She gave birth to me. She read to me and helped me learn to read. She taught me right from wrong and in spite of having some liberal view points taught me conservative values. She introduced me to a wide array of musical styles and supported me when I wanted to learn to play drums, and then guitar. She loved to travel and made sure we were able to see different parts of the country, including a tour of the White House and sitting in during a congressional session in 1976, the bicentennial year. She supported me in all my decisions and pursuits as an adult, during my triumphs, and in my sorrow. She was a great cook. She loved to laugh and throw parties and have fun. She had a true green thumb and really enjoyed gardening. She was a wonderful grandmother to my daughter. She was my mom, and she left us to return home on January 16, 2017.
Nearly 2 months later, as her mail is still landing in my mailbox almost daily, and the bills are still very slowly coming in, I am now able to dwell on her passing and write something here. But what? How do you pay tribute to the sum total of a lifetime of experiences? Not just hers, but the impact she had on those around her? You can’t. There are thoughts and memories every day, but even those can’t be adequately summarized. What collection of words can fully probe the depths of any given memory to possibly convey the full meaning and feelings and sensations?
We laughed a lot. Complained a lot. Butted heads often. There are always things you can look back on and wish you had done differently. There are plenty of those. Yet, the past can’t be changed. And now, the relationship I had with Mom, no longer has a future. At times it’s difficult to fully wrap my mind around the fact I will never see her again. I can’t call her and tell her what just happened, which I think about doing at least a few times a week. She was always there, a constant in my life. People would tell me over the years how proud she was of me. In the wake of her loss that is still being said. That always meant a lot to me. Just a few weeks before she went into the hospital we played a song at church that I sang and she beamed with tears. No matter what I may accomplish the rest of my life, I will never be able to make her proud again.
She left me a wealth of family photos and documents. Some are at least 100 years old. Fascinating things. Some I knew she had. Many I had never seen, or at least I don’t remember seeing them. Today I wish I also had recordings of her telling her family stories, or stories about all the silly things she had done over the years. She loved to tell stories. Sadly, I don’t think any of them were captured in any way. I regret that.
I’m so very thankful she moved to within just a few minutes of me for her final year of life. We were able to spend a lot of time together. But it wasn’t enough. You always think you have more time than you really do. She did. Even after a diagnosis of terminal cancer, the treatments were going well and we all thought there was more time. How stupid. I should have visited with her so much more.
I’m also thankful that in the end she had no pain and very little in the way of suffering. She was able to see her brothers and other family members. We were able to take her back home to Kentucky one last time, a trip we all very much enjoyed. She was able to go to the Keys one last time, her favorite place on earth I suspect. She was able to see the last (so far) of her great-grand children born. The only thing she wasn’t able to do was have one last Christmas as she went into the hospital 3 days prior. She traveled the country and the world. She always had nice homes. She had a wonderful life. Albeit a little shortened by an evil disease. There’s always more time.
In going through all of her things, I came across a small spiral notepad that was left open to one sheet on which she had written the excerpt from a book:
I’ll love you forever
I’ll like you for always
As long as I’m living
My baby you’ll be
Bye Mom. I love you!