on grief: Phil Collins made me cry

The first through fifth graders were standing several rows deep. You could tell they were slightly nervous, but excited. Chests puffed up, ready to perform the song they'd be practicing, in English, for their Moms. They had just filed in, one by one, for the Mother's Day presentation at school. In their colorful polo shirts - a sea of fuchsias, blues, yellows, greens and reds, their growing baby faces scanned the crowd of dressed-up Mamas holding iphones and kleenex, ready to record the Mother's Day song that was about to be sung.

The song this year was Phil Collins', "You'll be in my heart." (You can hear it here.)

Yep, the song written for the Disney movie, Tarzan. (Which I've never seen.) The song that up until now had never conjured up any emotion for me.

The music started, "Come stop your crying, it'll be alright..."

AND... I'm crying.
They've only sung the first line!

I was recording the performance and my video lasted 4 seconds... then I had to stop.

I'm a notorious commercial cryer: child on commercial grows up and goes to college? I cry. Child strikes out at a baseball game and gets a hug by a parent? I'll cry. Two older people hug and hold hands over dinner on a commercial? I'll cry. I cried when Tony and Angela got married on Who's the Boss. I've been crying at sentimental occasions since I was 10. (When my Dad died.) I'll cry anytime, anywhere. It's kind of like a superpower, but not.

I'm not a Phil Collins fan, per se. He's fine. (He's no Lionel...) But Phil + my my first born singing? Apparently it was the match that was to light the forest fire of my emotion. I could feel it and it wasn't the, "Oh, that's sweet... my kids are growing up," one-tear-will-be-shed cry, either.


Instead, it was the, "Oh. No. I'm in public and I'm going to lose it cry."

The song continues: Just take my hand, hold it tight.

I swallow hard.

It's sunny. It's beautiful out. Keep it together. Put your sunglasses on. PULL IT TOGETHER. It's noon.

I stare at that face of the baby I created. I smile. Her eyes lock on me and she smiles back.

She sings, I will protect you, from all around you.

AND... I have to stop. Walk away. Think of something else, Kylee.

I grab some tissues from my purse and dole them out to the moms beside me, who I notice, are tearing up, as well. "Take the focus off of yourself, Kylee. Think of someone else so you don't cry." The other moms are just shedding a lone tear here or there. Meanwhile, I am trying to prevent myself from unleashing the Hoover Dam of tears at the elementary school Mother's Day brunch. (Awkward.)

I can feel the ugly cry bubbling up underneath.

Lila sings, I will be here, don't you cry...

(The irony is not lost on me.)

I start thinking about things I need to do today. Call the dentist about Lila's mouth x-rays, emails I need to return... and then the crescendo and the chorus:

You'll be in my heart,
Oh, you'll be in my heart.
From this day on
Now and forever more
You'll be in my heart
No matter what they say
You'll be in my heart

AND... that's it.
The feels that I've been saving for a rainy day...

...here they are! On this sunny, gorgeous day in Cabo. Exploding in a sea emotion. In public. On the sport court at my kids' school.

Hello, my name is Kylee. And I miss my Mom.


Listening to Lila sing amidst a sea of children made me feel all the things that I really didn't want to feel just then. The one day I'm testing a new, non-waterproof eyeliner on my lower lids, I'm crying. (It's deep violet, incidentally. Fun.) I look around at the moms, all of us so different yet united in our love for our babies... we're all dressed up and smiling, staring at the young girls and boys who we once rocked... and we're proud and so full of feelings. So much emotion. Just seeing the love of a mother for a a child moves me to tears. That relationship is so...oh, it's so... it's everything.

It's in times like these that I think about my Mom and I miss her so badly.

Just when I think that I'm doing well... Just when I'm living my life like a responsible adult who understands that loss is part of life and it happens... just when I think all is ok, a day like today comes and I have no choice but to feel it. To submit. To embrace. To close my eyes and instead of pushing back the memories for another day, I have to feel them.


"I have no time for this."


Grief doesn't care about your time management.


I could feel today coming on... I've been a little short lately... I've been unmotivated. I've been a little easily angered. I've been a little sensitive...

I've come to understand that these bread crumbs often point to one thing: I'm sad.

Three years, eight months and one day later... I mourn my Mom.

As I told my sister this evening as I was texting through tears, "I want to hug her. I want to talk to her."

It's funny. The reasonable side of me says, "Kylee, come on. This didn't just happen. Pull it together."

But the daughter in me doesn't care.

My eyes well with tears as I type this and I smile the awkward "before I'm going to smile" cry and I type, without reservation, that living without my Mom here on earth is by far the hardest that I've ever had to do.

