It has been a month since Mom died. Memories haunt me. I determined prior to her dying that I would have no regrets, yet some how I still do. Choices we make, second guessing, I think this is normal. I wish I hadn’t gone to bed when I did. I wish I had chosen to stay up to be with her. I can’t undo that. I have to refocus my thoughts to what I did do. I was there. I held her hand, I told her I loved her. I gave and received as many kisses as I could. They have to last me for the rest of my life. The emotional hole in my heart is real. How do you not miss your mom? The one who brought you into the world, loved you, taught you? I will always miss her, yet in my thoughts she is still very much alive.
The world did not stop when she died. Life around me continued. Even my life has continued. It has been hectic and crazy. I am so busy these days that it is hard to stay up with things that need to be done. The hectic process of arranging the transport of mom back to Wisconsin, getting accommodations for the family. The actual funeral. The one nice thing of that, was the family coming together. We hadn’t done that in years. The cousins all re-discovered each other. There was laughter, there were tears. Each of us impacted in so many ways by the life of mom. Without her, most of us wouldn’t exist. We are her treasures. Her successful life work. She fashioned us, taught us, instilled the moral codes we live by. What she ingrained in us, we are infusing in our own children and grandchildren. Her impact, her life continues in each of us.
For me, I will always remember her deep faith. She didn’t speak about it much. In fact, it was rare. She made sure we went to church every Sunday. I will always remember when I was in college, I would come home for the summer. I would be full of my independence and determination to continue to do what I wanted. She would clamp down on me, reminding me that I was in her home and would live by her rules. One of which, I was required to go to church on Sundays. One day, I refused to get out of bed. Dad came in and said I had to get up. We were leaving soon. My rebellious self responded that I wasn’t going. I wasn’t sure that I believed in God anymore. What I didn’t know, was I had thrust a piercing blow to her heart. She started to cry. I will never forget that image of her standing behind dad and crying. I was shocked. I was bewildered. I got out of bed. She said to me, “I don’t know where I would be without my faith.”
Wow. That was a revelation I had not understood before. I had watched my mom navigate my grandparents deaths, miscarriages. She had lived through disappointments of life. She was uprooted to follow a career sailor who was transferred every two years. She was separated from her parents and family by miles and even time zones. Often she was unable to see them for years. Phone calls were rare in those days because of how expensive they were. In the early years, money was very tight. When dad would be away on a ship for weeks at a time, she alone was raising us 3 kids. It wasn’t easy for her, yet she did it with strength, courage, determination. She gave us her love unconditionally. She laughed, she cried, she yelled, she disciplined us, she taught us, she trained us. She held us accountable. She made us think. She challenged us.
Today, when I think of her, it is the end of her life that is most profound. Because of her disease, Alzheimers, it robbed her and us of so much. Many of my memories of her personality have been over written by her what the disease did to her. Yet despite the disease, her innate goodness still remained. Her caregivers all loved her. She would tell them, and us that ” You are a good person.” She showed her gratitude to the people who were kind to her. She was quick to praise people. She was gentle and loving. Even as she was dying, I cuddled with her one day and told her she would be going to heaven soon. I reminded her that she would see her parents, those that she loved. I told her Jesus would be there and he loved her and would take good care of her. There was a pause, then she responded, “Yes.” Her faith remained strong, her trust was in God. She demonstrated what dying with dignity and grace looked like. I will never forget the absolute peace that was like a blanket on her when I walked in and found she had died. She looked relaxed and peaceful as though taking a nap.
Mom lived out her faith, she instilled it in me. I hope that I have instilled it in an impactful way to my own children. I won’t know the full extent of that until they have lived out their lives. I hope when my time to graduate to heaven comes; that they too can say that their faith came from the example I lived for them. I pray that I too will be a good example of what it is to have lived with faith and died with my faith intact. I pray that I can be as graceful and loving when my days on the earth are done. I can only hope, that I am leaving a loving heritage to my own children as my mom has done for me.