Her Brain Might Forget This Day But I Know Her Heart Won’t

by | Sep 5, 2019 | Aging Parents, Loss and Grief | 16 comments

My mom is in a hard season of life. Her memory is no longer what it used to be. She knows what is happening and it’s hard for her.  A retired schoolteacher and principal, she’s a smart and well-read lady.  She forever thirsted for more knowledge and always wanted to learn the latest and greatest things her grandkids were into.  While I still can’t get her to leave her cell phone ON (especially right after she calls me), she works apps on her cell phone like Lyft and Uber like a champ because she likes her independence.  She is a senior citizen, but she is trying to be a progressive one.

Mom always loved the theater. As a child, she introduced me to it at a young age and to this day, I love going to see musical productions. As a young girl, I saw the play Annie over 24 times, in all different cities, because my mother knew how much I loved the music and knew every song, word for word. She instilled the same love of theater in my daughter, taking her to see any and every show possible that she thought Katie would like.  Her joy came from watching us enjoy the show and it was more about the experience and less about the actual show. 

This past June, my daughter and I along with her best friend and her mom, planned a girl’s trip to San Francisco that included seeing the show “Hamilton”.  The girls knew every song, word for word, just like I did with Annie.  Funny how generations change, but the silly things people do stay the same. We knew how much the girls were dying to see Hamilton, so we bought the tickets in November as Christmas gifts.  Days before we were set to go, my mom casually mentioned how much she wanted to see that play as well and asked how she could get a ticket. By that point the tickets for our June performance were sold out so sadly, she was unable to join us.

The show was incredible. Surpassed all expectations.  Truly amazing. I knew my mom had to see it.

My sweet mother never wants anything for her birthday. “Lord knows I don’t need anything” she tells my older brother and I every year so this year we gave her the gift of time.  The day I got home from San Francisco I schemed with my brother to surprise mom for her birthday and take her to see Hamilton.  We called it “Moms’ day out with her kids”. It would be tricky logistic wise but we would figure it out. She wanted to see it, so we wanted to make her wish come true.  Her birthday was a month before I could acquire tickets, so we had her open a present that just contained the tickets. She was like a kid at Christmas, counting the days until her big day.

I told my mom I would pick her up at 9am for an 1 pm show but the night before she called to suggest I grab her 30 minutes earlier… just in case.  While she can say it was because traffic is unpredictable or she didn’t want to be late for the show, the truth is I know she just wanted more time with her kids.  And as a mom with two kids away at college, I get it and I don’t blame her for trying to extend the day.

As our kids get older, they get busier.  Time together gets difficult, not because we don’t love each other but because the logistics of every-day life gets in the way.  And because I am self-employed, a day off means I don’t get paid. No work, no pay.  Its’ ironic though that I made no money that day but somehow, I feel richer.

My mom beamed ear to ear.  She could not have been happier. She soaked it all up, even sitting in traffic. On the two-hour drive to San Francisco, she told me stories about her best friend in high school (Sally), memories of growing up in Laguna Beach when it was just an artist town and about the nice lady who lived on her childhood street (Mrs. Lyle).  She remembered old songs she loved (Que Sera, Sera)and told me stories of her college escapades (where they stored alcohol they snuck into the dorms). Her memory was spot-on and she was happy to tell me about “the good old days”.

Before the show we went to lunch, just the three of us. It hit me how rare that moment was. Usually, we have our families around, lots of mouths to feed and lots of people talking. Just having the three of us felt sacred and special and I knew how blessed my mom was feeling because I was feeling the exact same.

The Orpheum theatre is old, built-in 1926 so there are no elevators.  We were on the mezzanine level so that meant we had some stairs to climb to get to our seats. My mom was a trooper, not a single complaint with all the stairs. She grabbed my brothers’ hand and took every step with confidence and pride, like a boss.  Nothing was going to dampen her day.

