Mother's Day Without You
Saturday, May 12, 2018 at 8:38AM

Dear Mom,


This weekend will be my first Mother's Day without you. Through the years, I always knew it would come—the day when you wouldn't be here--but I always pushed it out of my mind because I couldn't bear the thought of it. And now, it's here.


I used to think that when you were gone, I would be devastated. I was surprised that instead, I felt relieved.


I felt guilty for feeling relieved, but it was only because I'd had three years of watching you slowly drift away from me, dementia stealing your personality, along with our bond, and the frailness of your body pointed the way to your eventual demise.


I couldn't bear it, and yet I did. I had no other choice.


Countless times, leaving your assisted living home, I had a huge lump in my throat and choked back the tears. I hated seeing you move out of your home. I hated the way our lives had changed, but there was nothing I could do to stem the tide of change. It was and is inevitable.


When I look back on the week you died, I can barely tolerate thinking about it. It traumatized me and so, I push it away from my mind. But relentlessly, my mind and heart seek to process it and I see snippets of you lying in bed, I smell the smells, I feel the deep sobs rising up within me, sitting at your bedside, feeling helpless.


I see Dad leaning over you, kissing your head, and telling you that you are his girl. I couldn't wrap my head around what it must have been like for him to say good-bye to you after 71 years of marriage.


I see our priest as he prayed for God to have mercy on you and laid his hand upon your head, your mouth gaping open.


I see the mortician coming out from the hospital mortuary, holding your wedding ring in his gloved hand, and dropping it into my palm.


I hear the nurse as she tells me over the phone that you just passed away and my heart dropped because I wasn't there with you when it happened.


I think about the last year of your life, when I learned to be thankful for simple things, like holding your wrinkled hand, and kissing your cheek, which was always soft. Toward the end, you didn't know who I was, but I think you knew I was someone special to you.


Mom, age 45 and me, age 15The things I enjoy remembering, though, are the things mothers and daughters eternally share: when you helped plan my wedding, bought me pretty clothes, joked around with me, bragged about me to others, and how you were always there for me when I needed you.


I remember the day I had a follow-up test to see if my breast cancer had returned. I arrived at your front door to give you the good news. You opened the door, and even though you were nearly blind from macular degeneration, you recognized me immediately, wrapped your arms around me before I could say anything, hugged me, and said, “Oh, I've been so worried about you!” No one else understood my anxiety or rejoiced with me the way you did.


I often wish you were still here, in your right mind, to enjoy your grandchildren and great grandchildren. I have no doubt you would have their every photo and accomplishment stored away, labeled, and organized in a photo album or box, just like the boxes you passed on to me to treasure. Your family meant everything to you.


"Best Hat" contest winner, circa 1960s.Mom, you would be happy to know that I regularly repeat things you said while you were raising me. It comes up when I least expect it and amuses me. The thing I feared the most—becoming my mother—is not just a trite saying after all. Somehow, it only seems fitting.


You and I shared our differences and I clearly remember our arguments. I wish you hadn't tried to control me so much. I wish....I wish so many things, but we can't always have what we want in this life because, well, that's the way life is.


And no matter how short of perfection our relationship was, how broken and wounded we were as human beings, I know this one thing: love covers a multitude of sins.


I knew when you died that I wanted to forgive you for all of your shortcomings and frailties, as I hope my own daughter does for me.


The realization struck me that if I, an utterly imperfect human being, am capable of wanting so much to forgive someone I loved, how much more would a loving God be willing to forgive me.


Mom, I miss you and love you. You will always be a part of me, as I am of you. May God remember you always, bless you, and keep you safe in His loving arms. Until we meet again.


And Mom, you raised me right.--I never did "twist my butt down Commercial Avenue."

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