Mother, Daughters, Dublin—and Banoffee Pie

I’ve discovered something recently: One of the best things you can do when you are desperately missing your mom is to spend time with your daughter. Not easily done for me, since my daughter, Erika, lives in Ireland. But for my birthday this year, Woody and I flew to Dublin, and I got just what I needed: time with my daughter.

We had a glorious week. The weather was amazing for February—not a drop of rain ’til the day we left, and temperatures in the 40s. A virtual heat wave, compared to this winter in Wisconsin! We did all kinds of fun things. There are a lot of new things in Erika and Richie’s lives, and we got to see some of them first-hand. We saw their cozy new apartment and the new school where Erika teaches. We visited their new church, which has a format (worship and teaching followed by a coffee break and then a Q&A time) and a pastor we love. (Great preaching does not happen only in mega-churches—which, by the way, are nonexistent in Ireland, believe me!) We got to visit Richie’s workplace and to hear lots about his current classes at the Irish Bible Institute.


We even took a road trip to Belfast in order to visit the vast world of Ikea. This is where Woody definitely earned the father-of-the-year award. Believe it or not, we spent six and a half hours in Ikea. Yes, you read that right: 6 and 1/2 hours! An astonishing feat by any standards. But absolutely incredible when you consider that this was with Erika, who does not like to shop! The same Erika who actually used to say to me when I wanted company going to the mall: “How long would we have to be there, Mom?” (Where did she get this? Definitely not from her mother!) However, she did have quite a spurt of shopping enthusiasm that day in the Belfast Ikea. It wasn’t really a matter of quantity shopping, but rather quality and caution: You see, she actually hates to spend money (even her father’s), and her choices are deliberate, but—I must say—wise. The result: we came home with some nice new touches for their apartment, and had a lot of fun doing it!

Best of all for me, though, was just simply spending time with my daughter. We had some great conversations over coffee—and a fabulous Irish dessert called banoffee pie (a heavenly concoction of bananas and toffee and chocolate—yum!). I realized that somehow I needed time with Erika more than ever in the midst of my grieving over my mom. Erika just understands in a way few other people do.

We did a lot of reminiscing. We looked at old pictures. We talked of tender memories. And we laughed a lot. One night when I was showing Erika and Richie some of the new Mom To Mom DVDs (from Inside Out Parenting: A Mom’s Mission, due to be released on May 1) she corrected a story I tell about her and my Mom in one of the sessions. It was about a time when she was a preschooler, and, upset about something “Nini” wouldn’t let her do, actually yelled “I hate you!” at her grandmother.

“Oh, Mom,” Erika said, “you were a little too kind in telling that. I actually said it three times! And I remember being horrified, ashamed, and scared to death as soon as it came out of my mouth.” Last week we had a really good laugh about it—though, believe me, it seemed no laughing matter at the time! I share this on behalf of all of you with strong-willed preschoolers. There is hope—even for your child!! I think of the wonderful relationship Erika had for so many years with her grandmother. I ponder the beautiful notes she wrote Mom in her last weeks. And I tell you: There is hope!

One of the things that helps amidst the grieving process, I’ve discovered, is to be with others who grieve with you. And I knew Erika understood that when she played for me, one day on our road trip, a few favorite Patty Griffin songs. One of them is called “Better Way To Say Goodbye.” As we listened together, tears flooded my eyes. But they were tears of healing, because all three of us in the car at the time (Erika, Woody, and me) shared them, I knew. And before we left Blackrock (the actual town south of Dublin where Erika and Richie live), Erika gave me as part of my birthday gift a Patty Griffin mix she entitled: “Music Therapy via Patty Griffin.” On the CD she had written this verse: “The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Now that I’m home (an 8-hour flight away from Erika), I play that CD a lot. Especially the song “Better Way To Say Goodbye.” Especially the lines that say “Today my heart is big and sore/Just trying to push right through my skin/Won’t see you anymore/I guess that’s finally sinking in.” And I read Erika’s note on the CD: “Mom, I hope this acts as a little balm for the days when your heart feels ‘big and sore.’ I love you—Eri.”

And as I listen, and as I re-read Erika’s words, I thank God for “music therapy.” And for mothers. For memories. For heaven. And for daughters. For direct flights between Chicago and Dublin. For low airfares in February. But especially for mothers and daughters. If you can hug your daughter—or your mother—sometime soon, do it! Hugging daughters-in-law and mothers-in-law works well, too. And if you don’t have any of these nearby, borrow one. I’ve had some pretty special “second moms” over the years. And I have a friend or two with far-away moms who consider me sort of their “Wisconsin mom.”

How blessed we are to have—and to be—mothers, and daughters.