Mom – Of and After All

Monday is the day of … and the day after.

This is the eighth anniversary year of mom’s passing – and the Monday after the weekend when celebration, remembrance and dinner pictures find their way on Facebook walls.

Today isn’t the end of a mid-late winter weekend when my mom died. I held her hand during an earlier, colder, hospice-sterile, emotionally filled room almost ten years ago.  It wasn’t Mother’s Day weekend, but it was a day with my mother.  My last day with her.

During the final moments, she turned to me and said, “Don’t watch me die.” … I know why.  Her care and concern for my future emotional well-being was above her own cares and needs.  She didn’t want me to carry upon my shoulders the vision of losing my best connection to silly, wonderful, and hope. Her last testament breath, although faint and whispy, filled the room with love only a mom could provide.

That was her final moment of being my mom.  Then … she was gone.  I was to have no more Mother’s Days with her.  No more pinochle games, Trivial Pursuit conflicts, or conversations about nothings.  

A simple day it was when sadness flowed as tears.  I held no judgment toward anyone or any God as my mom’s stillness was unlike anything I’d witnessed before.  

It was a sadness I never forgot. Every Mother’s Day, she is remembered as if I am still in the elevator after that moment frozen in time.  Leaving mom – alone – in her 14th floor palliative care room.  Descending into an unknown future was a vacuous ugliness without one of my greatest supporters in life … my “go to” when life sucked, or my Doug hug at an absolute needed moment.  The no-mom abyss we – who embrace our moms – are stuck in when they die.

From that moment forward, my hours have been different. My one-parent reality is incompatible with what I knew during the first five decades of my life. Dad is great, mind you. I’m not complaining about the growth we’ve experienced together as father-son. A relationship both of us needed to work on, badly, and have done a yeoman’s work to get where we are today. Against that background, one could make the case mom’s passing had an impact greater than what I saw at the time.

Whatever gains are made in my life, I cannot – nor do I want to – ever forget her. After all, she’s my mom.

The best I can do is offer these words I wrote last Mother’s Day weekend.  They are for her … and, most likely, serve a greater cause: for me.  I need to hear them again.

“Obvious limits can’t make me a mom. Apart from gender parts and pieces, there’s a higher level of understanding required I don’t have. Notably, nine months of discomfort, hours (possibly days) of labor, and childbirth.

Those are reserved for the strongest among us – mothers. 

I had one of them. She’s not here anymore.

This is a weekend to honor her strength. Time set aside to sit beside a piano to relive seeing her play with that Mozart-ian crooked, genius smile. Remembering moments of pinochle when we laughed more at ourselves than the game. Hours to recall her struggle…her strength.

Years gone by with her lasting impressions on my heart – without a hint of ever thinking she’s actually by my side…as I was with her drawing the final breath.

I don’t know where her spirit is now. Recent reality teaches me she’s gone. For good.

I exited the hospital as she exited our lives over seven years ago.

Of all those impacted by her passing, my life has changed in the most meaningful ways. No sibling, or my dad, has changed. Not to say one better, one worse….just is.

This change is to her credit.

I switch out the fruit – frequently as it seems – in life’s basket she handed over to me. The apple of faith has been eaten to the core. Sweet smiles from orange peels are a distant memory. Bananas are only moments away from becoming bread and the strawberries for pie are past their usefulness.

I can’t handle the fruit. She wanted me to continue forward tasting the good fruit in life …. and that’s ok. I can’t. Not right now.

What I CAN do is empty the basket of fruit, fill it with the earth, and plant seeds for the future. Flower seeds.

Rich, colorful hues of roses, peace lilies, sunflowers, and violets. Through these, my eyes can taste the beauty of my mom. My hands can water and till the soil – doing the dirty work – to make my mom alive again.

She was the strongest among us. She’s not here anymore.

I miss her.

I miss her strength.

I miss, most of all, telling her I am strong as well…and seeing her nod in approval of me.

She, alone, was capable of that once-in-a-lifetime connection with her “Stanley” which has never, ever forgotten his “Ollie”.

Yep, that’s her….and this is her weekend. 

My basket of memories is full. The other basket is sown with seeds of hope, joy, peace, contentment, health, and happiness.

As those flowers bloom, I will see her again.

I had one of those moms. The best for me. 

I shall hold a small flower as if I am hugging her once more. The flower will nod in approval testifying to the strength I cannot possess, …. and to the love she gives me.

A love only a mom like her can give.

Pushing me to be the best version of her I can be.

….and that’s perfectly amazing.”

Today is the day of … and the day after.  I wouldn’t have it any other way, except to have mom by my side once again.

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