teardrops in the roux

For those readers that may be unfamiliar, when you’re making gumbo, “first you make a roux.” That’s what my mama always said. “First you make a roux.”

(Also, if you’re not familiar, “roux” is pronounced like “roo.”)

Gumbo is my family’s traditional Christmas Eve meal. We go to Christmas Eve service at church and come home and have gumbo. My mom has been making the Christmas Eve gumbo┬ásince we began this tradition a decade ago when Todd and I started dating.

This year’s Christmas Eve was a little different. My brother was entertaining Hudson and Hayes. My dad was entertaining James Walker. Todd was assembling Christmas presents and I found myself standing in the kitchen by myself with all the food. I was immediately overwhelmed by the realization of all that my mom managed to accomplish on Christmas Eve in the kitchen. And because she was such a cheerful giver, we never realized just how much she took on. How many dishes she made, how she pulled together a feast without so much as a sigh or grumble.

So I stood there in my kitchen, whisking the roux and waiting for it to turn just the right shade of glossy brown, and I was lonely. My entire family was at my house, but my mama wasn’t there. And the helpless feeling of grief overwhelmed me. I was standing there making that roux because she wasn’t there. I was more than happy to be making it (though I did feel some pressure that it wouldn’t turn out nearly as delicious), but I wanted her to be standing there with me and making me laugh or singing a little Stevie Nicks.

I realized that she’s not there for me to ┬ácall when I don’t know my way around a specific recipe in the kitchen. Or when I’m searching for a random ingredient in the grocery store. Or when I think one of my kids has an ear infection in the night and I just want to tell my mom.

And I just cried right there over that roux. The gumbo still turned out to be perfectly edible, but it’s a moment from that first Christmas without her that I won’t forget.

The past few weeks have been okay, but all day yesterday I felt this nagging almost hollow feeling. And very much like in the movie Inside Out, I had an a-ha moment and knew that if I didn’t go ahead and cry, I would continue to feel bad. And right then, I dropped to my knees and begged God to comfort me. To point me to Him and fill me with His spirit and the joy of His presence. Because aside from my mother herself walking into the room and hugging me, nothing was going to comfort me in that moment besides Jesus.

I know that life hurts. I know that loss feels hopeless and there are times when I don’t know how to go on. But Jesus. Nothing can comfort me the way He can. I can be in my house surrounded by everyone I love and still feel lonely, and Jesus is the only one that can fill that void. No matter how busy I make myself, or how I can just decide to be happy that day, the true joy can only come from Him. Even in the heaviest sadness.

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  1. Lindsey says

    I am so sorry for your lost. Your thoughts, words and post about death and grief are perfect. My father passed away one week after my 20th birthday. Now as I plan my wedding 10 years later (how did that happen?) everything is a bit tainted. Most of the time my thought is “yeah, but my dad won’t be there.” I just wanted you to know that I find comfort in your post. Thank you for sharing such a personal time!

  2. says

    Oh how familiar those feelings are to me. My mother was my very best friend and a huge part of my daily life. In the first months I was not only trying to figure out how to live life without her but having to totally change my routine because we talked multiple times a day and saw each other weekly. I was surrounded by so much love from my family and friends, but so hollow and so lonely. As I started to find my new routine, which my brother was also doing, and it ended up with he and I replacing our time with mom by talking to and being with each other, the hollow wasn’t as prevailing. I remember distinctly one day, the first mothers day weekend without her, venturing back into a really great garden store that was our happy place together, and as I walked through the plants, a butterfly kept leading me and fluttering around. In that moment, that became my mothers way of saying hello to me and that she loved me. Shortly after I saw a saying that said: “Whisper I love you to a butterfly and it will fly to Heaven to deliver your message. ” It hit home and I think it goes both ways. I watched my mother suffer and make her way to meet her maker for awhile and it took some time for those to not the first images that came to mind when I thought of her because that was a very monumental time in my life for many reasons, but eventually my mind went back to happier times. Here a little over 3 years later, I still have an overwhelming urge to pick up the phone and call her to tell her about something, usually that the kids have done. Hang on to these memories. Grief has a funny way of making us stronger. You will never stop missing her but you will be better able to handle the loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  3. Deborah Goodwin says

    My mom died almost 3 years ago. I was at a wedding this past weekend and ran into a next door neighbor of ours that I babysat for. I wanted to call and let her know how well Barry was doing. That feeling of wanting to “call Mom” just doesn’t seem to go away. Thinking of you and your family.

