My husband’s mama passed away unexpectedly on October 14, 2019. After the initial shock of the phone call informing us of her death, my husband and I prepared to break the news to our three children (13, 11, and 7 years old). Even though we had talked to our kids before about death and grief, we knew this would be different.
This was the first loss of someone with whom they were closely connected. My heart was most concerned about our middle child, who most closely resembled my mom-in-law in looks, personality, and hobby interests. As expected, they took the news with a great deal of heartache. A few days later, as we sat and cried together in the car after the funeral, we shared some of our favorite memories of their grandma. Our middle child talked about a skirt she had made with the help of her grandma five years ago.
My mom-in-law was a gifted seamstress. Each child received a hand-sewn quilt when they were born. She lived in Nebraska, where my husband and I grew up, so some years we weren’t able to be with her during the holidays. However, on the years when we were apart, we could count on Grandma Estella’s Christmas package to be delivered to our home filled with gifts of hand-sewn bathrobes, personalized aprons, and even a gorgeous set of custom curtains with matching throw pillows one year.
Last Christmas both girls received a package containing hand-sewn outfits for their dolls. When I say “outfits,” I mean fully coordinated skirts and tops, and even wedding dresses, complete with veils!
For our middle child, my mom-in-law’s death meant the loss of the grandma who saw her fascination with sewing when she was six years old and sat with her to teach her how to thread a needle – a task that you can imagine took the patience of a saint! By the end of that visit, her grandma had helped her complete her first sewing project: a too small, unintentionally asymmetrical skirt, complete with crooked and wayward stitches at the hem.
I share this memory as I process a thought that was presented by a keynote speaker during a gathering I attended with over 300 other mamas: “control the things that matter most—values/principles—and be willing to let go of the rest.” Letting go is hard for us mamas, isn’t it? Letting go of control means that our kids might fall. They might get hurt. They might fail. And, if we’re honest with ourselves, we fear that their failure will be viewed as a reflection on us, as mamas.
This made me think about my mom-in-law and our daughter’s first sewing project. Of course, her grandma could have sewn the skirt with perfection. She could have easily taken control, undid and straightened the stitches at the hem. She could have corrected the way the seams lined up so that the skirt would be symmetrical. She could have worried about what others would think of her own sewing ability – “oh my, who taught this child how to sew?” – when her granddaughter proudly showed off her less-than-perfect skirt.
But, she let it go.
She gave our daughter the knowledge and tools to create the skirt and then let go of controlling how her granddaughter used that knowledge and those tools. She allowed her granddaughter to create something of her very own, using the sewing lessons she had lovingly provided during that week with her in Nebraska.
Five years after that first sewing lesson, our daughter continues to love to sew. And, she has gotten really good at it. My husband goes to his 11-year-old daughter to stitch up minor tears in the seams of his clothing. Her older teen-aged brother has even made sewing repair requests of her (although he’d deny it if you asked him about it).
Letting go of control is something that I am intentionally working towards achieving on a constant basis. Mama Friends, it’s a struggle! However, I am grateful for wise mamas, like my mom-in-law, who provided an example of what this can look like.