I don’t know where to start with my Mother’s Day post this year. Sometimes I think about young moms, and all the beautiful exhaustion that goes with that role. Other times I think about those who are not moms, for a myriad of reasons, and I bless them for sitting through all the Mother’s Day messages year after year. Of course, I think of my own children who made me a mother which is the best job I have ever had. I add my grandmothers in as well, who shaped who I have become. I even think about those, like my Aunt Betty, who have played a mother role in my life even though they were not mothers themselves.
However, this year, I am thinking about my own Mom. The one who birthed me and raised me. If you had told me a couple of years ago we would be where we are today, I wouldn’t have believed it. My mom has always been sharp as a tack. Her rapid decline has been alarming. To see her loose her ability to read, to be unable to follow conversations, to have to have help with bathing and dressing and a multitude of other tasks is heartbreaking. She is the matriarch of our family, which means she is the glue who holds us all together. It seems odd for us to now have to hold the glue together. It’s a role reversal and it is hard, as undoubtedly, many of you have experienced.
Yet, when thinking of Mom, I give her full credit for the fact that I am a reader, because she was avid in her pursuit of knowledge. I attribute my love of decorating, colors, and artistic things to her as well. The gift of hospitality, I learned how to use from her and her love of inviting people into her life and our home. I think when I was a kid I thought moms just always stayed the same, but she showed me that isn’t true. I have seen her growth over the years and her pursuit of the deeper things of God. Her transformation from a performance orientation to simply being, inspired my own journey.
Last year when Betty was sick, I saw her wrestle with her insecurities of living in the shadow of an amazing sister. I never knew those were there before. Maybe it is her mental state which allowed them to surface in an eye roll, when we were writing the obituary about Betty’s multiple college degrees. Somehow my aunt’s accomplishments made her feel less than, I think. How could she not? Betty was a remarkable woman with many admirable traits and accomplishments, and Mom never “finished” college…but she also never finished learning. Mom didn’t teach the masses…but she focused on the three children in her charge. Mom didn’t travel the world…but she invited the world to come inside.
My mom is a complex, and beautiful woman. Even as her mind declines, she still loves well. Her hugs are from the heart. Her eyes, when they are clear, still sparkle with laughter. She giggles now, like a little girl, and I find the sound comforting to my heart. Sometimes she finds it hard to stop, and we have a healing belly laugh, especially, as she plays charades when she can’t find the words she is seeking. She still loves colors, but instead of fabric swatches and paint samples, she spends hours on her coloring books. She fills in all the tiny spaces of elaborate designs with shades and hues. Her contemplative nature is now soothed by sitting at the window and watching the birds at the feeder. She doesn’t read anymore, but she thinks she does, because she remembers the books on her shelves as her friends.
Her love of life is evident when she is with the love of her life. She is much more demonstrative now, and doesn’t hesitate to give Dad a kiss whenever he helps her up from her chair or helps her with her coat. She wrinkles her nose up in a school girl’s teasing expression and I catch a glimpse of her 13-year-old self, falling in love with him 67 years ago. He takes her hand and walks her along beside him, and she loves every minute of it. If he leaves for even a minute, she asks where he went and when he will be back. He has always been her everything, but now it shows in her desire to have him by her side at all times. She cannot do without him. They regularly are told how cute they are in public places and she eats up the attention of it. One girl even wanted to take their picture, because she could see the love shining between them. That love has been a beacon for me my whole life, and I am aware of what a treasure it is and how blessed I am to have lived inside of it. Nothing builds security in a child, like being surrounded by love.
This Mother’s Day I am missing the mom I have always known. I miss our talks and our heart to heart connection. I miss our ability to share books and shop for furniture. I miss the whole family being together around her table, and our chats about life over cooking pots and dishes, in the kitchen. I think brain diseases are ruthless in their ability to steal people away from us.
However, I am also seeing a mom I have never seen in this way before. I can see her core now, out of which flows all the actions that have filled her life. It’s like a stripped down and a simplified version of her. The things that make her Mom are still there. Peel back the layers and the years, and her spirit is the same, even if it is a younger version. Laughter, love, faith, hospitality, and even her design sense, are intact, just in vastly different forms. I can still see her and her essence, and even the parts of her she has passed on to me. I don’t know for how long, but in this instant, I celebrate what we have, and every moment she gives us on this long walk home. I am honored to be by her side for the journey.
For all those out there who still have your mothers, don’t take them for granted. Show them your love in tangible ways. For those who have lost theirs, my heart is with you as you grieve and celebrate who they were to you. For those, like me, whose moms are in between, be the glue holding them together as they gradually lose their stickiness. They are passing the baton in their own way…open your hand to receive it and spend time helping them Live Fully while you can.