Sunday, April 1, 2018

Coca-Cola Congealed Salad

As Easter Sunday comes to a close, I sit here listening to the dishwasher run and the dogs eat their dinner. It has been a beautiful day filled with food, family and laughter. Almost the perfect day. Almost. 

While everyone was eating, I looked around my table at their happy faces. Each of them enjoying the meal I had prepared and chattering about this and that. I cooked a typical Easter meal complete with deviled eggs. This year Daddy requested a Coca-Cola congealed salad. Something my mother used to fix for family gatherings. I had never made one (not that it's hard) but felt it was important to fulfill his request.  Seriously, we are talking jello and a few other ingredients. Nothing gourmet but most certainly filled with love and memories. He was elated when he realized I had indeed made the dish. It was like putting a memory of my mother on a plate for him. He mentioned that he had not had the dish in years and had several servings. Watching him enjoy it made me happy and sad. Happy that he was enjoying it and sad that my mother could not make it for him. 

Our first Easter without her was bittersweet. I cannot describe the emotion as it was something other than sadness. I was not sad today but certainly felt the void of her absence. Tomorrow will mark 6 months since we lost her. Time is flying and life is moving forward. As it should, I suppose.

Monday, December 25, 2017


The last present has been opened, the last guest has left and the fire is only embers. Another first has come and gone. Our first Christmas without my mother. I started the day trying to remember last year with her but couldn’t. However, the memories of my childhood Christmases with her were vivid. The Christmas I got my first puppy to the Christmas I got my first stereo rushed through my mind. She has been there with every decoration, every family gathering, every meal, every gift purchased and she was there today. I could feel her presence and her absence at the same time. As the day comes to a close, I can't help but think about what gift I would have given her had she been here. It was so odd to not have a package under our tree with her name on it.

Merry Christmas Mother. I miss and love you.

Sunday, November 26, 2017


Our first Thanksgiving without my mother came and went like any other day. Except it wasn’t any other day. It was like any other Thanksgiving in that Chris and I prepared and cooked for days. We got up early and put the turkey in the oven then began final preparations for the family and friends who would be arriving for lunch. Everyone arrived, we ate, we visited and they left. It wasn’t until the house was completely quiet that I fully realized the extent of her absence.

I have been cooking Thanksgiving for years but it hit me that I would never eat her cooking again. Though it’s her recipes I have used all this time, it’s not the same. She had not really cooked much in a long while. However, she would bring the cauliflower salad every year. She wanted to contribute in some way. Ashley and Allison took that on this year. They did a fantastic job. And, as I scooped it onto my plate I thought about her and her insistence on bringing something. She was so stubborn. It made me smile.

So, here we are the first holiday without her came and went as I know the rest will. My earthly, selfish side is angry and heartbroken but my spiritual side knows she is feasting at the side of Jesus.

(I dreamed of her for the first time last night. She, her parents and her brother were all in my kitchen. I suppose they were all with me for Thanksgiving…if only in my dreams.)

Thursday, November 16, 2017


The last piece of finality to the dream from which I cannot awake has been completed. The marker notifying the world that my mother Judy Yvette Eskew rests in this place has been installed. The marker that tells everyone who may venture by when she entered this life and when she exited it. The marker that gives a brief description of her various titles because there isn't enough room to properly describe everything she was to her family and friends.  The marker that will mirror my daddy's when the time comes with "together forever." That is all. The final part of the permanence of her absence.

I thought of her today while getting my nails done (actually, she's on my mind all the time).  I thought about how pretty her nails looked for her viewing. I thought about how much she enjoyed getting her nails done. I thought about the fact that manicures were the last grandmother/granddaughter outing she and Ashley had together.

Tonight, I'm planning our Thanksgiving menu and making my grocery list. While flipping through my cookbook I turned a page and there it was, a recipe in my mother's handwriting. Handwriting. Just ink on paper. But so much more than that.

