I’ve been thinking about moms a lot lately. Obviously, I think about my own mama. I also spend time with my girl, Leah, and I’m in awe of her ability to take care of her two young boys while teaching full-time and often having to do it all while Scott travels for work. Although she would say sometimes she’s barely staying afloat, the truth is she is incredible, and even on a bad day, she’s still good.
I’ve also had reason to think even more about my friend, Mindy, whom I’ve written about before. She died in 2001 when her daughter, Rachel, was just 12 years old. Well, her beautiful Rachel got married a few weeks ago. Rachel has spent a lot of years living without her mama’s physical presence, and I know it’s been terribly rough for her, but she’s become this amazing young woman who makes me so proud. And I couldn’t have designed a better man to be her husband. John is the real deal, and I knew that the first time I met him.
So there was much to celebrate. And I was not going to be sad on Rachel’s wedding day. It would not have been fair to Rachel, and I know without question that I would have been letting her mama down if I was. So I geared up. Sometimes you just have to be stronger than you feel. On the actual wedding day, as I was getting ready, I was giving myself the same pep talk that this would be a happy day, and I would not be sad. (I repeated that to myself a lot.) As I was doing this, I happened to catch sight of my mouse tattoo in the mirror. Mindy had become known as our Mindy Mouse (funny story that I can’t relay here), so I got a tattoo on my shoulder so she would always be with me. I don’t always notice it’s there, but I thought seeing it that day was a sign – that she was present, and it would be a happy day.
And it was. Rachel was a beautiful, beautiful bride. There was a great amount of joy and laughter the whole day, and Rachel’s daddy threw an excellent party. I only had one moment – when the mothers were being walked in – and I thought, “Dammit, I did not prepare myself for this part!” But I took a breath and continued to be happy. I owed it to Rachel, and I owed it to Mindy.
Not long ago, in talking with the hospice social worker, I told her that I felt guilty grieving for my mom, because Rachel had lost her mother when she was so young, and my mom had had a long, happy life, and I’d had so much more time with her. She told me that age has nothing to do with grief. She said she had a client who was in her 80s and lost her mother who was 103 years old, and it was as painful for her as it is for anyone else. Before Mom died, I would have thought differently. I get it now. It hurts at any age.
I have to tell you this story about my mom and her mother. Our grandma lived with us for a couple of years when I was young. My mom’s sister told Mom to let her know when it got to be too hard, and she would come from New York to get her. Things got tougher, and Mom called her sister, who did come to get our grandma, and she took her back to New York and put her in a nursing home. (You can only imagine what the nursing home was like back then.) My mom was traumatized the rest of her life. She said she had no idea that her sister would do that, and if she had known, she would have put our grandma in a nursing home in Peoria so she could still visit her. The idea of her mother – who had dementia and didn’t speak English – feeling scared and abandoned stayed with our mother even after she had dementia herself.
My sister and I knew of this, and our fear was always that we would have to place Mom in a nursing home, which was Mom’s biggest fear, or that she would be alone and scared when she passed, which was the other thing she dreaded.
Fast forward to her stay in Lutheran Hillside, where she was surrounded with kindness, compassion, respect and love. We couldn’t have asked for a better place for her to leave us. And although saying goodbye to someone so incredibly vital and dear to us, well, you know it wasn’t easy, but while my sister and I were with her, with us each holding a hand, our mom said, “I see my mother.” My sister and I looked at each other, and I asked Mom if that made her happy, and without missing a beat, she said, “Yes.” I kid you not. If I saw this in a movie, I think I would have been a bit cynical, but my sister was there too. We both knew then, that it was time. She finally got to be with her mother, and we needed to let go of ours.
So the good news is, and I believed this before, but I know it for sure now, I will see my mama again. I’m not at all in any hurry to go, mind you, but when it’s time, I know it'll be ok.
(Still not gonna tell her about the tattoo though.)