My Sunshine

September 17, 2012

I spoke at my mom’s service today, and afterwords, I had peace.Image


If you’ve ever been to our home before, one of the first things you’ll notice is that we have quite a few suns that we’ve collected throughout the years. And, whether or not it was a weekday goodwill find by my dad or a birthday gift from me and my sisters, each one meant something to my mom who loved suns. I brought with me, my favorite sun at our house where it hangs on the wall over my mom’s chair. This sun was a birthday gift from me and my sisters about two years before she was diagnosed when she got the crazy beautiful idea of planting a garden in our wild field of yard. Where of course she was planning to grow sunflowers. The first warm weekend in May, it took two trips to the nursery to get all of the soil and supplies we needed for that garden, and it was during the first trip that my mom pointed out this sun. Knowing her birthday was coming up, my fifth grade head got the idea to get it for her. So between dropping off loads of soil, my sisters and I raced up to our rooms, scrambling to pull together the money to buy the sun and when we returned to the nursery we secretly bought it and hid it under the seats of the car to get it home. Then a few weeks later, we surprised her with it on her birthday. She loves this sun, but this isn’t a real sun. My mom is my real sun. She is my light and my warmth through whatever blizzards life has to throw at us. Her life was an inspiration to all those who she was blessed to meet, and I cannot even begin to describe the joy it brings me and my family when someone tells us they were touched by my mom’s story. She is a light that shines with grace and strength, and one that not even death can put out. 

The first couple years after my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, I used to hate the saying, “Everything happens for a reason,” because I couldn’t accept that there could ever be a reason for my mom to have to fight for her life against such a vicious disease. I use to fight those words. Yet reflecting back on my mom’s journey and the memories we share, I see how much closer my family has become and how much grace and wisdom my mom has instilled in all of us. She was strong, and if there is one thing I’ve heard more times than I can count the past four years, it’s how much strength she and my family have. Cancer was a fight, there’s no doubt about that, but if there’s one thing she taught me, it’s not to face life with fighting strength but with shining grace. One can only fight so much before the fight takes more out of you than whatever you had to fight with in the first place. It was a year ago when my mom put down her pink boxing gloves, and I remember her telling me that when she prayed, she no longer asked God for strength or courage, but that she prayed for grace and peace. I never forgot those words, and I know that it’s been grace rather than strength that has kept my head up these final months so that I can be the light my mom has lit in me and my sisters. 

One of my mom’s first blogs was about her love of long goodbyes. And what a beautiful long goodbye we were blessed with. Filled with both laughs and tears, our long goodbye was a precious gift of time that brought us all closer, so that our goodbye didn’t really feel like a goodbye at all. My mom was always honest with my sisters and I, and as difficult as it was her to tell us about the days we have and the days we do not, it was best gift we could have had. The biggest lie in the world is that ignorance is bliss because there is nothing that can replace the long, loving, tender, cherished goodbye we had with my mom.

When my sisters and I were little, my mom would sing to us before we went to bed. She loved to sing and she would sing anything and everything she knew the lyrics to, which trust me included quite a lot, but there’s one song that I always think of, and it goes like this…



“You are my sunshine,

My only sunshine,

You make me happy,

When skies are grey,

You’ll never know how,

How much I love you,

Please don’t take my sunshine away.”


My mom is my sunshine, and it may seem like cancer took my sunshine away, but I think that idea ties with the biggest lie in the world. My mom will always be the sunshine in my life, and she’ll be shining on each one of her daughters as we graduate and walk down the aisle at our weddings and have children of our own that will get to hear countless stories about the wonderful grandmother that is watching over them.

She’ll be shining on my dad, her quiet, understanding husband, as he keeps taking pictures and uses the gallery that they designed together.

She’ll be shining on my aunt, her warrior sister, as she keeps us all together and we show her the places my mom loved to go and the things she loved to do.

She’ll be shining on my grandma, her mother of unwavering love and support, as she holds on to her six grandchildren who love her so much and remembers that it’s okay to cry big tears because they make way for big joy.