 Seemingly benign things invoke an emotion. That is my life now. Part of my new normal. To know that when I least expect it something is going to pull thoughts of my mother from the back of my mind to the very front and center of it. Kind of funny in a way considering she loved to be the center of attention.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

One Month

Life as I knew it came to a complete halt just 4 short weeks ago. It’s all a blur. Yet still very raw. The good days are starting to outnumber the bad ones. However, when a wave of emotion hits me there is no stopping it. And, the waves come at the most unexpected times.

My trip to California was a great distraction. Lots to do. People to see. Places to go. The last run of the Zac Brown Band tour. Bittersweet for the band and crew but a quiet sigh of relief for me. Being alone during tour season usually doesn’t bother me. And, this year was no different until my mother passed away. Chris could not be with me the day we buried her. He had a show to play that night and had to get on a plane before the funeral. In all the years he has had to leave, that morning was the most difficult. Not that I couldn’t bury my mother without him. I didn’t want to do it without him. Chris has been my rock. He has wiped almost every tear and listened to me drone on and on about my thoughts and feelings. He has truly been my earthly anchor in this storm.

I now find myself gravitating toward friends who have lost a parent(s). Not because I want to talk about it but because I know they understand my broken heart. An unspoken bond of motherless and/or fatherless children now exists. A club of sorts none of us wanted to join. 

So many have reached out in one way or another. Cards, calls, texts, emails, social media and in person. Kind words from every single one. It is heartwarming to know so many people love me and loved my mother.

Today is Halloween. Though not a major holiday still a first without her. We are making chili for dinner like we do every year and I can’t help but think about how much she loved my chili. She asked me to cook it for her all the time. It’s so strange to smile through tears.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


The memories are bombarding me faster than I can put them on paper. Some I haven't thought about in years and others I've thought about recently. Some vivid, others fading. Bits and pieces of my life that were held together by one common mother. Now that she's gone I'm horrified the memories will fade with her. Realistically I know they won't but my mind is so overloaded right now.

We lived in Bremen, Georgia for a short four years when I was a kid. I was four years old when we moved there. I have blogged about the house before. My paternal grandparents purchased and moved into it when we moved. They lived there the rest of my childhood and all of my adulthood.  So the house holds many special memories for me. The house sat on five acres and was across the street from railroad tracks. Back in the 70's there wasn't anything close but Interstate 20, a Holiday Inn and tank farms. My parents also owned some land down the road on which they grew corn. My mother would take me into "town" to shop. There was a children's store in downtown Bremen that the Tarpleys owned. That's where she bought my clothes. When I decided I wanted to take piano lessons she had to drive me to Carrollton which was the next town over. When I decided I wanted to take gymnastics she drove me to Carrollton. We went to the drive-in movies in Carrollton. I saw Grease at that drive-in. Pretty much if we wanted to do anything we drove to Carrollton.  Just on the other side of downtown Bremen there was a hotel named Green Acres that served the best fried chicken. My mother loved to eat there. I know the hotel is still there but that's all I really know about the place now.  I drove through Bremen not that terribly long ago and while a lot has changed a lot has stayed the same.

Summers in Bremen were long and hot. But we lived on a foothill so there was always a breeze. I would swing and play while daddy was at work. In the evenings my little brother (who was born after we moved there in 1976) and I would play in the dirt while mother and daddy would tend their garden. We would get so dirty that mother wouldn't let us go in the house. And, because we literally lived in the middle of nowhere she would bathe us in the backyard. She would grab a bar of soap, shampoo and the water hose. All the bath time necessities! Oh, life in the country.  Mother loved to work in the yard. I remember she would get on the riding lawn mower and use a towel or a twin sheet to wrap my brother around her so he could sleep while she cut grass. Who knew her make shift baby wrap would be fashion today!?!