The play was amazing, even better than the first time if possible.  I kept looking at my mom, sandwiched between the two people she loves the most on this earth, and knowing how genuinely happy she was.  Like my mom used to feel, it was more about the experience this time than it was about the play. And I while knowing her brain might forget this day, I know her heart won’t.

One of the best ways to measure what is important to a person is to look at what they treasure most.  For my mom it’s easy. She treasures her children.  Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Time is a concrete expression of love that people can measure.  It says, “I value you and you matter to me”. I hope my mom felt loved all day and I hope she knows she matters to us, even as she feels like she is slipping away with her memory. We treasure her and will walk this scary journey holding her hand every step of the way.

Time is a beautiful gift we are given in life. It is flying past us whether we like it or not, and if we don’t pause long enough to take a look or make a memory, it will be gone. The time we set aside that day for my mom will never be replaced. It is etched forever in our hearts. It is a tender and complex dance watching your parents age. It is unsettling and yet, it is inevitable. All we can do it take their hand and tell them it will be okay. We will protect them like they protected us.

The next day she left me a voicemail.

“Hi Kelly, this is mom. I just wanted to say thank you for yesterday and tell you that I hope your day today isn’t too busy. Yesterday was perfect, just perfect. Okay, love you, honey. Bye Bye”.

Que Sera Sera.


  1. Judy K Hodges

    Thank you Kelly for sharing. I miss her and you. What a blessing you and your brother are to your Mom. Kirstie sent it to me. Know you all are always in my heart and prayers.

    • Kelly Richardson

      Thank you Miss Judy. I will pass your love along to her. You and your family are part of some of my best childhood memories and my mom was so grateful for your friendship. Love you and hugs to your family!

  2. Jaycie Schenone

    Tears are streaming down my face. What a special day with your mother and brother! Two incredible people, just like you. It makes sense you three are related. Love you so much!

  3. Pat

    I sit here with tears Kel. Our kids, grands and greats are my most precious gift.

    • Scott

      Take every moment, because when you those moments the most they may not be there. Nice read Kelly. Love you guys

  4. Katie

    I love your mom. She is the greatest lady.

  5. mollie

    Kelly, that was beautiful and I LOVED that day. Thanks to you and Patrick. I will remember it always with overwhelming love. Wish I wasn’t losing my memory, but you and Pat made a special one that day. thanks

  6. Katheirne Herbert

    Kelly, you always write the beautiful heartfelt blogs. I can only imagine how much she enjoyed that special day, an incredible gift. Hugs

    • Kelly Richardson

      Thank you Aunt Kathy! It was a wonderful day! Hugs to you!

  7. Maura

    I love this so much! This reminds me too that my sister and I wanted to take my Mom. So we will start planning ~ with this wonderful reminder.

    I remember the first time I met your Mom at an FHS football game. We talked more than we watched the game. Such a great lady. I’m glad she had this perfect day! The pictures are awesome!

    • Kelly Richardson

      We loved sitting with you at games. So much fun!! Take your mom and let me know what you think. Hugs to you my friend!

  8. Laura

    As usual, you totally made me cry Kelly! What a great day for all of you. I know it meant the world to her! Love you all!

  9. julie

    What a special gift you and Pat gave your mom. The pictures say it all – she was one happy mama!

  10. stacey wall

    I LOVE nana and pappy. thank you for having them be part of our family over the past few decades. thank you for sharing this story. I felt like I was there with you guys

  11. Maureen

    This is just beautiful- the post, the day you spent together, and most of all, the woman you wrote it about. She is an angel on earth and I’ve been blessed by her love. I’m overjoyed that you and Pat spent the day with her and that it went so well! The three of you deserved that time together, making that beautiful memory. ❤️

  12. Kristen

    Gosh, you are an amazing writer, Kelly…I truly appreciate and enjoy and RELATE to all that you share. Thank you for putting words to my own thoughts and observations. Blessings to your sweet mom!


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