  4. Nancy Rhodes Spiller says

    Erin, you express your love for your mom and our Lord so beautifully. I somehow feel both of them were at your elbow in the kitchen, invisible but real. My prayers are still with you and all your family.

  5. elizabeth says

    What a gift you have with words. They flow so beautifully from your heart. My mom died of cancer in 2006 and you have expressed thoughts, feelings and emotions that I have also experienced but would never be able to articulate as you have. I am so sorry for your devastating loss, but thank you for the gift of authentically showing us a glimpse of your grief. Some of what you have written, seeing it in black in white, has literally taken my breath away. I am sure it is not easy to write about this but you will be so glad you have it to come back to for years to come.

  6. jen says

    I got the box of tissues ready as soon as I saw this title. Goodness, I have thought of you, prayed for you, and felt completely helpless as a “friend on the internet” can offer so little comfort, Your mom was simply amazing and I am so happy to have “known” her through this little slice of your life on the internet. Hugs from Kentucky.

  7. Dina says

    Your words are so eloquently and gracefully written. My mom passed away suddenly from melanoma brain mets 7.5 months ago. Some days are easier to bear than other days. I describe it as my heart being ripped out and only a portion of it put back in place. Nothing seems whole or full. God, my children, husband, and father are my comfort.

  8. says

    You’ve got me in tears reading this! I’m sending love and thoughts and prayers your way. Sometimes tears and a prayer for comfort will get us to the right place. Thinking of you!

  9. says

    what a tender post sweet friend…..gosh…just so tender…..no doubt she raised YOU to be the most amazing mama to your boys…just like she was to you sweet erin xo

  10. Brandie says

    This is such a beautiful post! I shared it on Facebook, I know so many that are hurting due to the loss of a loved one. The advice I live by is, “be nice to yourself”. Don’t beat yourself up for not being over it or having a hard day. God made us with deep and real feelings and emotions, to try to choke them out or shove them down, is simply not healthy. Thank you for sharing your heart with us!

  11. Leila says

    Erin, you are such a beautiful soul and your words are so perfectly said. I cannot imagine the pain you are going through, but I know that your strong faith and trust in Christ will help you with your pain and sadness. Love you and praying for you friend.

  12. Shelly says

    I cannot thank you enough for sharing your heart through this beautiful post. I wish you comfort and peace that surpasses all understanding as you grieve the loss of your beautiful mother.

  13. Kendall says

    I am so sorry for your loss. I’ve followed along for a while, feeling like I knew you. I’m originally from Baton Rouge and live walking distance from Calico Corners in Dallas. I hope you are adjusting to your new normal.

  14. Wendy says

    I just found your blog today. Beautiful post. So sorry for the loss of your mom. The kitchen can be a lonely place without that one person who always was occupying it. Moms are such a constant in our lives (if we are lucky) and without that constant, it can feel like we are adrift in the middle of the ocean in a canoe with one oar. My mom is still here, yet she’s not. She is losing her memory. We don’t know if it’s caused from depression (my nephew died tragically almost 4 years ago and then his mom (my sister) got stage 3C breast cancer a few months later), lack of sleep (15 plus years of moderate insomnia) or just was going to happen anyway. She can’t remember the simplest of recipes and thus, doesn’t cook much anymore. Going to my parents house (while not my childhood home) was always like going home with all the similar decorations and foods being cooked. Now, not the same at all because she’d rather eat out which is not how she used to be. I had a serious operation two weeks ago. I didn’t tell her ahead of time because I wasn’t sure which would be worse…if she called me twenty times a day leading up to the surgery asking me the same questions over and over OR forgetting that I told her and saying nothing. I told her two days after the surgery and have heard nothing since. Hoping all the voids of your heart are filled with warm memories of your beautiful mother.

  15. says

    Oh Erin, I’m sitting here rocking my baby girl and am in tears reading your words. My heart aches for you, and the hollow ache you feel inside without your mom. I’m so sorry. You exude such grace and strength, and I so admire you. Longtime reader, and though we’ve never met in person, thank you for letting us into your life and heart. You remain in my thoughts and prayers!

  16. Mary says

    Erin – I don’t read blogs very much, but I happened upon yours. I’m so sorry about your mother. I lost my father a year and a half ago in an accident. I was only 33 and have struggled with grief. I know you are a Christian and wanted to suggest Griefshare to you. You can read about it online. It helped me in those early months. I don’t think losing a parent is something you ever get over, but you do learn to cope. I also get together with other girlfriends who are grieving parents every so often and we commiserate over wine for a few hours. It’s the best therapy ever! Wishing you comfort and peace.

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