The tunnel catapults me into my emotional quagmire. Where I must sort this thought and that emotion. This weekly trek is not optional. So I take a deep breath and remember your smell, your touch, your voice. I salvage and preseve beautiful memories. I clean away the rotting leaves, the choking vines, and yesterday’s growth. Buried beneath these remembrances are many green sprouts and blooms, pushing upward toward the sun. And though I am tired, I am glad I came.
It is eight months tomorrow that Mom departed this earth, and it has been hard to recover from losing her. Recently, I found some old books of hers tucked away in the corner of a closet, and it struck me that these books were special to her – perhaps not recently but at another time in her life. The books showed a lot of wear, and the covers were bland with little writing. I packed the books with my things and stuck them in my closet at home until I had a chance to look at them.
Two days later at work, a fellow substitute and I shared our experiences with each other of losing our mothers. We had many similar feelings and experiences. She was a retired, English teacher and, in the process of talking, she mentioned several times that she loved the book she was currently reading. Eventually, she said, “Most people say that life is too short for Michener, but this book isn’t as long as the others. It’s one of my favorites.” She mentioned the title, and I paused for a moment. “I think I just brought that book home from my mother’s house,” I said. I went home that day to discover that all three books were by James Michener, and the favorite mentioned by my coworker, The Bridges at Toko-Ri, was one of the three. I wondered about this serendipitous event. I don’t believe in coincidences, so I assumed that Mom was trying to tell me something.
And she was.
Mom had faced her bridges, and now I must face mine too. She wanted me to face her death squarely just as she had done for those five weeks in the hospital. Although it was a terrible loss for me, she wanted me to heal, and she wanted me to understand how to go about the business of doing so, and to assure her that I would do what was necessary to heal. She reminded me through this book that she raised me to have the character to move forward and live fully. And that I must do my job here on this earth, just as she had done hers. This was the kind of person she and Dad had raised me to be.
So I step forward through the loneliness of Thanksgiving and Christmas without her, and yet, with her. For it is times like these that I know Mom is with me in spirit, and if I listen, I can hear her, and I can feel her.
At night, I feel your spirit envelop me in your love. I forever miss you. My heart wants to be where yours is, yet I remain here. I know you pray for me, watch over me. I imagine your big angel wings. I put on your comfortable, warm coat, and you are hugging me and keeping me warm.
This is what I wrote and read through lots of tears at Mom’s Requiem mass. The music was done in Plainchant Latin, and as I listened, I felt I was standing at the gates of heaven listening to angels sing. It was exquisite and uplifting.
How can I do justice to 74 years of a life lived with what amounts to just a few paragraphs. When I think
of Dianne, I think foremost of things she has said and done over the years that have
stayed with me, words and actions that reflect her essence. Dianne was larger than life for me. She saw
me take my first breath. I have known her all of my life because she was my mother. And she told me I
would always be her little girl no matter how old I was. Some of my earliest memories are of our girl
time together – painting our nails and curling our hair. Mom did all the things for me that a mother does:
feeding us, making clothes for us, caring for us when we were sick, but she also taught my brothers and I
to be honest, have a work ethic, and be persons of integrity. She made sure we thought about and
questioned things. She took us to art galleries, museums, and theaters in Washington D.C., and instilled a love for the arts in us. Most importantly to me, she taught me to say my prayers and imparted her
faith to me, enabling me to develop a deep love for God while I was still a young child.
Mom’s nurturing spirit shone best through her gardening. She turned her entire back yard into a
peaceful sanctuary with many different seasonal flowers, bushes, and trees: using every space, carefully
planning where each plant would thrive, and adding new creations every year. Her essence is still there
in her gardens, where a timeless rose bush graces the porch roof with sprays of pink spilling over the
sides, where birds bathe and hollies offer their food. One can feel her presence there. I think of the
quote by James Russell Lowe which she often repeated, “Not what we give, but what we share, for the
gift without the giver is bare.”
Mom also had a strong will, and she never backed down from a challenge. She went back to school in
her thirties, while raising three children. She acquired a bachelor’s degree in sociology and then went to
Georgetown University on scholarship. There, she earned a master’s degree in demography and
subsequently worked for the House of Representatives, Bell Atlantic, and the Census Bureau as a demographer. She was a published author in her field, and she was named in Who’s Who in American
Women in 1984. After her retirement, she returned to school and earned a master’s degree in history at
the age of 70. She did not see impediments along her path in life. She saw opportunities, and she
achieved what she believed she could do, and she never gave up.
Dianne was a daughter, sister, mother, friend, neighbor, coworker, grandmother, great-grandmother,
and a wife. Her best friend and the love of her life was her husband, David. They shared 35 years
together enjoying their dogs and birds, their gardens, and their many discussions about politics, history,
ancestry research, and the latest good movie. They enjoyed learning, and loving life and each other.
If I look closely at those things I loved about my mother, I find that they are right here within my own
heart and soul. I cherish what I have gained from knowing her, from having loved her, and from having
the privilege of calling her Mom. This quote from Edmund Spenser’s, The Fairie Queene, recently
reverberated in my head until I gave it my full attention and wrote it down:
“For whatsoever from one place does fall,
Is with the tide unto another brought:
For there is nothing lost, that may be found, if sought.”
I leave you with this quote by Saint Teresa of Avila, which I found recently in Mom’s devotional, and
surprisingly, it is one I also know by heart:
“Let Nothing Disturb You,
Let Nothing Frighten You,
All Things are Passing Away,
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
Whoever has God lacks nothing.
Alone God Suffices.”
A quote I’d heard before went vaguely round in my mind almost without my noticing, as I couldn’t quite remember it. I felt as if my mother wanted me to hear it and remember it. Last night, I sat down to watch a movie based on a Jane Austen novel, and there at the end of the movie was the quote:
“For whatsoever from one place doth fall
Is with the tide unto another brought:
For there is nothing lost, that may be found if sought.”
– Edmund Spenser
“I watched her take her last breath just as she had watched me take my first. She was my mother, the good and the bad. She was my mother, and I loved her!” – author unknown 🌹
A special season of my life is upon me. My child has had a child. His introduction to the world gave me a new name, Nana. There is young life in my house once more. His daddy is overseas, so my role in their lives is that much more important right now.
What would appear to be a burden to some, has been the biggest blessing for us. We have pulled together as a family. Everyone voluntarily does their part. We were all there for the birth – my husband, me, the baby’s mom, and all her sisters. I have witnessed tenderness and great strength in us all but especially my husband. My daughter is a natural mother. God’s grace fills my heart with joy, and love abounds. ❤