Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day = Thanksgiving

Nearly three years ago, my mom died. She was 89 years old.  Though her health had declined in the last five years of her life, she never complained.  She was a five year breast cancer survivor.  She endured a double mastectomy, and radiation treatments.  Eight months after that surgery, her doctor removed one of her cancerous kidneys.  Ten months later she had her entire large intestine removed.  (Oh Momma, if only I could have taken all that from you.)  The post surgical complications forced her to live right next door to death for quite some time.  I stopped counting how often I left her thinking she would die before I returned.  After that surgery, she endured the longest, most painful healing process I have ever witnessed ...  an open wound healing.   No elderly woman should ever have to endure that. Finally, she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood that inhibits healing and fighting infection.  She suffered.  She endured.  She thrived in humor.  She had always lived in a matter of fact, no nonsense, no pretense kind of world and she regularly invited us to join her there.  Near the end, she was moved to a hospice care room within a nursing facility.  She asked us not to bring anything from her apartment.  She knew we would try to spruce up the place a bit... no pictures, no flowers, no familiar furniture pieces from home.  She said it was not her home and she wasn't intending to stay very long.  "Besides, what ever  you bring down here, you'll just have to carry back upstairs."  She was right, she didn't stay long. 

She was married to my Dad for 65 years... sixty-five years.  Her life and marriage were not perfect. Her children are not perfect. She was not perfect.  She did not have a glamorous lifestyle.  She had  everything she needed and she did not complain.  She was thankful for what she had.  She was patient, but would not tolerate whining or complaining.  She was compassionate, but would be the first to leave a pity party.  She knew when to speak and how not to say anything.  She had an uncanny ability to tell you things without saying the words.  Somehow she could lead you down a path of suggestions until something dawned on you. Then, just as you would look at her in that "ah-ha" moment to confirm your realization, she would be on to the next thing, humming as though she had no idea how you had come to that conclusion.  She was sly and she enjoyed that part of herself.  It made her chuckle in self delight.  There was simply nothing better than watching my mother laugh with reckless abandon at something that struck her funny, as one by one, we would surrender to the hilarity of laughter itself.

She did not entertain selfishness, though it stared her in the face daily (times ten, but really 11).  She had 12 pregnancies, 10 children, 33 grandchildren, and a handful of great grandchildren.  She allowed us to have one dog, a bird, several turtles, goldfish and  hamsters, a chameleon, rabbits, an alligator, a duck and a monkey (not all at the same time).  At any given moment, she could locate, make or fix any necessary item before our very eyes without duct tape or a glue gun. Whether it was a costume for a play, the class snack, a last minute gadget for a science fair, or the predictible nightly dinner for twelve, she produced in more ways than one.  I'm thankful in the chaos of life, she knew how to stop and look at small details. 
She loved collecting seashells.  She loved the beach.  It brings me great comfort to think of her sitting on a beach in heaven waiting for us. (Of course, Dad is on the golf course and Mike is in his old wooden boat on the lake.)  On this Mother's Day, I can't help but think of her and call it Thanksgiving.


  1. So very much to be thankful for in our mothers.

  2. This is a beautiful tribute. I think a good measure of a mother is when her kids can say she wasn't perfect (with underlying meanings) and yet say they loved her. That's the way with mine.
    She's been gone 11 years now--leukemia took her, but she was ready and died with grace and class.

  3. Thank you always for your kinds words and encouragement. Something tells me our mothers taught us how to do that :) A blessed day to both of you!


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