That dreaded call came Sunday. Mom was unresponsive and her breaths were shallow. According to the medical staff she would probably not make it through the day.
All my siblings and I spent the day by her side. As the day drew on, her breathing was more labored and she began to gurgle.
She grew weaker through the night and at ten past six Monday morning she ceased breathing and her heart stopped beating.
This is a difficult time. But with all my deepest darkest emotional upheaval came a shining light. In the way of a message from my daughter, Erin.
Through tears of joy and sadness I read the message:
I am lucky. I have felt unconditional love my whole life. My parents have loved me through my darkest days. Days when I was mean and spiteful. Days when I was arrogant and selfish. Days when I was sinful and remorseless. Days when I could not even love myself.
They have supported me my entire life and given me far more than I have deserved. Because of them, I am a better person and parent myself. They have lead by example and every good decision I make as a mother has some root in their teachings.
Which is why I am even more so amazed by my mother.
You see, my mother did not have this example. The love of her own mother came with conditions disguised as religious truths. She was not supported. She was not guided. She was very much alone.
How did she know? How did she know how to put her children before herself and all others? How did she know how to ensure her children felt worthy of her love as well as the love of God? How did she know how to be the foundation on which her children would build their entire lives?
I don’t know how she did it. I don’t know how she continues to do it, never once letting herself be crippled by anger and resentment. Never thinking twice about lending a hand to those who turned their back when she needed them most.
I have been angry. I have been resentful. I have wanted nothing more than an apology. An admittance of guilt from the woman who raised my mother. I have wanted this for my mother for so long. But, it does not look as though she will get this peace..this closure.
And yet..there she sits. By her dying mother’s bedside. She is not angry, but tender. She is not spiteful, but caring. With the help of her sisters, she has taken care of this woman for months, often without appreciation. She expects no repentance. She expects nothing in return.
Why? After all these years. After all the hurtful words and hateful actions. Why is she there? Why is she able to give something to this woman that she herself never received during the most crucial times of her life? Because that’s what she does.
She loves without limitations. She gives without expectation. She cares and nurtures. She forgives and forgets.
So, now, as I think of my grandmother I am not angry. I am not resentful. But, I am sad. I am sad that she missed out on my mother’s adult life. I am sad that she missed watching her become a beautiful woman, a loving wife, and a caring mother. I am sad that she refused to allow herself to experience the unconditional love of my mother and her sisters. I am sad that she doesn’t know the person I call Mom..because she is a wonderful person. A strong person. A selfless person. And knowing her is a blessing I would not trade for all the world.
I love you Momma. Thank you for giving me such a great childhood, filled with laughter and love. Thank you for continuing to stand by me as an adult. Thank you for overcoming every obstacle you have faced in order to become the amazing person that you are. I am forever grateful for you.
That note from my daughter helped me more than she will ever know. Because I was conflicted many times in the duration Mom and I were estranged. Having her present this in such a heartfelt emotional way makes me feel so relieved I didn’t allow any bitterness or anger to transfer into our relationship. The sweet phone call from my son after her passing meant more to me than he will know. I can imagine it is very awkward to express sympathy knowing our history. But every expression of sympathy has been very much appreciated.
I was totally unprepared for the rush of emotions upon her passing. I mourn the mother who raised me. I mourn also, the mother she could have been during my adulthood.
I mourn that sweet,stubborn, funny, loving mother I got to know these past two years. We all learned so much about Dementia. She never was to the point of not recognizing us. We all discussed how Dementia sort of placed her in
parallel realities. She had some of the wildest stories to tell. But then she would come back to the real world as lucidity came in waves.
I mourn for the love she could have felt. She left behind many grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great great grandchildren she never knew. Most she never met. It breaks my heart that she missed out on being in their lives.
My sister’s and I had little to say about any arrangements. Her wishes were to be cremated and have a service at her place of worship, The Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Usually, those grieving receive comfort from a funeral home staff, the smell of carnations mixed with so many gorgeous arrangements, the bustle of loved ones, family and friends all around. There was little normal about our relationship and I guess it will end oddly as well. Asking for understanding from anyone who might judge me or my sisters harshly for not attending the service at the Kingdom Hall. There are so many reasons to never enter that place again. It is very important to avoid a place where the members presume spiritual superiority. That religion has kept us apart for years. A religion responsible for tearing families apart. I promised myself I would never go there again. As a disfellowshipped person, I would not be allowed to speak!. I had hoped to speak at her service. I also hoped it would be held at a neutral location.. Saddened that it didn’t work out that way. I gave it over to God, and have received peace.
My sisters and I will gather to pray for her, and remember the good mother who raised us. We are so very blessed to have one another. All those years in my mother’s absence, they were there for me. All of them nurturing me, guiding me, loving me. I am blessed beyond measure. I’ve also had support of a wonderful Husband and dear friends.
I am thankful I made it out of the religion of my birth. Thankful for having accepted the gift of grace. Ephesians 2,8. Through help from God, family and friends, I will emerge stronger than before.
Any hurt feelings will diminish in time. I will cherish the good memories. We were raised with good moral values. We felt loved and secure. We were raised to love everyone without prejudice. She sacrificed for us and made sure our needs were met. It wasn’t always easy with five kids and often little means. There was a time when I was about twelve or thirteen, I remember looking over at my mom as she was driving. I thought to myself, she is the best mom! I would be devastated if anything ever happened to her. At that time in my life she was my world. When it came time for any of us to drive, she helped us get our license and allowed us to drive…. a lot. One time she was very sick. She had a terrible stomach virus. I was about sixteen. I had never seen her so ill. I felt her pain so completely as if I was the one burning with fever and heaving. A favorite memory is being taken up the forestry tower. She worked for Georgia Forestry when I was very young. It was exciting and gave me some time with mom all to myself. She would pack us a lunch and let me look through the binoculars for smoke. There are many happy memories of her teaching us the game of Rook while eating popcorn and fudge or loading the car with kids to go to the lake or creek. We had great times as children. One time when I was in High School a friend and I had been out to eat pizza. We came home and could hear the music blaring when we got out of the car. We recognized it as we got closer. We looked at one another and said “Led Zeppelin???”. We laughed so hard as we came in to see mom checking out the content of my latest album purchase. I think she had heard bad things about that band. But she must have liked it judging from the volume.
One day I may write a blog containing the eulogy I would have given. If I had that opportunity.
Rest in peace dear mother.