Tag Archives: mothers

Marking Mom’s 80th birthday without her

Mom me portrait

Today my mother would have been 80 years old.

I wish she was still around to mark the milestone, but only if she was in a healthy state.

My mother and I were total opposites and we clashed plenty, especially during the time I was my mother’s caregiver. Much of those battles, some humorous, some painful, are captured in a series of essays that I hope to publish later this year. (It’s in the final edit phase now.)

But today is a day of celebration, and even though my mom could drive me crazy, she had many wonderful qualities that she tried to pass on to me. In honor of her 80th, here are 8 ways that I remember my mother and try to carry on her legacy.

  • Her sense of humor: Yes, it was corny as could be, but my mother loved to laugh. Even as she faced cancer, she still found ways to sneak in a bit of levity to the situation. We were all better for it. I have a much snarkier, darker sense of humor, but it’s there, and it did help me cope with the difficulties of caregiving.
  • Her love of family: Sometimes I found it smothering, but I know my mother truly loved me. In a world where children can be treated so cruelly, I know I’m fortunate to have had good, kind parents. Everyone has their faults, but even when Mom drove me nuts, she was doing it out of a place of love and concern.
  • Being a caregiver for my father: I may not have agreed with all of the decisions Mom made for Dad near the end of his life, but she earned the right to call the shots after taking care of him on her own for years. I helped where I could, but Mom was the one hands-on with Dad 24/7, as he lost his grip on reality thanks to dementia. Mom made the grueling Greyhound trips to see Dad at the memory care center, while she nursed a broken shoulder. Six months after his death, Mom was diagnosed with cancer. I think she paid the ultimate price with her health, but I know she would do it all over again.
  • Love of nature: My mother loved nature, whether it was animals or scenery. She even loved the blustery mountain winds that whipped around her condo in New Mexico, saying everything had its place. She may have been right, but those winds are brutal! But I do share her love of animals and an appreciation for the natural wonders of our world. I probably don’t stop enough to “smell the roses” but I make sure our birdfeeder stays full, in memory of Mom.
  • Appreciation for the little things: Mom could find delight in the smallest things, whether it was a good cup of coffee or a sunny day. It’s easy to take such things for granted, as I often do, but I try to channel Mom a bit and appreciate those small daily doses of wonder.
  • An interest in others: Mom loved to talk, but she also loved connecting with others. She didn’t discriminate in who she conversed with, and she certainly didn’t think she was better than others. The interest she showed in the lives of service workers who took care of her while she was at the bank, at the grocery store, or at the salon was admirable. I could tell by their reaction that many people treat service workers as if they were invisible. I’m not the chatty type, but I do make sure to make eye contact, smile and thank the person assisting me, to honor Mom’s legacy.
  • Her interest in the world around her: Mom maintained a keen interest in news until she died. She cared about world issues and was troubled by war and famine. She read the newspaper voraciously, and even though rehashing week-old news could test my patience, I admired her vested interest in the world around her. As a journalist, caring about these issues is my job, but it’s also my passion.
  • Her love of music: Mom loved the classic country and classic pop music of her youth, which included Elvis, Patsy Cline, Buddy Holly, Hank Williams, Willie Nelson and many more legends. I’ve had a love of music since my youth, and while I enjoy music from many genres, I gravitate towards these classic country artists, as well as some new ones who are channeling their outlaw spirit.
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May is for Mother

mom-joy-nov2014

This is the first Mother’s Day I will experience motherless. At this time last year, Mom was quickly approaching death. In fact, I got her flowers early because I was afraid she might not live until Mother’s Day.

Knowing that would be the last Mother’s Day she would be alive was difficult. How do you express a lifetime of gratitude into a single day?

 

But experiencing Mother’s Day without a living mother is equally as difficult.

It is almost impossible to avoid the holiday. Mother’s Day ads are online, in stores, on TV … reminders to honor your mother are everywhere. I received an email reminder from the florist, to remind me I bought Mom flowers last year, and did I want to order again this year?  I’m sure the business thought this was a good selling tool, but it was just a gut-wrenching reminder of the sadness I felt when placing that order. (On the flip side, Mom loved the flowers.)

I just got back from a visit to what was my parents’ condo. Each trip I am trying to make a few changes, to slowly transition it from a place of sadness and illness, which it became over the last several years of my parents’ life, to a peaceful mountain respite that my parents enjoyed for many years.

My mother’s perfume still lingers in the bedroom. Of course I reflected on the events of last year while I was there, but I busied myself by putting together new furniture and rearranging things to make it my own. It’s what my parents would want, and I left the condo feeling fairly good about the progress.

And now, a week of nonstop Mother’s Day advertisements to navigate. I know at least a few fellow bloggers who have lost their mothers in recent years, so I know you understand how it feels. Certainly just because our mothers are no longer living doesn’t mean we cannot honor their life on Mother’s Day, and that’s what I intend upon doing.

How will you mark Mother’s Day?

 

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My mother can finally rest in peace

My mother died Thursday morning.

It was a tough last few weeks, and the last hours were frankly brutal.

I can only hope she wasn’t in as much discomfort as she seemed, despite being given copious medications for pain and anxiety.

Mom loved her time in the Navy.

Mom loved her time in the Navy.

The hospice nurses and myself kept assuring Mom that it was ok to let go when she was ready. I felt like there was some internal struggle going on in there, despite the fact that she told me repeatedly that she was ready to go and was not afraid of death. She certainly did not want to linger in the state she did, non-responsive, devoid of her lively and happy personality, unable to eat or drink, and completely dependent upon me and the nurses for every task of living.

Maybe Mom’s spirit was just fighting with her stubborn body, and that determined heart of hers. The hospice nurses were quite surprised that Mom continued to live, considering the state of the rest of her body, but her heart and vital signs continued to be good. I was afraid, for her sake and mine, that it would continue to beat strong for much longer than it did. I was at her bedside when she drew her last breath, and I felt her heart beat slow, weaken and then come to a complete stop.

As you loyal followers know, this blog exists in part over guilt I had about my dad’s death, and how I wasn’t present when he died. I know being here to take care of my mom, and being present for her passing was the right thing to do.

But of course, there is a high price to pay on a psychic level by experiencing something so intense as a loved one dying. There are things I wish I hadn’t seen, tasks I wish I didn’t have to do. Time will no doubt provide a different perspective on the experience.

The important thing for now is that Mom was well-taken care of and she did not die alone.

As for what was beyond this life, Mom often said that, “It’s a good place and it’s a right place.”

I hope she’s right.

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To my mother, a wonderful caregiver

My mom and I don’t always see eye-to-eye, and sometimes she drives me crazy. But while these last several years have been difficult for our family, they have also highlighted my mom’s wonderful qualities.

mom-sketch

So on Mother’s Day, I want to honor my mom, who was such a tireless and loving caregiver for my dad. I took for granted all of the things she did for Dad. It was not until I became my mom’s caregiver that I appreciated all of the sacrifices she made.

This is a sketch of my mom done while she was in the Navy, in the early 1960’s. It was then burned/engraved into a wood canvas. It is really a unique work, and captures my mom’s cheerful spirit.

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