Because of My Mother

Today is the second anniversary of my mother’s death.  She died, as far as we can tell, peacefully, in her sleep.  It was sudden, but not exactly unexpected.  It wasn’t until my siblings were all together at my parents’ house that I realized that I had, in my mind, been preparing for my mother’s death since I was ten years old.

My mom had been unwell for as long as I can remember.  She had had a heart condition since she was 18, which was eventually treated with a pacemaker.  I was ten when, during surgery to repair this pacemaker, my mother’s heart stopped.  I don’t know for how long, but she was shocked back to life on the operating table.  I heard this news from my father the next morning, after telling him about a disturbing dream I had had the night before.  I had dreamed that a girl from my brownie troop, one I didn’t particularly like, had told me my mom died, and I thought, in the dream and afterward, that she was saying it to be mean.  It was the closest thing to a premonition I have ever had.

Since that day, my mother’s health was up and down, mostly down.  She suffered from fibromyalgia and neuropathy in her hands and feet long before being diagnosed with diabetes when I was in college.  She was in near-constant pain and, even with the pacemaker, had attacks of atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeat, which would make her dizzy, sometimes to the point of falling, and occasionally push her to the brink of consciousness.  She took handfuls of pills three times a day.  And she was depressed.  From the pain, from the pills, from not being able to live a “normal” life.

Still, my mother was an amazing person.  For a time, she was a single mom, a widow, raising five children on her own.  She was a model.  She sewed and crocheted and baked.  She sang and was the choir director at her church.  She whooped and hollered at all high school sporting events.  She made my Halloween costumes for years.  She was an actress–in community theater, but still, an actress.  She pushed me to do things I didn’t want to do because she believed I could do them.  And I could.

One of the things my mother and I used to have in common was our faith.  She was an active member of the Methodist church in whichever small town we lived (or lived near, if we happened to be living in the country at the time).  Of her seven children, I was the oldest when I decided I would no longer attend her church–or any church.  It wasn’t a decision I made overnight, and while it wasn’t easy on me, it may have actually broken my mom’s already busted heart.  And it only made things worse when I decided to first move in with and then marry an atheist Jew.  She loved Hubby, but she asked me more than once (only half-joking) if I had considered trying to convert him.  I told her the thought had never occurred to me. 

She knew about our infertility and that we had actually considered moving to Hubby’s home country, where fertility treatments are covered for practically nothing.  When I told her about this plan, she warned, “You better not go to [X country] and have babies,” based on the fact that she didn’t travel well and wouldn’t be able to see them.  I had thought of this, too.  When each of my sisters had their babies, my mom went to stay with them for a couple of weeks.  She would help with the laundry and dishes, answer all newborn-related questions, take care of the baby so my sister could squeeze in a nap.  And it made me sad to think she wouldn’t be able to do this for me if we moved halfway around the world to have our children.

My younger sister was the one who told me the news of my mother’s death.  I held it together as best I could while on the phone with her, and then I crumbled.  I sank into Hubby and sobbed.  Not for the memory of my mother, all that remains of her now and what I will carry with me the rest of my life–the birthday cakes and French braids, homemade dresses and school plays.  What I mourned, even in those first moments, was what will never be.  My mother never holding my child in her arms.  Their grandmother never teaching my children to sing.  Never wrapping my baby in a blanket made just for her by her grandma.

Because of my mother, I learned to crochet.  I learned to sew (sort of) and will become a better cook and baker.  Because of my mother, I want my children to have a hand-made childhood, memories of a house that smells like cinnamon, with a soundtrack of song.  I may not have my mother’s vibrato, but I know the melody by heart.


23 thoughts on “Because of My Mother

  1. This made me cry. Such a wonderful, touching tribute to your mother. I think that’s one of the hardest things for my husband to face, also — the knowledge that his dad will never be a part of our children’s lives. I am so sorry for the loss of your mother — she sounds like a wonderful woman.


  2. I don’t know your mum, but I know you’re a wonderful writer because this made me cry. And you are a wonderful daughter to have been moved to write this, and your mother must have been a wonderful mother to inspire these words. What a gorgeous, gorgeous post. Sending a hug for this anniversary.

  3. Oh Daryl, what a lovely post. I know the heartbreak of not having your mother hold and fuss over your babies one day. Beautiful words and your mom would have been so proud to know this. Hugs.

  4. So beautiful. I’m writing this and crying now, thanks to you! If it’s true that our loved ones are kept alive through our memories, then I couldn’t imagine a better tribute to her life. Really, absolutely beautiful.

  5. This is a truly beautiful post, it made me cry. Mothers are amazing and wonderful beings that make us who we are today. I am so very sorry for your loss but also glad you had such an amazing example to learn by and to love.

  6. Such a beautiful post. Your mother won’t be there physically, but she’s with you all the time. At least, that’s what my dad tells me about my mom. You have to believe it as it keeps your mom alive. And think of all the fun stories you’ll tell your kids about their grandmother. I know stories aren’t the same as the real person, but your kids will know her just the same. Here’s to honoring your mom by being an awesome mother yourself. A big hug is coming your way.

  7. I loved this post. And your mother raised a truly special and fantastic daughter. Thank you posting for such a moving and touching tribute to her. I am sure shes incredibly proud of you.

  8. This was incredibly beautiful – and now I’m going to go call my mother, and tell her how much I love her….

  9. What a beautiful post! I had tears welling up in my eyes as I read it. I’m sure it’s hard knowing your children won’t know her, but your stories and memories of her will keep her with you always.

  10. What a beautiful tribute to a remarkable woman. I love the last lines about wanting to provide a handmade childhood for your kids. Gorgeous writing. And, (((hugs)))

  11. Beautiful and moving – a wonderful tribute. While she won’t be there with you in person when you become a mother, it is clear that she will be present.

  12. I’m sorry for the loss of your mom. I’m coming up on the 1 year anniversary of my mom’s death and my thoughts about her not being here are the same: she’ll never get to know that I finally got pregnant and she’ll never be a grandma to MY kids, as opposed to other peoples’ kids. Like you though, I can keep on her legacy and create a homemade childhood for my kid (when he gets here).
    Thank you for this beautiful post.
    p.s. I did move halfway around the world…

    • I’m sorry for your loss, too. Those anniversaries are hard.

      Congratulations on your pregnancy! I’m sure your mom’s influence will be felt as you make your way into motherhood.

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