A heart is a universal symbol for love – especially on Valentine’s Day. February is also American Heart Month.
Raising heart disease awareness carries a deeper meaning for me because my mom, who was my best friend, died of heart failure on January 6 last year after a seven-year battle with lung and heart disease.
She was the bravest person I’ve ever known. She was funny. And kind. And selfless. She could impersonate Elvis better than Austin Butler. She loved to sing and dance. She loved my son beyond measure. She loved to decorate for Christmas and make everything sparkle. And she would do anything for her family and friends. She was so tiny, and her heart was so incredibly big!
And she never gave up.
Not after my dad died suddenly in a car accident. Not during Covid or Covid pneumonia. Not a year later when she went back to the hospital, struggling to breathe, and came home on hospice.
Not even the day she took a turn, and I lost her.
I was so lucky to have her. That she was my mom. I beat a million odds to live when I was born. I have Cerebral Palsy. My hands were balled up in fists as a baby due to spasticity. She relentlessly opened and closed them so that my hands could function. I’m ultimately typing now, thanks to her help, her love, and her desire for me to be all I could be.
Everything is so quiet and still without her. Or the sound of her calling my name. Telling my son or me to be careful. Saying “I love you, Honey.” I could go on and fill pages and pages about my precious Mama…
But I’d like to share this: She believed in my writing. And she knew that I dreamed about touching hearts with my words.
Our Vocal Connection
Writing for Vocal helped open my heart after my dad died in 2020. I entered a challenge with a story called "Words are the Most Priceless Gift We Can Give."
I couldn’t believe it earned a Top Story! My mom hadn’t smiled in forever – and she smiled through happy tears that day. She encouraged me to write and to enter more challenges.
We had a HUGE celebration when I took third place in the Bedtime Story Challenge for my entry "Bo Finds Some Berry to Love."
I shared the win with my friend Valerie, who illustrated our children’s book that’s embedded in the entry.
I’ll never forget how my mom hugged me so tight. She felt so frail and thin in my arms. But we laughed and rocked back and forth like I’d won the lottery!
At that moment, I felt pride, joy, and excitement in her bones and my own. A giddy glow spilled out of us that neither of us had felt in a long time.
The Vocal platform gave us that moment – and I’m forever grateful! That writing achievement brought my terminally ill mom kid-in-a-candy-store indelible joy.
There’s something in all of us, I think, that wants to make our parents proud. And I’m sure I’d done that in one way or another through the years. This was different. This was unexpected sunshine ahead of an impending hurricane.
Thank you, Vocal and Vocal community!
My heart broke when my mom died. I shut down again under the weight of such an unbearable loss. I couldn’t even breathe on some days, much less write a word.
What did anything mean without my biggest fan and best friend? We shared challenge excitement. I’d tell her my story ideas, and she marveled at how I pulled them together. It didn’t matter that I didn’t win or get another Top Story.
It was the trying, the writing.
In her final months, not being able to leave the house, she was part of something her daughter was doing. It gave her a purpose. And we’d share a silly grin when I’d discover her random $1 tips.
She often said, “I don’t know how you write such beautiful words.”
I never believed in myself the way she did. But hearing her say that when I didn’t know how much time we had left meant everything to me. And it means even more to me now.
I’ve been an online freelance writer for over 12 years. I still met my deadlines last year. But I couldn’t muster the heart to return to Vocal without my biggest cheerleader.
Yet, I could almost feel her gentle nudge. I knew she would want me to keep trying.
And even with this cavernous hole in my being, I still long to touch someone’s heart with my words.
In essence, writing is a solitary craft. But I’ve never felt such a strong creative kinship as with fellow writers and creators – many of whom are here in the Vocal community. Mike, Melissa, Les, Babs, and Caroline have been incredibly kind to me. They are so talented and are huge inspirations!
Boosting each other up on this often thankless creative journey means so much!
Most writers aim to connect with readers. When we’re world-building, breathing life into our characters, or delivering passionate social commentary, we long for others to read and connect with our stories.
