Another Mother’s Day has come and gone, and I still can’t believe I couldn’t hug and kiss you, give you a mushy card, and a box of Godiva’s.
You know the tradition in the church on Mother’s Day, when they pass out pink carnations to women who still have a living mother, and white to those whose mothers have died? I remember the year you were no longer eligible for a pink flower. I was heartbroken, and pushed aside thoughts that I was next in line to qualify for this rite of passage.
I was in my 40’s when I realized there was something confusing about your childbearing years. You had two girls, Noreen and Linda, and then a boy, Marvin. Six years later, I was born. I inquired, “Mom, was I an accident?” You replied with a little too much haste, “No! Well, I mean, not really. We were happy about you once we got used to the idea.” I never suspected that I was an unplanned pregnancy, a tribute to the way you loved me completely.
I admit there is relief in knowing ‘the end of your story.’ I was worried about you as you aged. Questions lurked, “How would you die? Would you suffer? Would you lose your mental faculties?”
Consistent with your loving and open nature, you shared your end of life experience with us. We kept you comfortable at home, with the assistance of hospice. On 9/7/07 at 7:00 a.m. with 7 of us at your side, you passed from this life to the next, offering us one last radiant smile. You were 87 years old and you and Dad had celebrated your 70th wedding anniversary earlier that year. It is no coincidence that seven is a number that represents completion.
One of the many things you taught us was to laugh at ourselves, even during tense situations.
True to this teaching, you always laughed at the retelling of your famous cranberry story. The setting was a marathon shopping jaunt with daughters Linda and Noreen, and granddaughter Bridget. When it was lunch time, you stopped at a local diner. Service was slow and you were ravenous. You started to complain with increasing volume and urgency.
When the server offered a dry saltine cracker, you jumped to your feet, and announced you were leaving. Linda grabbed your shirttail and pulled you back in your seat. Bridget innocently offered you some dried cranberries she carried for emergencies, to which you bellowed, “Cranberries! Who wants cranberries? I’d eat chocolate covered raisins, but cranberries?”
From that time on, when the ladies planned an expedition, there was a checklist comparable to preparing a plane for takeoff. And there was no announcement of ‘all clear’ until confirming that someone had packed chocolate covered raisins.
One of the ways I worked through my grief after you died, was to write letters to you using my dominant right hand. Then I would write your replies, using my left hand. In one of my letters I asked you how you adjusted after you lost your own mother, and this was your reply.
I don’t know how I did it when my Mom died. Of course I was sad, but I kept living. She always lived in my heart, as I will yours. Go ahead, not backward. Live and laugh. I am always with you, more than when I lived on earth. I love you, my baby girl.
It took time before I could go ahead, not backward. But I am happy to say I took your advice, and I am living and laughing.
And I don’t leave home without chocolate covered raisins.
*Note: I’ve found great comfort from the book “On Grief and Grieving” the final book written by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross with David Kessler. This is where I got the idea to write letters using right and left hand. I don’t have any affiliation if you click on the link and purchase. If you are grieving, I highly recommend it.
©2016, Stevens. All rights reserved.