89: On My Biggest Fan

89: On My Biggest Fan

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Mom Ever!

On My Biggest Fan

Smile… heaven is watching.

~African Proverb

I lost my mom four months ago today. A lot of the time I forget she’s really, really gone. I get lost in work and conversations during the day and I forget that I won’t be finding a silly comment from her as I scroll through Facebook, that we won’t be going on another one of our shopping sprees, that I won’t be seeing her any time soon.

But then I remember… and it hits hard.

One of the last conversations my mom and I had was about my overall wellbeing. I was complaining to her about how I felt bored — unfulfilled — during the week. Like I’d stopped making time for myself to do things that I really enjoyed. Sure, my life was pretty good, but sometimes I’d get caught up in the mundane routine of wake up – go to work – go to the gym – make dinner – eat dinner – go to bed. And when I was finally in bed I was wide awake, panicking that I’d just breezed through another day without much really happening.

Mom told me I should pick up tennis again. “Join a USTA team and get back into it! I always love watching you play,” she said. I told her I’d think about it… but in my mind it seemed like way too much work. I hadn’t picked up a racket in what seemed like years and I didn’t really like playing with people I didn’t know… and going online and filling out forms? Eh, probably not gonna happen. I left her that day practically forgetting we had even talked about the idea.

Mom went into a coma just hours after that conversation. She died the next day.

Flash-forward a couple of months. Tennis practically fell into my lap: my co-worker heard I used to play and she asked me if I’d like to hit after work. I said yes and we played, and even though I was rusty it was fun to be back on the court. The next day my co-worker’s friend contacted me and asked if I would join her USTA team. I said yes and the following week I was playing my first match. It felt good — I was thrilled to be doing something Mom had wanted me to do and, as she had suspected, it made me a happier person.

This past Monday I played the most competitive match I’ve played since high school. We lost the first set 0–6. Great, I thought… another loss. But then something happened, and we won the second set 7–5.

We were losing 5–6 in the tiebreaker for the third set when I saw a crowd forming above us upstairs. And in the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of someone I thought I knew.

My heart fluttered: Mom’s here! I thought. Just as quickly as my heart jumped for joy thinking my biggest fan came to cheer me on, it sank. I realized that the lady with the short hair, who from a distance looked strikingly like Mom, was not her. I remembered that Mom died four months ago. In the midst of this match I had completely forgotten that she was gone.

I’m unsure how I didn’t fall apart right there on the court. We ended up winning the tiebreaker, 10–8.

Driving home that night I thought a lot about Mom. I thought about how I’ll never have her “cheering me on” again — at tennis matches or through work accomplishments or during life milestones. I thought about how unfair it was for her. Mom was my brother’s, my dad’s and my biggest fan. She’d give up anything to be at Lee’s show or Dad’s jam sessions or my tennis match. And she’d always be there after, smiling no matter the outcome, telling us how proud she was.

But then I thought about what I’m writing now. Tennis didn’t just fall into my lap… someone wrapped it up in pretty paper, put a perfect bow on it, and neatly placed it there. I didn’t just stumble back into tennis; someone helped me get there. I didn’t lose that match, because someone helped me find the strength to win.

Mom might not be here with me every day. She won’t be cheering me on at my next life event and she won’t have words of encouragement for me at the end of it.

But maybe she’ll lead me there. Maybe she’ll help me get to where I need to be, and get me through the things I can’t quite get through by myself.

After all, fans don’t just stop cheering. Right?

~Georgia Putney

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