It was around 3 o'clock in the afternoon when there was a knock on the door. I was hanging out on the back porch with some friends. Smoking cigarettes when we shouldn't have been, talking about our boyfriends, guys who we wished were our boyfriends, other girls at school. We were teenagers being teenagers. I was sixteen.
My dad worked nights so he was fast asleep in bed. It would take a hurricane to wake him after a shift. He worked on the line at the local meat factory, and always did his best for us. My two brothers were older and had moved out years before. My mom had gone to the store for groceries, so it was me who answered the door.
That was the moment my life changed, forever. There was a State Trooper standing there, with a sombre look on his face. The rest is a complete blur.
My screaming brought my dad sprinting out of their bedroom. It was uncontrollable. I completely lost it. I'm told I remained in that state for hours. Sobbing, screaming, shaking.
My mom drove a smaller car, a Toyota Camry. She was crossing through an intersection on her way to the store when a large truck ran a red light, and went right through the side of her car. She didn't stand a chance. They told us she died instantly. Our lives were shattered.
I had a complicated relationship with my mom. I always felt like she was disappointed in me, and in who I was. Looking back on it, I was completely wrong, but, try telling that to a sixteen year-old upstart. My mom was deeply Christian. For whatever reason, I did all I could to be the total opposite. I skipped out on church, always, which she hated. And I hung out with a bad crowd in school. I purposely pushed her buttons when I was a teenager, and we always butted heads.
I guess a lot of that is a normal part of the mother/daughter relationship, but I always envied those girls who had a sister-like relationship with their mom. At the time I felt like she just "didn't get me", but looking back, it's obvious, she was just trying to guide me as best she could, teach me right from wrong, good from bad. But I was too caught up in my world to take it on board.
I can live with that. I'm sure she understood, at the time, that I was being that way because of my age, and hormones, and whatever else was going on with me. I no longer blame myself, or tell myself I should have been this or done that. But my one major regret, one that still eats me to this very day, twenty years later - I never told my mom that I loved her.
We just didn't have a close enough relationship for me to open my feelings up to her. I was a rebel. I would have seen it as showing weakness, or giving in to her, or something stupid like that. But I never said it. I've scraped the walls of my memory banks. For years I've done this, thinking maybe, maybe I did. Maybe I told her that one time...but I didn't. I know I didn't. And it kills me. Because I did love her. And I know it's all she ever wanted to hear.
The reason I'm sharing this story with you now is that, 3 years ago, I met a man at a marketing conference. He told me he started a company that made gifts that allow people to express their love and appreciation to their nearest and dearest, in a keepsake that they can carry with them every day.
After my mom passed, I swore to never again let my true feelings go unsaid, to those I cared most about. I could never again have that kind of regret. So this concept was so valuable to me. If I could have reminded my mom, every day, how much I loved her, the last twenty years would have been so much different.
I've kept in touch with Mark (founder of Swanky Badger) since that day, and every holiday since then, I've created personalized gifts for my dad and brothers. I've engraved in leather, and wood, and glass, my most vulnerable, honest, true feelings for my men, so that they are never in any doubt about how much I love and appreciate and cherish them.
When Mark asked me to share my story with his audience, I felt like it was a great chance to help others. If there's even one person who my story can help, it will warm my heart like you could never believe.
If ever you have any hesitation about expressing your true and most vulnerable feelings, to anyone you care about, buy them a gift from Swanky Badger. Break down those barriers in your head, and engrave those words in a gift that they can hold, and read, and cherish forever. I wish I could have done it for my mom. <3 Kendra
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