I wrote a little about my mom last year about this time, and with Mother’s Day approaching this weekend, I find my thoughts are turning to her even more each day than usual. Everytime I try to write a tribute to her, the emotion of putting into words what she meant to me overcomes my attempts. But I’ll start out today again – and we’ll see where it goes.
I was an only child, growing up in the 50’s and 60’s – in a home filled with love. After I was born, the only time my mother worked outside the home – for more than a short while – was when college tuition for me was looming. College was never an option for my mom, and though her professional skills were limited, her mind was sharp. During my Senior year in high school, Mom announced one day she was going to run for office in our little town of Sylvester. The position was Tax Receiver for Worth County – Mama was good with numbers, and she figured she could handle that job. She was the first female to ever run for the office, and she and Daddy spent nights and weekends going door to door in our little community – seeking votes. When the ballots were counted, she had won – surprising herself more than anyone else.
After I married and had babies, she became a doting grandmother. When I divorced and became a single parent, she and my dad were my anchors. When my dad retired, the five of us went on a year-in-the-planning trip across the U.S. My dad rented one of those “custom” vans (this was in the 80’s), and we toured Dollywood, rode to the top of the St. Louis Arch, watched Old Faithful erupt in Yellowstone, viewed the glaciers in Banff National Park in Alberto Canada, saw how movies are made in Hollywood at Universal Studios, were awed by the traffic in Los Angeles, and attended a church service one morning sitting on a rim of the Grand Canyon. We were gone a month, and each day of that month is remembered often by Jason, Blake and me when we are reminiscing about their Mema and Granddaddy.
Seeing me married to Ted brought her happiness – and she once again added “mother-in-law” to her other roles. When my dad passed away suddenly in 1996, she was beyond grief. He was the love of her life, and she never recovered from losing him. I think she realized that in order to keep living, she had to remake her life, and she surprised all of us by doing that. Everything my dad had done in the past, she took on – paying the bills, taking care of the house (catching her one day on top of a ladder painting a bedroom almost threw me into cardiac arrest), tending the yard. She did it all to stay busy, and her favorite thing to do was ride the mower and cut the grass. She often told me how much it meant to be able to get outside, climb on that mower, and make the yard “pretty”. When she fell and broke her hip and leg, her first words to the ER doctor were, “When can I mow again?” She never made it back on that mower, and from that day her health began to decline.
She visited us at the lake often, but never would stay more than two nights – claiming she “had to get back home to Daddy”. As the years passed and worries began about whether she could continue to live alone, she let us know in no uncertain terms that “I will NOT go into an assisted living home unless I absolutely HAVE to – and I don’t plan to HAVE to.” She told me a million times, “I’d like the Banks boys (the funeral directors in Sylvester – who have been in business forever) to come get me from my own home.” Following a devastating stroke, then six days at home with hospice (she had everything spelled out in a Living Will for just such a happening), her request became a reality. She passed away peacefully – the afternoon of her 86th birthday – in the den she and my daddy had shared for so many years.
My mother taught me to work hard, to be honest, and to help others. She taught me patience, compassion, and unconditional love. I grieve most for that love, because on this earth, the love of a mother is like no other. She loved me whether I was good or bad, moody or sweet, angry or happy. Her love never wavered – never. I love my boys that same way. Isn’t it strange how seldom we realize what losing that kind of love will mean until it’s gone.