The messages came on Mondays.
Group texts to her four girls, the grown-up daughters Sue Hill loved so much. Tiffani and Patea, Alison and Cameron, the baby of the bunch.
“I’m hoping ur Monday has started out well and ur light is shining brightly,” she wrote on an August Monday in 2019. “God gives us what we need to meet the challenges of life day by day. Yesterday is gone and only He knows what tomorrow looks like…”
The messages were like little prayers, tiny motivational speeches, love letters pecked out on a smartphone.
Their mom was sick by then, colon cancer that had spread to her liver. She had prayed to be healed and for a time the tumors were gone.
When they returned and the doctor told the 64-year-old she had just months to live, she had an answer.
Only God knows.
Sue Hill trusted God to heal her and planned for her funeral. Either way, I win, she told the many people who loved her.
Last July, Cameron Van Hoose was home on Woods Boulevard, where the Hill girls grew up. Her mom was in her last days and her daughters took turns at her bedside.
One day while she rested, Cameron started taking screenshots of all those text messages from her mom. The Monday texts to her four daughters.
Another day not to just live but to THRIVE. Don’t let this current world system and society define who u are. U r who God says u r and He simply adores u...as do I.
The texts she sent to encourage Cameron on hard days at work or before a doctor’s appointment during her pregnancy with baby Julien, now 8 months old, asking God to be with her.
I thank u in advance for all that will happen tomorrow. I love Cammy so very much but u LOVE her more...
Cameron pulled up old videos and photos and put them in a file on her computer and called it Mom.
* * *
All the girls stood at the front of the church on July 21.
They dressed in blue, their mom’s favorite color, covered their hair in the colorful wraps their mom favored and the red lipstick she wore.
Tiffani spoke of their mom’s love and legacy.
Patea read a poem.
Alison and Cameron stood facing each other and sang “You are my Sunshine," the lullaby their mom soothed them with when they were small.
In the days after Sue died, the family was blanketed with love. For the daughters and their families. For their dad Sonny. For their grandmother who lived four doors down the street.
“To be a recipient of that was overwhelming,” Cameron said. “In her passing you could truly see the impact she had on people.”
Sue knew so many people. She directed the choir at all the churches they’d faithfully attended over the years — Christ Temple, Christ Place, Lincoln City Church. She sang at weddings, she counseled and encouraged. She’d been head of education at Tabitha. She spoke up and spoke out. Her daughters’ friends all called her Mama Sue because she cared about them as people, loved and cared for them, happy they were in her daughters’ lives.
She was a hugger. She called people sweetie and hon. She paid attention when they talked. She had a big laugh and hands that waved in the air when she made a point.
She told her girls about discrimination she experienced as a Black woman. The KKK marches she witnessed during her college years. The patients who turned away when she walked in the room and asked for another nurse. She taught her girls to be confident women, to stand up for themselves.
She loved to cheer at girls basketball games with her own mom and sisters.
She was a nanny to Easton and Ava and Julien, the baby she willed herself to stay alive to meet.
On the Monday after the funeral, Cameron went to Facebook. She wrote about her Mom’s Monday text messages to her daughters — “She always knew when we needed her love and support most” — and about how she didn’t ever want to lose sight of who her mom was and what she embodied.
“I’d like to share something special about my Mom every Monday to keep her in the forefront of my mind and heart,” she wrote. “Maybe it’s here on social media, maybe it’s in a journal, maybe elsewhere. But I thought I’d start here as maybe her words might encourage you too as you begin your new week. And for those who know and love her, a new week without her.”
She gave the post a title: MYOM Missing You on Mondays (and every other day)
She numbered it: 1
The next Monday, she was back. 2/52
* * *
She writes “novels” and then edits them down, said the 33-year-old who lives in Kansas City with her husband Matt and their baby boy.
She doesn’t plan the posts in advance, but when something strikes her she writes it down and, on Monday, she gathers the words. Adds pictures. Videos. Those screenshots.
Sometimes, she writes to her mom. “Mom, with you there was always music…”
Sometimes, she writes about her mom. “My Mom was strong-willed, self-confident and just the right amount of charismatic in the workplace. She stood up for herself. She spoke up if something didn’t seem right or fair…”
And always, she ends the post with words like these. Love and miss you, Mom...
It’s been 26 weeks, half of the year-long commitment the daughter made back in July.
She calls MYOM a “final project” for her mom. A way to honor her and to grieve for her.
“A way to document how good of a mom she is.”
She thought about the Monday messages she and her sisters received from their mom “reminding us that God is good and that we always had someone rooting for us in her.”
And so she settled on Mondays, too.
“I wanted it to be a day of the week where I truly set aside time.”
She calls it an obligation, “in the good sense of the word.”
Cameron is nostalgic. She saves things — notes and cards from all the way back to grade school. She’s the sister with the phone out — shooting videos, taking pictures.
Growing up, it seemed everyone knew Sue Hill. At the grocery store, people would stop them and she would give them her undivided attention, her girls pulling on her sleeve.
Church friends sought her out for guidance or advice. Ask her to pray for them.
And as Cameron posted memories of her mom — dancing the Cupid Shuffle, watching her sing from a pew at church, her voice on a saved birthday voicemail, playing the piano with her grandson Easton on her lap, the moment she found out Cameron was pregnant — she started hearing from the people who read them.
I miss your Mom!
Thank you for sharing this!
I hear her voice everywhere I turn.
This story touched my heart.
People began sharing their own memories of her mom, like the acquaintance from long ago, now a teacher, who was touched by one of the messages from her mom that Cameron posted in her weekly remembrance: U r n my thots and heart every minute of this day and thruout this week...
“She says that now to her second graders every day,” Cameron said. “Those are the things that remind me how great my Mom is and she still has some sort of impact even though she’s not here on this earth.”
In the weeks since summer, the daughter has posted about her first birthday without her mom, the first Christmas, the four-sister sleepover in honor of their mom’s birthday Jan. 9.
She and her sisters have laughed over the memories she's shared and cried over them, too.
Theirs was a mom with four favorite daughters and all of them are still grieving and finding their way without her, Cameron said.
“She was so very present in all of our lives and now I realize the constant effort and desire to be that shining light for all of us.”
On the second week of her project, Cameron wrote about how much she missed her mom. That her heart hadn’t allowed her to believe she was really gone.
She imagined what her mom would be saying about her final project. Oh, Cammy, do you really think people would care what I have to say?
Sue Hill’s daughter had an answer.
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Reach the writer at 402-473-7218 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @TheRealCLK