I lost my mother this week. It’s a loss that cuts deep, that I know I haven’t truly processed. However, among all the loss and grief, I have an immense amount of gratitude. Gratitude for a mother who loved her children fiercely, raised them to be independent and to stand on their own. There were never any favorites. She treated each one of us as individuals, somehow intuitively knowing what each of us needed. I spent most of my adult life away from her, but she was never far. Weekly letters or phone calls, visits as often as possible. She had a big personality that reached across the miles.
Five months ago, Mom moved across the country, from Maryland to Washington, to live with me. At any age, much less 91, that’s quite an undertaking. It was both wonderful and difficult for us to learn to live with one another. You see, we are very much alike, something I only came to appreciate in the last 5 months. But we loved each other deeply and relished spending time together. She loved sitting in our living room and watching all the activity out on Elliott Bay, boats, kayakers, and ferries. As the weather improved, she enjoyed watching all the people walking by on waterside path.
Her time with me was short, and filled with challenges. She fell one month after arriving, and spent time in a nursing facility recovering. Only recently, was she starting to return to health. We were looking forward to so many things this spring, gardening together, ferry rides, even a trip to Hawaii. In what ended up being her final days, she was tired and weak, and I was worried. I cared for her, gave her everything she asked, and just tried to help her return to health. We had some lovely time together, where she shared stories from her youth. It was a special time.
On her final night, she was weak and couldn’t make it to bed without assistance. I helped her to bed, tucked her in and told her I love her. Those were my final words. I found her the next morning when I went to wake her. There are no words for that moment, no way to prepare.
But in death, as in life, my mother taught me so much. She helped me see how strong I can be, how deeply I can love, how I can rise to any occasion. I am the woman I am because of her. And the greatest gift she gave me was these last 5 months. During this time, not only did we share so much, but I learned just how much I am like her. We’ve both come over adversity, neither of us suffer fools, and we share so many of the little daily quirks – loved a clean house, but hated emptying the dishwasher.
I miss her desperately, I kept wanting her to come back to me, but she lives on, in my heart, in my siblings’s hearts and in the bold spirit that I shared with her. How lucky am I to have had such an amazing woman as my mother and guide through life! I’m grateful for the final gift I was able to give her, the gift of love and caregiving at the most sensitive time of life.