My mother passed away on April 20th, after a long, hard fight with brain cancer. I'm still struggling with a sneaky kind of grief that crops up when I'm least expecting it. I was ready for her to go that Saturday evening when she took her last breath, surrounded by all her children and grandchildren. But knowing that the end is at hand and being ready for the suffering to stop is different than being ready to lose my mother. She was 76 years old and I honestly thought we had another ten or twenty years ahead of us. I wanted more time. Neither of us were ready for the finality of good-bye.
In the immediate afterwards, I was relieved. Caring for my mom those seven months was beautiful in a way that I hadn't expected or even imagined but also intense. Everything else but caring for my mother fell away. I slept just feet from her bed so I would hear her in the night. We spent our mornings watching the birds out her window while I massaged and soothed, coaxed and encouraged. I can still feel her hot breath on my neck as I helped her move from chair to wheelchair to bed to toilet; I can feel the weight of her as I learned to help shift her from side to back to side when she could no longer get out of bed. But I was exhausted and I knew that she was too.
My mom was an amazing woman. She single handedly parented five children, enduring years of relentless poverty while managing somehow to never make us feel inpoverished. She couldn't give us material things so instead she gave us a deep curiosity about the world around us, a library card and permission to walk the two miles there and back as many times a week as we wanted. She never spoke of her hopes and dreams for us but she instilled in us a belief that we could truly do anything we wanted and, in fact, that we would be foolish if we didn't. She was a good role model for lifelong learning, she was trained as a teacher but she was always reading and teaching herself new skills. She could spin the hair of a llama into beautiful yarn which warped her loom or kept her knitting needles busy, churning out beautiful works of art. She could repair furniture, lay ceramic tile, and tackle just about any home improvement work with expertise, if not the enthusiastic support of her children who often grew tired just watching her.
She is greatly missed but remembered in just about everything I do. But most especially I will see her in the beautiful expression of motherhood.