and loved to see how beautiful she was all dressed up in her work clothes.

When I was in kindergarten, I would walk the three short blocks to school (back then it wasn’t a big deal) and I would meet my friend halfway there. I had such a strong attachment to my mom at this time that I did anything I could to get more time with her…even finding any excuse possible to go back home so she could drive me to school on her way to work. You see, it was all part of my master plan, because my mom worked, she couldn’t volunteer in my classroom, so I took any opportunity to show her off.

I have a vivid memory of her coming to my class to bring me the lunch I had “forgotten” at home. She breezed into the room in her dress, nylons and her high heels, hair done, make-up on, wearing just the right amount of perfume, not to overwhelm, but to leave soothing traces of her signature scent in her path. As a young child I was filled with so much love and admiration for her. She was everything to me.

Although the high heels were my favorites, I also remember her Keds tennies in multiple colors. The first time she showed me her baton twirling skills, from her time as a majorette in high school, she was wearing white Keds. She also wore those shoes when she used her skills to teach my Pop Warner cheerleading squad a dance routine that won us first prize at competition; another proud moment for me. I can still visualize her in her Keds as she demonstrated the rock-step and the kick-ball change to the song “Let’s Hear it for the Boy” that helped win us the competition.

As I grew into a teen, there were disagreements, a difficult divorce and more push and pull then pride-filled moments. There were a few men that I could have done without in her life, and some bad choices that inserted a wedge between us that took almost 20 years to begin to remove. During that time, my mom met the man I believe to be her soul mate, her Ritchie; as mom would say, a REAL cowboy! Mom still wore her high heels, but soon she moved into the shoes that suited her better than any other…a pair of red leather cowboy boots.

Mom was always a country girl at heart, something she couldn’t fully be when she was with my dad. Mom and Ritchie grew a new community of friends, enjoyed doing things together, and they walked miles together in their cowboy boots. They were together for about 16 years before they finally got married.

Time went by, and I met the love of my life. The first time my mom met him she said, “You’re gonna marry him” and of course, I did! My dad passed away before my wedding day, and I decided to ask mom to walk me down the aisle, and I’m so glad I did. As I stood outside being photographed before the ceremony on my wedding day, I can still remember seeing her in the beautiful dress and high heels she picked to walk proudly beside me. I remember how beautiful she looked that day, and that same feeling of pride I had as a small child came rushing back in that moment. I was so happy to have her by my side for my special day.

After making it through graduate school, I began to reach out to mom in ways that I hadn’t in many years. I’m so grateful for the times I sat with her and took time to talk with her about things I never did before. It was time I know we both cherished. I was honored to get to know her again as the grown woman I had become, walking in my own “grown-up” shoes. I now had a new level of empathy and respect for choices she made and struggles she faced as a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a sister, a friend, and so much more.

Just as our relationship seemed to begin to bloom again, after what we thought was a sinus infection and newly diagnosed asthma, she was continually having trouble breathing. My sister took her to the emergency room when she suddenly seemed too exhausted and couldn’t catch her breath. By that time, she had retired from working and had traded in her high heels and nylons for her gardening Crocs, which she wore to the hospital that day.

We were given the news that night that there was nothing more that could be done for her except make her comfortable for the short time she had left. We were in shock. We thought we had more time, but tragically that was not the case. Hospice care was set up and we took mom home where she would spend her remaining days in a hospital bed in the room near her beloved garden. From that point on she never wore shoes again.

As soon as the doctors told her there was nothing they could do, she gave in to the fear and exhaustion, and I never had another fully lucid conversation with her again. Although I talked to her a lot, I never got to hear her sweet voice again except when she was groaning in pain or in fear of what was happening to her. I never got to hear her wonderful laugh again and would have to rely on pictures and memories to see her amazing smile again .

I didn’t get the chance to tell her all the things I didn't say all the things I'd waited for too long to say to her. I didn't get to tell her how proud of her I was, and that no matter what had happened in our lives she was a good mom and I loved her so very much. I never got to tell her that I felt so much love and acceptance from her, no matter what happened, I always knew she was proud of me and loved me unconditionally.

When it came time to pick her final outfit, we all agreed there was only one choice. We picked the outfit she wore the day of her wedding reception to Ritchie. In her final resting place she wears her elegant black pant suit, with her beautiful red beaded shawl, and of course we made sure to include those red leather cowboy boots.

Walk proudly into heaven Mommy, you did good things here on earth, and you were loved dearly. In heaven you can wear the most beautiful shoes without any pain in your feet or your legs, and in Heaven’s shoe store they will always have your size.

Love you always,

Your Minna

From a Place of Healing Ten Years Later

This will be the tenth Mother’s Day without my mom here on earth. I usually lay low and avoid social media and public places where I might hear the words “Happy Mother’s Day” multiple times. This year I will be working on Mother’s Day, and it is the first time in ten years I feel truly strong enough to put myself in the public eye on that day. I have done a lot of healing around my mom; first around her passing, then around our complicated relationship as the result of the her addiction. It has been a process, but one that was worth the time and effort.

In a way, I feel closer to her now than I ever did when she was alive. I know in my heart that she has also been healed, and is free from the darkness and trauma that she carried with her while she was here in her physical body. I feel her presence and her energy in different ways, and she finds ways to make her presence known when I need her the most. She is always with me, a calming, encouraging, loving guide.

I have had quite a few friends experience the loss of their moms recently, and I know how hard the first Mother’s Day, birthday, holiday, etc. can be after such a deep loss. Losing my mom was a loss like no other. I miss her laugh, her hugs, and the way she could make me laugh when I was stuck in my head or taking life too seriously.

I will always miss her, and I have found a way to be at peace with her not physically being here. I hope for others also suffering from the loss of their mom that you find a way to feel your mom continue to walk alongside you and support you the way I have, in whatever way makes sense to you.

I see my mom in butterflies that show up exactly when I need her most, or when songs that remind me of her randomly come on at exactly the right time, or when I’m guided to take a different walking route and come across a beautiful garden that reminds me of hers. There are a multitude of ways I feel her with me, and regardless of what your beliefs are, I hope you are open to find your own ways of connecting to your mom the way I have with mine.

So as Mother’s Day looms on the horizon for me and others who may be uncertain of how that day will feel for them, I hope in sharing where I am now will give others hope as they heal from their own loss. Do what feels right for you on that day, and remember this is really hard stuff, its okay to not be okay. Grief is an ever-changing, ongoing process, its different for everyone, and there are no rules for how you do it or how long it takes. Remember to be kind to yourself and to others, and take each wave as it comes.


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