Yesterday was the eighteenth anniversary of my mother’s death. I feel the loss of my mom almost every day. I spent yesterday mad, sad, and missing her more than normal. And when this day rolls around every year, it always makes me think about what it means to be a mother. I can see images of my mom in my head when I close my eyes still – images of her with my daughter right after she was born and when she was a baby and a young girl. Images of her with me when I was a child – teaching me how to shell beans, pull weeds, and love plants. She had an amazing talent for growing anything, which unfortunately, I don’t have no matter how hard she tried to teach me. I have images of my mom with my little brother – he was born sixteen years after me, who was the baby in our family of two girls at the time. My sister was four years older than me. He was the most loved and spoiled child in the world. My parents didn’t expect to have another child at that stage of their lives, but they welcomed him with such joy. He was never a surprise to them and he kept them young for many years.
One of the things that I remember the most about my mother is her joy at being outside – in her garden, in her flowers, in her swing. She could be outside twenty-four hours a day I think and be happy to be there. The sun never seemed to burn her skin and she had beautiful skin. Maybe the fact that she only lived until 65 made the difference but she didn’t have many wrinkles. Looking back, I’ve always envisioned my mom as a decisive and strong-minded woman. And she could be, but she also had her anxieties. I have come to understand that we all carry within some inside of ourselves. If we don’t have any worries, then we aren’t feeling anything, we are only caring about ourselves. She cared. She cared so hard about everyone and I think that showed in the way she loved us, her family. She loved my dad, my sister, my brother, me, and everyone she came in contact with. She would do anything for you. She didn’t show us in elaborate ways. She showed us in small, thoughtful ways that would let you know you were valued, you were loved, and she cared about you.
She didn’t talk about the horrible pain that was attacking her body until it was really too late to do anything. She had a lot of trust in the people around her, my mom. She trusted her doctor to make sure that she was fine, but he led her astray. He told her that she was fine until his nurse finally took my dad aside and said take her somewhere else before it is too late. My mom taught me that you have to be your own health advocate. Too often women are pushed aside and told its just our “hormones.” By the time we got her an appointment with a specialist at Duke it was too late. At 65, she was gone.
The last time my husband, daughter, and I visited her, she was bedridden and on morphine patches. She was in and out of consciousness. It seemed that she was waiting for us to come and tell her goodbye. After we left and returned home to Florida from North Carolina, we got the call in the middle of the night, our first night home. She had passed away. Finally, she was at peace, but we were not. We were heartbroken and sad and mad and all the things you feel when someone you love dies. And that’s the thing, you feel for the ones you love. She taught me to be a good mom, a good person, and I still miss her. But I do carry that empathy she taught me around in my body and the love of reading that I passed along to my daughter. My mom lives on in the beauty of nature and the love in my heart.