I'm taking this time to write and allow myself to be sad.

Because, friends, it's ok to be sad. It's ok to feel sad.

It's ok to go back to that day.
It's ok to go back to that time.
It's ok to remember how you felt.
It's ok.
It's ok.

I wrote about the loss of my Mom. On the day she died, I wrote this post. Then I went on to write a whole slew of other posts. My motive wasn't to share this all with the world, but to record just how I felt so that I could go back and re-read just how it was when I was going through this. I wanted to be able to re-familiarize myself with the pain so that I could grieve her again and again as real as I did after she died. Weird? Probably.

After having lost a parent once before, I know that as time goes on the details become hazy. If I am able to read what I was feeling following her death, 5, 10, 15 years from now, it may make me feel close to her still...

...as time passes the connection starts to thin... you cannot be in a relationship with someone who isn't here. And that lack of relationship? That's been the hardest part.

I don't know if it's wrong or right, but when I grieve her, I feel close to her. I feel like she deserves the tears... though, she wouldn't want too many. I feel like I honor her by remembering.

As time has gone on, I've found that I honor her everyday. I honor her in the conversations with my girls. In the feathers that fall in my path. In the decisions I make. In the life that I lead. Truly, not a day goes by still that I don't think about her.

But every now and again, like today, I remember the passing. I remember the details. I remember the loss, the end, the finale, the death of my relationship with my Mom.


Often times I think when we are grieving or mourning someone, we tell ourselves, "OTHER PEOPLE HAVE LOST THEIR MOMS. Other people have lost their loved ones. Your experience isn't unique... MOVE along..."

...but, your experience is unique.

The person you lost, the person I lost, she was unique. And our relationships was distinctive and integral to my daily life and to my identity. And it's ok to be sad... years later... for what once was and now isn't.


About a week ago I was cleaning out a closet. I came across the purse that I was carrying in September of 2013 when she died in her car. Should I use this purse again? It's orange. Orange is my favorite color... maybe I should... No. I absolutely cannot... I can't.

I opened a little front pocket and there it still was: the windshield glass.

After my sister and I visited the funeral director and talked to the coroner. After they handed us our Mom's purse, we drove to to the wrecking lot, is that what they're called? Where they had taken her crunched up car.

When we arrived, her car was still on the flat-bed trailer. Not yet unloaded into the lot of other damaged cars.

Nothing says, "Your Mom just died in a car accident" like seeing her car, on a trailer...

SURREAL. Horrific. Unbearable.

I remember gasping.

Still, I remember being drawn to her car.

We climbed onto the trailer... and I remember that a guy walked by and remarked about about the state of her car... and I remember thinking, "You idiot. I AM THE DAUGHTER OF THE WOMAN WHO DIED IN THIS CAR." And so began my inner dialogue that followed me for months after my Mom died. I'd be at the grocery store and I'd look around at all of the people going about their daily business and I wanted to scream, "MY MOM JUST DIED. HOW ARE YOU ALL ACTING NORMAL?" I would be driving down the road and see people singing in their car and I'd think, "HOW CAN YOU SING? TODAY IS AN UGLY DAY. MY MOM IS DEAD." That inner conversation stayed with me for quite some time... and then slowly... over time... it became quieter until it finally disappeared.

We walked around the car, cautiously. Making sure not to fall off the edge of the trailer. We studied every inch, making note of every dent, crunch and scratch. The bumper must have somehow come off in the crash and was haphazardly deposited through the broken front windows onto the front seats and I pulled it out. I took pictures of the exterior and the interior of the car. Morbid? Sure. But I was still trying to piece together the story... what happened? How did this happen. I looked at those pictures on my phone for months after she died. I zoomed in. I looked for details.

I saw her flip flops and the deployed airbag. She had her Bible with her and the books she had to return to the library. I grabbed a pen, I think. Her sunglasses were on the passenger side floor... the sunglasses I gave her. I saw the empty pringles can. (I love that woman.)  I studied the blood on the passenger door where her head hit...

...and the glass. There was glass everywhere.

As I sit here and type this I still remember holding on to her steering wheel. I wanted to touch where she had last touched. I felt so strongly that I needed to be where she was when she last took a breath.

I needed to be where she was where she was last alive.

That car was a sacred place. Oddly.

It's funny what we do to feel close to the ones we lose.

Before we left I scooped up some of the windshield glass that was on the seat of her car and I put it in the front pocket of my bag. It was a visual reminder of what happened.

Every now and again... I'll look at it.

