One of the first things you will notice upon meeting my mother are her beautiful, clear blue eyes that are complemented by her silvery white hair. When she laughs, her eyes sparkle. When I look into her eyes, I don’t just see her at her current age…I see a lifetime. I also see her as a child, teenager, young woman, complete with the hopes and dreams that lived in her heart and spirit.
Mom’s current life consists of her love for God and the Blessed Mother, family, Barbies, Beanie Babies, all children, and all animals. She is very selfless; always looking for ways she can help people, or little gifts she could give them. Time with family, praying, reading countless books, word search, card games, movies, shopping, and dining out, fill her days. Mom’s mobility isn’t what it used to be, so she depends on me and my husband for her outings and social life. Being that we both work fulltime jobs, plus the responsibilities of home and a home business, we don’t get her out of the house as much as we would like. Mom is a very social person, and I know she is lonely for friends.
Mom has lived with my husband and me for the past nine years. At 85, she has lived through lots of life. There has been joy in her life, and also a great deal of pain and struggle, which culminated with my dad’s death ten years ago. After almost fifty years of marriage, her life’s love and best friend was taken from her. To this day, she hasn’t gotten over the pain of losing him. Although she is happy with us, I know that she misses him every minute. I definitely understand that, because if I lost my husband, I would miss him every minute, too.
My mother raised four daughters. I am second to the youngest, and was daddy’s girl. Although mom took care of my needs, I never felt a close relationship with her while growing up. She was always “my mother” and I never knew her as a person. Everything in our home revolved around my dad…it’s hard to describe the person he was. Let’s just say he was full of life, and everything usually revolved around him and his moods. Although my relationship with him was confusing at times, I knew who he was, and some of what he had gone through in his life. During good and bad times, I had a close relationship with my dad.
When my father’s health started to go downhill, and he was no longer able to do the things that brought him joy, it was difficult and painful to see him so vulnerable. My mom told me she used to go in a room by herself, pretending to play solitaire on the computer, and just cry. We lived states away from them, so we didn’t know the extent of his weakness. Her stories of how he would fall and she would struggle to get him up are just heartbreaking….the last time he fell, she dragged him with a sheet to the couch where he finally was able to hoist himself up. Mom would never go anywhere without him, because she was afraid that he might pass away, without her being there. He wanted to die in his own home, not a hospital, and she wanted to be there for him.
It was the Sunday after Easter in 2003, and Mom was in their kitchen preparing a roast for the crockpot. (she retells this story a lot) She heard my dad call her name twice, “Mary, Mary”. She ran into the bedroom, and he was half off the bed – kind of caught between the bed and the wall. He must have hit his head on the dresser, because he was bleeding. From what she says, I think he was already gone. She ran into the other room to get the phone, to call 911. She will always be sorry for not just staying with him and holding him. No matter how many times I tell her that Daddy knew how much she loved him, and her name was the name he carried with him to meet God, she still feels that guilt. I believe her inner life is filled with memories…mostly good, with bad and guilt swirled in. Isn’t it the same for all of us?
There are many experiences Mom has never shared with me. I know she goes much deeper than she has revealed so far. But one of my prayers was truly answered. When my dad was getting weaker, and his health diminishing, I would pray that God take him first so I can get to know my mother.
When we first took my mother into our home, I did it out of honor and respect for her. I was happy that we were able to give her a safe and happy place to live, and felt that we were presenting her with a gift.
What I have finally figured out, nine years later, is that she is the gift… to me.
I am learning so many things about my mom. I have always known that my temper is from my dad, but my ability to forgive and love, came from my mother. My mother sees the good in me, and although she also sees the rough spots, she mostly overlooks the negative. It makes me sad, because every now and again I will lose my temper with her (always because of politics), and afterwards, I feel so bad. When I apologize, she just says, “sometimes things just build up and things have to come out”. I appreciate her words, but still feel bad that it happened in the first place.
Because of those moments with her, I now understand how she and my dad filled each other’s lives so perfectly. My dad was very hard to live with sometimes, and she was able to let that go. She knew and understood his heart…and forgave the actions. BIG LESSON for me. I have also learned many little things about her life, which help me patch together a feeling of the struggles she went through. However, when I ask her what she would change….she says that she would change nothing. She did the best she could with the circumstances that she was placed in.
And she does what she has always told me to do…she offers it all up to God.
Thank you, Mom…for such a beautiful gift.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. Ephesians 6:1-3
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. … 1 Corinthians 13