Mother’s Day 2022

I had been dreading it for weeks….gone into a pretty bad funk days prior. I did NOT want to go to Branson because not only would I have to grieve my first Mother’s Day without Joe away from the comforts of my own home, but it was a weekend we were supposed to spend with Joe and Michelle in the first place. I am not into touristy places and would rather spend the day outside in nature. Rich finally had to tell me, as I was in danger of digging in my heels and not going at all, that he had planned to surprise me with flying in Tim, my youngest son, to Missouri to spend the weekend with us. There was also the added bonus of being able to spend a few hours with Michelle dangled in front of my nose like a carrot as well. So I sucked it up and went. I did have a nice time but it was hard.

We left on Friday, May 6th, the 2 month anniversary of Joe’s death. The mood in the car riding down to Kansas City to see Michelle was that of a deflated balloon. It was good to see Michelle and take her out to lunch. She, too, was deflated. It was a rough day for all of us. I just wanted to stand in her living room and be next to my son’s ashes. I didn’t want to make things any tougher on her though, so we said we had to head on to Branson. She gave me a gift bag as we were leaving for Mother’s Day. It was so very kind of her. You see, she could easily wash her hands of us if she wanted to. But I love her as my own, and I wish I could do anything to help stop her hurting. I didn’t open the bag until we were in the hotel room. I am glad because I completely fell apart with her most gracious gift to me. You see, I don’t have much of Joe’s. As a grown, married man and owning a house, he had his stuff. I have a lot of photos and some papers. I treasure all of it. Growing up, Joe always had a teddy bear he called Bears. I bought it for him when I was pregnant for him. It is made by Precious Moments and is now considered a “vintage” bear. Joe would get a kick out of that. Actually, Joe and I had talked about this bear a lot over the last couple of years because he wanted to find one to give to his first child someday….but we weren’t having any luck…as they aren’t made anymore. One of the things Michelle gave me was Bears. Joe slept with that thing for a long time….until high school I think. Even as a married man, he had it in his home stashed away somewhere. I was able to hug Bears…to smell Joe….to have one item that summed up his childhood in my possession. It meant the world to me. I stood in my hotel room and ugly cried for a long time. It was just the most precious gift to a grieving mother…her child’s most loved stuffed animal. Bears was LOVED. I had sewn his limbs back on more than once. This past week I found the original “vintage” bear on ebay and had it sent to me. Here are the comparisons….I just want you to know that if you were loved by my Joe Messina, you were loved fiercely. He didn’t do love any other way.

Bears on the left….and what he looked like prior to being loved by Joe on the right.

Michelle also gave me two shirts…one for me and one for Lily…that had been Joe’s. They were the t-shirts Joe wore during his OFD training. What a spectacular gift for us both…to be able to wear something that Joe had worn. I don’t know if Michelle realized what a priceless gift she gave me this first Mother’s Day without Joe. But it was just that, priceless.

On to Lily. Rich didn’t realize it, but Lily had taken one of my photos of a cardinal I had taken recently and painted it during her free time at school. It turned out amazing! I am putting a few of her other paintings on here for you to see as well, because we think she is pretty talented. She was selected to go to an art camp for high school juniors at Hastings College this summer. We are so happy for her! Joe was always amazed at her artistic ability, as am I!

It was so wonderful to see Tim! He lives so far away now. I remember when he lived in Lincoln and we could drive an hour and see him and take him out to lunch. Now he lives in California and he is busy working at Stanford. He is so busy, yet he takes time out to call me when he is driving home from work. He usually texts me during NBA games we are both watching or UFC fighting events. We were able to sit and watch a UFC PPV event while in Branson and that was great. He knows a lot of the histories of the fighters, which makes watching live with him a lot of fun. He and I will be going to a rugby tournament in San Jose in July, and I am really looking forward to it. We all wore our Messina “Family is Everything” Italian shirts on Mother’s Day. As much as I love this photo….two very important people are missing: Joe and Michelle.

Rich, Lily, Cyndi, and Tim Messina at Dogwood Canyon Nature Park – near Branson, Missouri
When I took this photo, I kept thinking that this is how my grief felt….like I was waiting for Joe to join me on a bench to watch a beautiful sunset in Missouri….yet as I waited for him to come join me, my tears of grief over missing him just flowed and flowed, until the bench was being overtaken by them.

I tried very hard to not spend Mother’s Day in tears. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. We went to Mass at a beautiful church called Our Lady of the Lakes. We then went on to go to the zoo and then to Dogwood Canyon Nature Center. We played some board games. I tried to explain to Tim and Lily that my tears for Joe shouldn’t make them feel any less loved….that a part of my heart died with Joe and it was just so very painful. We got home and all the emotions I had tried to stave off during the weekend (because I was never really alone) threatened to rise to the surface as I was finally in my safe place to grieve openly – home. However, Morgan Oslica, whom I have known since she had baby teeth, stopped by with a big arrangement of beautiful flowers and a card that said, “Happy Mother’s Day. We’re all thinking of you this Mother’s Day. Thank you for raising an incredible son, who was an incredible friend to all. From all your kids you’ve helped along the way.” It was the sweetest thing. I thanked Morgan but for those of you who might be reading who helped out with this, thank you. My Joe surrounded himself with the best people. I have always been so thankful for that.

When we first moved to Omaha, Rich dug up a bunch of tulip bulbs around a tree in our front yard. That was almost 7 years ago. This year one pink one managed to come up. It only bloomed for one day before wind and/or rabbits took off the bloom. I told Lily it was Joe giving me a mother’s day gift from heaven.

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