What Was She Thinking?

It’s been a while since I’ve written but I haven’t stopped thinking. I write all the time– in my mind. This week I have had increasingly more thoughts about my mom– not just because Mother’s Day is approaching. The week has been marked with several events that have prompted a convergence of thoughts. In my mind, the randomness is very much connected.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of my mother’s birth. She would have been 89.
Sunday was the anniversary of my father’s death. He died 40 years ago 05.07.77

My coworkers mother passed away this week. I didn’t know her mother but it has stirred many thoughts. Empathetic emotions of losing ones own mother. This is a difficult experience but especially so just before Mother’s Day. I appreciate her courage.

My mother was just 49 years old when my father passed away.
I am now 49 years old.

I can be pretty sure each of my sisters have had similar thoughts at this age too. Here are mine– What was she thinking?

Dad had been fighting cancer for a year but nothing can prepare a person for the day it finally happens. I looked back on the calendar to 1977 since my memories are few and faded. He died on a Saturday. The next day was Mother’s Day. What was the day like for her? His funeral was likely a few days later, right before her 49th birthday. How did we celebrate that year? Did we? Was she too overcome with grief to contemplate this milestone– did she grieve the last year of her 40’s, as many women do?

I could have wallowed in deep, depressing thoughts this week.
I could have thrown a wing-ding of a pity party with one simple status post…

“My father died 40 years ago. Woe is me!”

Instead, I chose to think about LIFE.

No doubt, my momma and I were close. Wallowing in sadness might be expected by those who know me well. The trouble is, every time I try to muster up tears of emptiness, I can’t. I know how much mom missed dad. I have an indescribable peace knowing they both have eternal life beyond my wildest imagination. What comfort this brings!

My finger scrolls a year forward to 1978 on this modern day calendar I hold in my hand. My memories are a little less faded, still I’ve forgotten so much. May 12, 1978– my sister gets married and it’s one of the biggest I can recall in our small town. I remember singing “Happy Birthday, Dear Rosie” at midnight. Mom was 50 and this year her birthday fell on Mother’s Day. I do remember more about that time. Due to unfortunate circumstances, two of my sisters moved back home just prior to the wedding. Mom started taking valium.

Don’t worry– I’m not going to write a depressing “Ode to Mother” today. I’m simply feeling extra reflective at the moment. I’ve been thinking about how close mom and I were and how that came to be. I’ve enjoyed my daughter’s weekend visits from college and appreciate the transition to an adult mother-daughter relationship. Sometimes when we laugh together, I actually FEEL like my mom. My body is shaped much like hers. The laughter comes from so far down, my entire body shakes without a sound. My eyes water and I gasp for air, just so I can keep laughing.

So there we are– laughing until we cry over the silliest things. Just like me and mom.

I’m pretty sure my friends thought I’d sink into a funk or depression when our nest emptied this year. My daughter isn’t far away but we are far enough to appreciate each other more. I can be fairly certain a day may come when we won’t be on the same continent much less in the same state. We are bonded, no matter the distance. Like me and mom.

This winter I had the experience of sharing time with recent widows. I contemplated the early years of life “A.D.” (after dad). Mom was my roommate. Literally. When my sisters moved back home, sleeping with mom was the only place for the baby of the family. I listened to her stories and her heart. I dried tears and snuggled with her. God had a plan despite the crazy circumstances we were living. I see now, how He worked it out.

Mom and I had several years home alone before the nest finally emptied. It’s no wonder we were close (although I remember battles too). We were going through a lot, mom and I. Middle-age, widowhood,  teenage rebellion– each of us trying to figure out who we were. What didn’t kill us made us stronger, right?

I was in my early 20’s when mom suffered a bout of spinal meningitis that was not diagnosed for– gosh, I don’t know how long. Logically, she shouldn’t have survived and I’m told her case is logged in a medical journal somewhere. Mom lived in a nursing home before her golden years. I remember she joked at age 65, “Well, I guess I can retire now!” She did have a fun sense of humor.

Most of my adult life mom lived in a nursing home. We created new memories during her second life on earth. We had a rare and special mother-daughter relationship. I don’t think I can put it into words. Writing today has helped me recollect so I don’t forget how special -how deeply rooted- our relationship was.

Mom passed away six years ago in March. We had to choose a day for her internment and May 7 was a logical choice. We laid her body to rest next to dad on the day of his passing. In 2011, May 7 was the day before Mother’s Day– same as it was in 1977. This time of year stirs up many emotions but I choose to let the good things float to the surface and let the sediment lay at the bottom without stirring up a fuss. Sure, Mother’s Day is a special day but I find joy in the remaining 364 days of the year too.

Motherhood has been the greatest joy of my life. I understand why mom wasn’t quick to exit this world. I recall some of my final conversations with her– asking why she felt the need to keep fighting for life when a better one awaited her. She said, “But I’d miss all of you.”

Well mom, we miss you too. But I’m so glad you planted seeds of faith so we can rest assured the best is yet to come. Eternity is a pretty long time and will be worth the wait. Sometimes I wish I could talk to mom and dad. But for the most part, I’m content to simply be present in this moment.

It is well with my soul.

As I sat with my mother in hospice care, I wondered what I’d miss the most. I decided it was her hands that showed much living and were brought comfort with every touch. I appreciate this moment.

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