We want to touch hearts. We aim to entertain and transport readers. We hope people feel something after reading our words. Be it joy, sorrow, longing, pain, or fright. We hope to engage, inspire, or ignite passion.
There are so many talented writers out here who are doing just that! I’m bowled over by so many amazing stories and the untapped, hidden literary wunderkinds on Vocal. Cathy, Harmony, J.R., and Dharrsheena are just amazing!
There are so many more, and I'm humbled to be part of the Vocal community with them. Thank you for touching my heart and inspiring me!
After about 15 months away, I entered Vocal's Quadru-Haiku challenge with “Staying Above Water.”
It’s my first attempt to express the weight of losing my mom. And the first I’ve written after writing her obituary.
I wrote a couple more haikus for the Time Capsule challenge. Fellow vocal writers, friends, and my favorite author, Marti Leimbach, have given me such kind feedback. They have boosted my broken heart, which I fear will never, ever totally mend without my mom and dad.
Still, I can hear my mom whisper, “Keep trying. Keep writing.”
Mysteries of the Human Heart
I think one of the heart’s biggest mysteries is how the largest smooth muscle in our body that physically sustains us also enables us to feel emotions. If I’m sad, there’s a palpable “ping” and raw ache.
When I’m happy, I sense a bubbly glow. Even more beautiful, when I spread happiness and joy to others, my heart swells with a warm rush.
It's an incredible universal feeling. Love makes your pulse race in a good way. It lightens your heart, makes your eyes sparkle, and helps your spirit take flight. Love heals. Hearts can break, and hearts can heal. Will we ever understand the sheer will to keep going? Keep loving? Keep giving?
Does My Voice Still Matter?
In trying to find my voice again into my 50s, I constantly wonder, does anyone really want to hear what I have to say – especially at my age?
I’m not a hip Instagram influencer or an NYT best-selling author reaching thousands – and millions of followers and readers.
Can I still reach someone and stir their heart? Will my words matter or make a difference?
Abusive romantic relationships have battered my heart and shattered my self-esteem. Still, the piercing pain of losing my mom and dad hurts worse.
Here’s what I’ve learned about my own human heart: Wounded or bruised, battered and split open – my heart still beats in my chest. My heart still has the capacity to give and receive love and kindness.
I mentioned NYT best-selling author Marti Leimbach above. I dedicated my haiku, “To Read is Love,” to her. She’s written a slew of brilliant novels, including “Dying Young,” which was adapted into a film starring Julia Roberts, “Daniel Isn’t Talking,” “Man from Saigon,” “Age of Consent,” and “Dragonfly Girl,” to name a few.
Her stories and characters have touched my heart in ways I can’t even express. I’m honored that we connected on social media, and some of my words have sparked joy for her – including my haiku about my time-transcending love of books and how stories take root in my soul. I am so happy that I brought her a smile.
Over time, we may forget the exact words that inspire us – but we won’t forget how they impacted our heart and moved us.
As the late, great Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
My mom made me feel like a princess. Like I could do anything and that I was the most special person on Earth. Like I have important things to say and can lift people up with my words.
I’ll be grateful for her love and encouragement for the rest of my life. I miss her profoundly and the way her amazing heart always shined through her smile.
I don’t know when my own heart will stop beating. As a mother myself, I hope not for a long time. More than ever, I realize that life is so fleeting.
Each day also brings new opportunities to look for the sun beyond the clouds, give and forgive, brush off petty problems and differences, help others, to live, love, and laugh.
Touching hearts, I know, goes way beyond writing. It’s prompting unexpected smiles, lending a hand, and loving each other through challenges and loss. It’s stepping up, showing up, and lifting another soul.
We all mess up. I’ve made a zillion mistakes.
I know while my heart is still beating, I will use my words to spread love and kindness, and I'll strive to touch hearts.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Mama. Thank you for your love and laughter. Thank you for believing in me. I hope you are looking down and know that I’m trying. <3
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