88: She Never Stopped Loving Me

88: She Never Stopped Loving Me

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: For Mom, with Love

She Never Stopped Loving Me

Mother, the ribbons of your love are woven around my heart.

~Author Unknown

The police officer cleared his throat. “Ma’am — you okay?”

Bent over, I wiped my face on the blood-soaked bandage covering my lacerated thigh. “No.” Tears cascaded from my eyes as I pleaded to God with the desperation of a lost child. “I want my mommy.” My voice broke. Trying to mimic my mother’s hold, I curled my legs up and clung to them, then rocked myself back and forth. Never before had I understood how much her love meant.

I hoped she would still love me.

“You can call her once we get to the station.”

A guttural sound loosed from within, and my weeping increased. “No. I can’t. She’s in Haiti.”

“Oh,” he said. “Sorry.”

Was this really happening?

My mother always told me she’d love me no matter what, but I didn’t believe her. Convinced she’d be disappointed and stop loving me if she knew all the terrible things I did, I hid myself from her. My life was full of secrets and lies.

Would she stop loving me now that she would know the truth?

At the station, I gave a false statement to the detective. Promising myself I’d be honest if he questioned my story, I searched for signs of disbelief, but receiving only assurances, my lies continued. I couldn’t even think the truth, let alone say it out loud.

A knock interrupted us. “Her attorney’s here,” a voice said.

“My attorney?” Confused, I shook my head. “I don’t have an attorney.”

“Well, she says she’s your attorney,” the voice said. “She wants to talk to you.”

The detective slammed his hand on the desk. “She doesn’t need an attorney.”

Startled, I looked up at him. “I don’t?”

He furrowed his brow. “Why would you?”

My lips trembled. “I don’t know.” I thought for a moment. “Maybe I should see what she wants.”

The detective scowled as the door opened and a woman appeared. She looked at the floor beneath my bleeding leg and pointed. “Is that her blood on the carpet?”

Looking down, I nodded.

The woman pointed at me. “Don’t say another word.” She turned to the detective and put her hands on her hips. “She needs to go to the hospital. Now!”

In the emergency room, she explained the seriousness of my predicament. “Your mother insisted you have an attorney.”

“My mother?”

“Yes. Your sister called her and she told your family to get you an attorney. It’s a good thing — it’s very important you don’t say another word.”

After that, I didn’t say anything to anyone. I was afraid the truth, that I shot and killed my husband, would make everyone stop loving me. I worried no one would believe that it was self-defense.

My mother took the first flight home to help me with funeral arrangements. She held my weary body up as I faced the man I once loved in his casket. She helped me clean my house, which had been a crime scene for two days, and never asked me what had happened that night.

It took months, but the phone call from my attorney came. “You’ve been indicted for murder. You need to be in court in the morning.”

Hands shaking and knees bouncing, I nervously awaited the judge’s ruling for bond. Then, with a thundering clang, I was behind bars.

I thought back to years before, and my mother’s words echoed in my ears. “Don’t get involved with him. He’s bad news.”

Although afraid she’d stop loving me, I had married him anyway. I loved him and needed his love.

“I’m so disappointed. Why do you make such choices?” she asked.

My heart deflated.

“Well,” her voice held resignation, “I’m worried, but I still love you. You made your bed, now you can lie in it.”

At least she still loved me.

Then I had a child of my own, and maternal love overwhelmed me. When my mother saw her grandson for the first time, her face lit up. “Oh! Oh my goodness! He’s so wonderful.” She stroked his head and ran her hand down his body, then wrapped him in her arms and brought his face close to hers.

Her love was overpowering; it flowed from her as she drew him into her chest and held him tight. She looked at me with tear-filled eyes. “He’s so precious. He reminds me of you.”

“Me?” I grimaced. “How’s that?”

She looked at him. “Holding him reminds me of holding you when you were born. I love him, just like I love you.”

Could she really love me like that?

As time went by, my husband’s extreme jealousy grew into obsession, which evolved into emotional and verbal abuse. Then the abuse became physical. But what could I do? The old mantra danced in my head. Worried the truth would cause me to lose someone I loved, I kept my burdens to myself, even when his anger escalated to daily threats on my life with a knife held to my throat. As my mom said, I had made my bed; I had to lie in it.

One dreadful night, my husband spun out of control. He tortured me with a knife and threatened our son’s life. Instinct to protect my child kicked in and I knew I had to do whatever it took. I would die for my son. With that resolve, I managed to get away from my abuser and ran for the hidden gun.

The metallic clatter of enormous keys startled me back to the reality of jail. In a letter to my mom, I mentioned how much joy it brought me to receive mail; after that, she wrote to me every day. With each letter, the realization that she just might love me after all, even though I’d done so many egregious things, began to sink in.

Although my mother lived in another country, she put taking care of my business and visiting me at the top on her list whenever she came to town. She did everything she could while I was incarcerated for over eight months, including managing my bankruptcy filing, hiring a high-powered attorney who got me out on bond, and taking custody of my son in an effort to keep me from losing him.

On the eve of my trial, fear besieged me. My mother hugged me tight and rocked me. “It’s alright.” She tucked me into bed and kissed my forehead. “I’m here for you, no matter what.”

Her presence reassured me during every minute of testimony. At the end of each day, she held me and comforted me. She stayed by my side and loved me through it all. When my jurors spared me from prison, she gave me a thumbs-up and mouthed, “I love you.”

A smile crossed my face — I believed her.

My mother loves me, no matter what.

~Leigh Ann Bryant

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