This is my first Mother’s Day without my Mom. She passed away in March at the age of 89. I was fortunate to be with her on her last day, along with 7 other family members and close friends. We spent the day holding her hands and stroking her brow, while telling her how much we loved her. We sang her favorite hymns and shared stories about why she meant so much to each of us.
It was, unexpectedly, one of the most loving and uplifting moments in my entire life. The incredibly wonderful hospice nurses who had been taking care of Mom during her last week had warned us that the end was near. We all had spent time talking with her, and feeling the amazing amount of love she had for all of us.
I learned a great deal about my Mom by talking to the people who came to visit her in her last few weeks of her life. It was a testament to a life well lived.
A cousin who I had grown up with explained why she’d hung out at our house so often. For the first time I learned that her own mother had been physically abusive with her sometimes, and my Mom had arranged to care for her when my aunt wasn’t managing her mental illness well. My cousin had gone on to have a wonderful family of her own as an adult, an accomplishment she attributed to my mother having been the loving Mom she had needed as a child.
There were women from the American Cancer Society’s Reach to Recovery program who had been friends with my mother since the 1960s. After surviving breast cancer herself, Mom had volunteered to go to the hospital to talk to other women who were having mastectomies. During one of the most terrifying times in their lives, the women told me, my Mom had shown up in their hospital room to offer comfort and advice for coping with the aftermath of breast cancer surgery. My mother had the ability to step into the fiercest storm a woman can face and guide them through their turbulent time. And they loved her for it. Many of the women she met became lifelong friends.
And there were women she’d sponsored in the 1970s and 80s when she was an active member of Al Anon. Having learned to cope with her alcoholic second husband, Mom had taken dozens of other women under her wing to help them learn how to deal with their loved ones who had addiction issues. It was astounding to hear how these women felt about my Mom, who had kept in touch with them for decades. They shared a bond, and were eternally grateful for having had a wise female mentor to guide them through their struggles.
Mom lived in Fort Wayne, Indiana for her whole life, much of that time as a single woman. But Mom was never lonely or lacking for fulfilling activities to fill her time. She cherished her community, and found great pleasure serving as a volunteer with the Museum of Art, the Fort Wayne Sport Club, the Women’s Life Insurance Society, the “Got Mail” senior group supporting non-profit fund-raising activities, the Eastern Star, and as an usher at the Embassy Theatre where she was the 2006 Volunteer of the Year.
I’ve been feeling like a slacker lately whenever I’m just sitting around watching TV. Mom is a hard act to follow.
In her last days, Mom had told us she was ready to go…ready to go to heaven where she believed she would be reunited with my Dad who had died 50 years before her. Mom had strong faith in God, which had helped throughout her life and gave her peace at the end that all would be well when she passed. Mom had been a member of the same church since 1936, and her deep and abiding faith gave her solace.
I came away with a new understanding of why it’s important to have faith. Mom lived the values that she learned in church, and the most important lesson she told me was to be a loving person. The love she gave to others was returned many times over. And just as important, my Mom was able to look back at how she’d lived her life and say, “I like me.”
What makes your mom remarkable? Write your gratitude letter and give the gift of love this Mother’s Day.