Yesterday marked the one month anniversary of Mom’s death. It seems hard to believe that it’s been a month. Some days it feels like yesterday while other days it feels like years ago. Carrie and the boys marked the day by heading to Williamsburg to have dinner with Dad. It was a good chance for us all to be together and have our minds on each other, thinking about Mom, but not wallowing in our loss.
One of the greatest challenges that I daily face is filling my mind and heart with the good memories of 38+ years rather than some of the chilling images of the last week of Mom’s life. There was a moment a few days before Mom died when my brother, aunt, uncle, and I needed to move her. I won’t go into detail except to say that we made our attempt and what followed seemed like something out of a horror film. Having had conversations with my brother and my aunt, the images that we saw in those moments will not soon be erased from our minds. Those images coupled with others are burned on my mind and will haunt me for years to come.
As I have reflected on everything that has happened in the last eight months, I began to realize that things could have been a lot worse. Up until the week before she died, Mom stayed pretty self-sufficient. She did not need much assistance and was able to do most of the things that she had always done. Her energy level was down, but she continued to push herself. The last week of her life, when she was unable to care for herself, I don’t think there was a great awareness of her inability to do so.
I thought through my 38 years of life and realized that the majority of those years were spent with her feeling pretty good. We had the privilege of spending time together and enjoying one another’s company. Although it’s inevitable to wish for additional moments to say things that you wished you had said, I can honestly say that’s not a dominant thought for me. While I’m not sure whether or not she hears, I still talk to Mom and know that she sees things not in part, but in full. She no longer sees through a mirror dimly lit, but everything has been revealed to her.
Everyone faces grief differently and everyone’s journey is different, but there are similarities in each and every one of our stories. There is comfort and solace in seeing the overlap, there is a sense of peace in knowing that we are not the only ones who have experienced this nor are we the only ones to travel through the valley of the shadow of death. As I hear the stories of others, I realize that others have faced situations that are far worse than my own. Nevertheless, it doesn’t change the fact that I grieve and sorrow over the loss of Mom.
When it comes to memories, I have been finding myself thinking about many sweet moments that we shared. Mom and I shared a moment the day that she came home from the hospital for the last time that I will not soon forget. As I look through pictures, I remember the day that she held her first grandchild, the days that she danced with her sons at our weddings, and the many times that she told me how proud of me she was.
Some of the images that I experience are ones that I have not seen but simply imagine. I imagine when she came face to face with Jesus, her savior. I imagine the tears of joy that ran down her face as she could finally say “Thank you” to him in person. I imagine her seeing her parents, her brother, her sister-in-law, her nephew, her best friend, reunited with them forever. I imagine her at the banquet table, breathing a sigh of relief as she realizes that the dietary restrictions that she was held to for a good part of her life were unnecessary because all things have been made new. Those are the images that bring a smile to my face and replace the images that are not as pleasurable for me.
I miss Mom terribly. I reach for my phone to call her so many times until I realize that the effort would be futile. My brother and I talked the other day and I told him that we had the opportunity to be for others what Mom had been for us. We can make a difference in the people around us the way that Mom made a difference in us. My dad, my brother, and I have lost something special that we had relied upon, but the legacy of Mom is for us to be that to others.
I look at my two little boys and wish that they knew their grandmother for more years than they did. I listen to my nearly 3 year old pray and talk about missing grandma and how grandma died. Those are the moments that hurt the most. I look at my dad and wish that he could have enjoyed retirement with his wife. I know that it’s not easy for him to go out into public places and see so many people enjoying life together. I look at my brother and wish that Mom were able to see how much of a change has occurred in his life.
We went to Cracker Barrel for dinner with Dad. The country store there reminds me of Mom because so many of the things there are things that she enjoyed. As I looked around my parents’ house yesterday, I could see Mom everywhere. Her hand was all over the place. Even though she’s not there, I can almost hear her and what she would say. Her smell still lingers. I look around, half expecting her to walk through the door at any moment, but she doesn’t.
But what I said to my brother is right, we can be to others what Mom had been to us. She left herself in us in so many ways. I might not physically see her every day, but when I look in the mirror I know that I see….Mom.