It's a physical reminder of what happened.

It's a physical reminder that my Shirl, who is now dead, was once alive.

And that's all I need: to know that she was once alive.

'Cause you'll be in my heart,
Yes, you'll be in my heart.
From this day on,
Now and forever more...
You'll be in my heart..."


And that's why I cried today when my seven-year-old second-grader was singing a Phil Collins song at her Dia de las Madres celebration.

Because I miss my Mom.

Ah, life...

Life goes on, doesn't it?


'Cause you'll be in my heart,
Yes, you'll be in my heart.
From this day on,
Now and forever more...
You'll be in my heart..."

Sing it, Phil.



--The Story of Loss. On Losing my Mom.
September 9, 2013  ::  The day I found out ::  Post here.
September 16, 2013  ::  It's One Week today  ::  Post here.
September 25, 2013  :: The Call  ::  Post here.
September 30, 2013  ::  Slivers of Sunlight  ::  Post here.
October 6, 2013  ::  That first week.Those first days :: Post here.
October 14, 2013  ::  14 days after  ::  Post here.
October 20, 2013  ::  I found a treasure  ::  Post here.
November 4, 2013  ::  She's been gone for 4 weeks  :: Post here.
November 13, 2013  ::  I smile and drive and cry and smile and cry  :: Post here.
November 17, 2013  ::  Weekends aren't easy  :: Post here.
November 26, 2013  ::  The holidays, the firsts  ::  Post here.
December 1, 2013  ::  8 weeks  :: Post here.
December 10, 2013  ::  The Dream  :: Post here.
December 19, 2013  ::  Vulnerability and Moving Forward  ::  Post here.
December 22, 2013  ::  The reminders. They're everywhere  ::  Post here.
December 29, 2013  :: 2013  :: Post here.
January 1, 2014  ::  The New Year  :: Post here.
January 7, 2014  ::  2 days from 4 months  ::  Post here.
January 17, 2014  ::  Another Gift ::  Post here.
January 25, 2014  ::  She would have been 60 today  ::  Post here.
February 9, 2014  ::  Five months  ::  Post here.
March 6, 2014  ::  Almost six months  ::  Post here.
March 27, 2014  ::  One of the Best Gifts Ever  ::  Post here.
April 1, 2014  ::  We're all in this together  ::  Post here.
April 24, 2014 :: 7 Months, Easter and Nope, I'm still not normal.  ::  Post here.
May 6, 2014  :: Mother's Day without a Mom  ::  Post here.
June 1, 2014  ::  Moving "forward"  ::  Post here.
July 6, 2014  ::  Denial & acceptance & blah, blah, blah  ::  Post here.
August 20, 2014  ::  So, I'm 35  ::  Post here.
September 2, 2014  ::  7 days  ::  Post here.
September 8, 2014  ::  The Day Before a Year  ::  Post here.
September 9, 2014  ::  Hello, one year  ::  Post here.
October 11, 2014  ::  The brain is funny  ::  Post here.
November 6, 2014  ::  Love  ::  Post here.
November 30, 2014 ::  Post here.
December 4, 2014  ::  Another feather. Post here.
December 28, 2014  :: All was calm, all is bright. Post here.
January 18, 2015  ::  They're always with us? They're always with us. Post here.
January 25, 2015  ::  And today I remember. Post here.
March 8, 2015  ::  A year and a half later. Post here.
April 16, 2015  ::  And here I stand. Post here.
April 29, 2015  ::  Joan & Shirley. Post here.
August 26, 2015 :: Perspective. Post here.
September 9, 2015  :: Two Years After. Post here.
November 1, 2015  ::  Watching others go through it. Post here
January 25, 2016  ::  Happy Birthday, Mom. Post here.
March, 5, 2016 ::  Air Tears. Post here.
April 26, 2016  ::  Sitting Still. Post here.
December 27, 2016  ::  So this was Christmas. Post here.
December 29, 2016  ::  And our hearts sigh. Post here



  1. This was probably the most amazing thing I've ever read. Thank you for making me realize how much I love my mom. Thank you for helping me to realize that I need to be thankful each and every moment because I have her with me on this earth. Today, when I see her, I will hug her close and I will be so so thankful for her. I have you to thank for this. And I am so sorry for the grief that you feel. You are strong and amazing Kylee.

    1. Oh, friend. I love that you're going to hold your mom a little tighter today. Yes.

      Yes, do that.

      And thank you for your loving words. They're appreciated. :)


written exclusively by twopretzels. | Contact kyleeATtwopretzels.com . Powered by Blogger.