Memories matter. They matter because at some point they may be all we have to sustain us. Especially, when we lose a loved one.
I lost my Mother recently. My beautiful, amazing mother. She was my best friend. Growing up, I never looked any further than my own home to find someone to look up to and admire. My mother was my hero. She embodied all that was good in the world.
Mommy was an active, vibrant 74-year-old woman. She drove a little PT Cruiser that said "Granzwgn," she loved to dance, and little children and "old people” were drawn to her. Mommy loved her God and devoted more than a 100 hours a month in volunteer service to Him. She was compassionate and caring. She laughed a lot. She exuded joy. She loved life.
Maybe Mommy didn’t accomplish much in terms of worldly success, in terms of fame or fortune, but in the eyes of her family and friends, she was wildly wealthy and hugely successful. Her titles included Mother, Grandmother, Great-Grandmother, Sister, Aunt, and Friend. The love she showered on her family and friends was as enormous as the Grand Canyon. To love and be loved in return is, in my mind, the greatest treasure that any of us can aspire to achieve. That is what makes us rich! Mommy’s enduring legacy was one of love. She loved her family and friends with all of her heart, and she was loved and cherished in return.
My Mother had four great grandchildren whom she called her “Grands.” The oldest Grand, Nattie, is just six years old, but she has wonderful memories of "Gram." My Mother babysat Nattie from birth until she went to pre-school. They loved to work in the garden together! They took walks, and they baked pies. Nattie often writes notes and cards to my Mom, telling her how much we miss her, how sad we are that she died and that she was a "Princess." My Mother would have been thrilled to be considered a Princess! Happily, in the mind and heart of this precious little six year old child, lies a memory of a wonderful great grandmother who was a Princess. For sure, over time, as she gets older, the memories will fade, but we have pictures and videos of Mom to help her remember, to keep Mommy alive in Nattie’s sweet little heart and mind. Also, we have an oral history of Mommy's life to share. I will continue to share memories of my Mom with my children, who in turn will share them with their children and on and on. Memories matter. A lot.
The pain of my Mother's death is still very fresh. At times I feel as if I can't breathe; other times, I feel as though my heart is broken, and indeed it is a painful physical reaction. My head and my heart are in constant competition. My head saying, "She's gone,” and my heart screaming, "No, that can’t be true...please?” Occasionally when I'm doing the most ordinary, mundane things, the tears erupt suddenly, forcefully, hot and overwhelming. I still struggle to wrap my head around the fact that Mommy was healthy right up to the minute the doctor told her she had stage-four cancer. Six months later, she was gone. I needed more time. Oh how I wish we'd had more time.
I've been told by others who have lost a loved one that "it will get easier." I don't know if this is true. I don't think so because Mommy's death is not natural, death is not natural. So while I know I will grow to accept this new reality, I also know I'll never get over it until Mommy and I are reunited. For me, it's like missing a limb. I don't feel whole without my beautiful Mother.
After her diagnosis, Mommy moved in with me, and we spent the last six months of her life together, quietly fighting the cancer, but also going down memory lane, remembering our times together. We had wonderful conversations. I kissed my Mother a thousand times and told her how much I loved and appreciated her. She did the same to me. Toward the end, I often layed in bed and spooned with Mommy with my arm wrapped around her and holding her close and firm, but gently because she was so fragile by then. As I cuddled with Mommy, quietly weeping, I prayed for a different outcome, but sadly we both knew what the outcome of her illness would be. Mommy accepted it way before I did. She was strong in that acceptance, satisfied in the life she’d lived, calm and not afraid. Mommy worried about leaving me because she knew her death would devastate me, but our roles reversed at the end when I became her caretaker, feeding, bathing, and dressing Mom, tucking her in at night, whispering “I love my girl,” and she, in a quiet voice, saying, “I know you do honey, I love you too.” The day that she died, I climbed in bed with her because although she wasn’t able to speak, she was anxious, her arms flailing about. I held her close, gently caressed her face and whispered it was O.K. to go to sleep, that I’d be waiting for her when she woke up. Seven hours later, she died peacefully in her sleep. Mommy was simply, an extraordinary woman.
I saved some voice messages that Mommy left on my cell phone not knowing at the time how much they would come to mean to me. I wish I’d saved more! Sometimes, I play those messages. To hear Mommy’s voice, so happy and laughing, telling me she loved me. Wow! What a blessing! What a gift. Mommy was so vibrant and happy and alive in those messages!
It's been often said, we can pick our friends but not our relatives. Well, if I had to pick, I'd choose Johnnie Hubbert to be my mother over and over and over again. I learned to love, unconditionally, from my Mom.
If you are fortunate enough to still have your Mom, kiss her! Hug her tightly! Tell her how much you love her and how much she means to you. Send her flowers. Take her to lunch. Go on a Mother-Daughter road trip! Make memories that will last a lifetime, generation after generation. Cherish each and every moment.