My parents would have a big hay ride in the Fall. The festivities would last all weekend. Friends and family would come from everywhere. There would be campers in our front yard and people in the house. The more the merrier. My mother was the best hostess. She would cook and make everyone feel at home. Daddy had a long flatbed trailer he would put the hay on and everyone would pile on and he would pull us to the property they owned down the road. That was back in the day when living on a country road meant you could ride in the back of a pickup or on a trailer without worry.  Once we would get to the property, the men would build a huge bonfire. The women would pull out food. Everyone would eat and at some point in the night the guitars would come out and the singing would start. 

Christmas there was always magical. Our house was very old so it had 14 foot ceilings. Mother always got a 12 foot tree for the den. While 12 feet is tall by any standard to a little kid it is absolutely enormous. On Christmas morning I always woke up to the smell of breakfast cooking and sounds of music playing. Not Christmas music though. It was either Captain and Tennille, The Statler Brothers, Sam Cooke or some other (what we call Oldies now) artist my mother liked. If I close my eyes I can see her in her favorite night gown standing at the stove. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Vast Sea of Emotion

Monday will be two weeks since my mother passed away. I never thought I could feel so many emotions in such a short span of time. I have laughed, cried, been angry, felt nostalgic and felt nothing at all. I know about the 5 stages of grief. I guess that is what I'm experiencing. But, feeling like a crazy person has me riding a roller coaster on which I really don't want to ride.

There have been moments of laughter. Ah...laughter. My mother loved to laugh. My family has a bit of a dark sense of humor so many would think us awful if they overheard some of the things we have found funny in this situation (and there is no way I will put them all out there for the world to read.) However, I will provide a couple of examples.  So, when my parents chose their mausoleum location years ago, my mother told me she had chosen "heart" level. Her rationale? So I could fling myself in unbearable grief against the wall to mourn her passing and she would be at my heart. Thus, when I went to the cemetery to visit her the first time, I flung myself against the wall and audibly said "you got your way Mother." But, I found it hysterically funny because I could hear her saying "yep, I sure did get my way, like always!" OR, on the night before her visitation we were eating at her house with Daddy. Allison and I had not eaten at her house since she moved back from Georgia a few years ago. We both made mention of that fact. Then, without skipping a beat Allison said "she's in heaven right now saying...great, I had to die to get you to come eat at my house." We howled because that is exactly something she would say. 

I have cried to the point I was sure there wasn't a tear left in me. But more would come. I have cried wondering how we are all supposed to go on without her. I have cried thinking of her absence for the upcoming holidays. I have simply cried for no reason at all.  Seeing her things causes the deepest sense of despair. Not for materialistic reasons but because the plates in her kitchen are the same plates I ate on as a child (yes, they are complete with harvest gold, avocado green and burnt orange fruit in the center). The china in her china cabinet is the same china she used for special occasions most of my life. She loved a pretty home. She was extremely organized and neat. Her things made her house a home. The daunting task of cleaning out her closet is before me.  It may have to wait a minute.

In the days following her death, I found myself angry at everyone who was just going about their lives as if nothing had happened. How dare total strangers continue with their day! Did they not realize the world had lost my mother? Did they not realize the world was supposed to grieve her loss?  Logically, I knew that's not how it goes. But emotionally, I felt everything should just stop (if only for a moment). 

I have felt nostalgic for my childhood. Missing the mother I knew as a little girl. The mother who was my everything. The mother who could fix all the wrongs in my tiny world. The mother that knew exactly what to do in any situation.  Remembering playing in the garden while she and Daddy would tend it. Remembering her putting my hair in a ponytail so tight my eyes would slant. Remembering her teaching me how to twirl my first baton. Remembering her teaching me to cook and take care of a home. 

And then, there's been nothing. A numbness that is almost painful. Not being able to laugh, cry or be mad. Just nothing...

 I have experienced all of these in a second or over the course of a day/days. However, in spite of grief, life continues. As shall I, one moment at a time.