Through skies both blue and grey, my mom will be shining with us as our very own sunshine and we love her so much.


14 Responses to “My Sunshine”

  1. Betsy Happel Says:

    An amazing piece, from an amazing heart. Thank you for gracing us with a little sunshine of your own this morning. May you and Allie and Mattie grieve as God would have you grieve, knowing you are never alone – not for one moment.

  2. I am so proud of you for speaking for your mom, for your family. You have always been an amazing little person Erin, Bug-Bug, Beaner.
    Your first big outing was your Dad’s Master’s show at Wash. U. You were about 6 weeks old and you wore a black dress.
    After the show we went to Olymipa with your parents. I held you. You sat on the table looking very chic and we stared at one another… and I loved you. I knew then you were a special little person, you have never disappointed.
    See you soon, in the Sunshine.

  3. You write beautifully…Thank you for sharing your Sunshine with us…

  4. What an amazing testimony of you Moms life. Beautiful!

  5. mama Says:

    All I can say is this is my daughter’s daughter and it shows.

  6. Tish Chism Says:

    Well, you’ve done it again! You are truly an amazing writer, definitely inherited your mom’s gift of being able to reach the hearts of others with the written word. I have so enjoyed your mom’s blog; it has made me cry, but smile also and encouraged and inspired. I wish I could have met her, but kind of feel like I have. Thank you for sharing your writings with us. I was so excited when I saw that “glass half full” come up in my email. Please keep writing! I hope to meet you all some day. Bev Schofield is my friend and I love her “Sparky” moments; I’m thinking I would love to traveled with those two! Thank you again for your words! ❤

  7. Beautiful words from a beautiful young lady. You and your sisters are a model of the grace and peace that Ronnie upheld so strongly. Thank you for sharing your “sunshine” with the world one more time. Warm Regards….

  8. Jenna McCoy Says:

    I cannot convey the peace, grace, and love your words give to me at this moment. You have a gift with words. Please continue to use them. They are an encouragement to others!

  9. chris schott Says:

    I’m sorry Erin. I still hate the saying, “Everything happens for a reason” . I’m going to carry your words about grace and peace with me instead.

  10. CookingBytes Says:

    Wow!! Another great post. I am speechless. You go girl!!

  11. Donna Spier Says:

    It amazes me that for so long your mother was and still ia such an inspiration to those who had the privelage to meet her. I have been reading the comments left by those she touched. I cant say I knew her very well…but I stood beside her once in a photo. It was a proud time for her and I and the 7 other survivors in the picture. I remember her smile and the warmth and light that seemed to be a part of her. And now, that same light is shining through you….her child. You are now teaching us about how her light continues to shine…and everytime I see the sun I will think of your mamma and what she taught me. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

  12. Terry Says:

    Erin, there is an inherent grace in you that shines like a beacon in your writing. I’m a 56 year old man who learned a lot today, from one much younger than I. Thank you for sharing. God bless.

  13. chug2010 Says:

    Thank you for posting this! I have lost both my Mother in 2009 and my father just in August. I came to this website to put down what my parents have taught me. I am having troubles of my own with their deaths, but I am trying to stay strong as my parents would have. Everything you have said from sun’s which there are a few in my parents house, also have one tattooed on me, sun flowers.. my moms favorite flowers, and you are my sunshine.. my Mom used to sing that to me as well. Before bed time. You truly are blessed to have had such a wonderful Mom. I feel so connected to your story in a way because of the things I have seen and gone through myself. Your words are inspiring to me in the hopes that hopefully soon I can have that grace, and courage to regain myself. I am 23 years old and still have a lot of growing to do, as you have said. I plan on using advice and wisdom that my parents instilled in me from day one. Again Thank you SO MUCH for posting!!- Chelsea

  14. Ken Susman Says:

    That was beautifully written. I am so, so sorry for your loss. I know that there is nothing that anyone can do or say to make you or family feel better or hurt less, but know that if there’s anything that you think of that you need, your Northeast family is here, thinking of you all.

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