Tag Archives: losing a parent

Hard, but not impossible.

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Having now celebrated two Christmases without my mother I am convinced that, contrary to what well-intentioned people have told me, it will never get any easier. 2009 was very difficult because I spent both Thanksgiving and Christmas that year away from home and my family and the traditions that are comfortable for me, but this most recent holiday season I got to spend both of those days with my siblings and it was still hard. Not sobbing-in-bed-for-hours hard… there was no crying or reminiscing aside from a comment at Thanksgiving about the day also being her birthday… the difficulty was less intrusive, but just as painful.

One particularly tough moment came at a craft fair my sister and I were selling at in October. As I was browsing the other booths I discovered something that would have been a perfect gift for my Mom and was hit by the stunning realization that I would never buy her another gift. My mother was a joy to buy for. She and I had similar taste in many things – decor, clothing, hobbies. Perhaps that’s why I now have so much of her stuff in my garage? I felt I knew her so well that when I found The Perfect Gift it was a thrill just to anticipate her opening it, let alone seeing her reaction post-reveal.

Another wrinkle this year was the grand-baby in our house. She looks so much like my mother did as a baby – she has her chin and her smile and her red hair!! – and I know Mom would have loved to have a new baby to buy for. I hope I can measure up to Mom’s stellar Nana talents as I learn to be a Nonnie for my little one.

But being with my brothers at Thanksgiving and my sister for Christmas helped somewhat as we move forward “sans mere”. I’m confident we will make new traditions as we learn to share our own homes with each other instead of relying on mom to always be the hub of our family wheel.

Losing a parent in 2009, and gaining a grandchild in 2010 kind of trumped any list of goals I made those years. I’ll give 2011 some thought and get back to you on that.

Until then – I’ll share my mantra for the new year:

Do or do not… there is no try.   — Yoda

time is weird

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A year ago yesterday my sister took my mom to the emergency room and after a couple of scans, found out mom had a mass in her brain. That was 365 days ago. 12 months. 52 weeks. You know the saying that time flies when you’re having fun? Well, the opposite is also absolutely true. Time DRAGS when life is falling apart around you.

Less than a year ago my mom was living with me as we tried to figure out what to do about her living arrangements for the long-term as she went through treatment and prepared for her surgery to remove the tumor. It would be hard to believe if I didn’t have the skid marks from her wheelchair side rails on my bathroom door.

It’s hard to believe that only two-and-a-half months ago she was living at home and drinking coffee from her favorite mug every morning. She was watching the hummingbirds that had just returned after I had filled their feeders outside her picture window.

It’s nearly impossible to believe that there is no reason to have her phone number on my new iPhone contact list. Her name will never pop up on my display to tell me she’s calling. I won’t get daily reports about the deer in her front yard or a request for Ensure from the supermarket. And I won’t be dialing her number to let her know what happened at work, or that I made some new bags to sell on Etsy…and yet,  her number IS in my contact list. And it’s still in my email contact list too.

365 days fly by in our lives so easily… we let days and weeks and months go by without finishing projects, or making contact with loved ones, or taking the steps to change our lives when we are in a rut. But if we choose, we can pack so much in to those days. I hear a quiet voice in my head (no, it doesn’t sound like my mother!) reminding me that I need to make the most of my time. I need to live the life that I will be okay about leaving someday.

My mother had a lot left to do and I am certain that she was pissed about not finishing it all… but I doubt she had many regrets. She lived her life her way, and made an impact on sooooo many people she came across. Would that I can be so fortunate.

When words fail…

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For the last 11 or so months I have written sporadically about the challenges I have faced as my mother struggleMom on the squared with a brain tumor. There have been some days that were better than others, and for the most part I kept a positive attitude and assumed that we would be fighting the good fight for a few years as mom met the recurrences and physical setbacks head-on.

Unfortunately, mom lost her fight on August 6. She never wore any of the clothes I put labels into for her.

We had a wonderful memorial celebration for mom on the 22nd, and it was a perfect day. Weather, flowers, music, pictures, friends, family. All the things mom loved were a part of the day. In place of hymns we had friends of mom’s play some country/bluegrass. In place of tears, we laughed and smiled about the slideshow and stories we shared. No one spoke, no eulogies were offered – we just visited, and hugged, and remembered what mom meant to us.

My favorite thing was the memorial card. I can’t stand those little things you get at funerals that have the date of birth and death listed, and the pallbearers and family members… blah. You feel like we should keep them, because the person is someone you cared about, but it’s such a piece of crap that’s so impersonal and has the little ad on the back for the funeral home… you don’t want to keep it… So what do you do??

We printed 4×6 cards with mom’s name and birth and death dates and a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson that I thought was fitting. Also, a little note thanking people for their support over the last year and their love for our mom. On the back, we pasted 4×6 photos that mom took in her garden. We made 100 out of 10 different photos – so people could pick their favorites. It was perfect.

Success:  To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.  This is to have succeeded!

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

The quote was so fitting for the legacy my mom left. I hope it inspires you to be a success in your life as well.