Yesterday, I laid my mom to rest. I have been forced to face this possibility for the last several years, but 4 days ago, it finally became a reality. And, I don't care what anyone tells you...it doesn't matter how much you may anticipate the inevitable, it never prepares you for the actual task of laying one of your parents to rest. It is one of the most trying and challenging days of my life...and I've had some very challenging and trying days.
So...I want to reflect and share my thoughts on my mom...the way I see her in my heart.
Today, I am sad...my heart is broken...my life is forever changed. Today, I am a son who has lost his mother. My mom, the woman who gave me life, the friend to me whenever I had none, the sympathetic ear in the middle of the night, and, along with my wife, the best friend I ever had.
My mom has been fighting for her life, in several ways, for several years. She has had major health issues that have continuously challenged her both physically and emotionally. In recent years, she has also suffered from self-doubt about the value of her own existence.
When I was born almost 55 years ago, I was the "baby boy". My brother and I are 18 months apart in age and, from the beginning, I was the "MAMA'S BOY". When I was a kid, this was a serious point of contention with me...I didn't like being teased or made fun of, but ultimately, I WAS A MAMA'S BOY!
During the last several years, mom's health declined and she was hospitalized numerous times. A few years ago, we almost lost her and her health issues began to accelerate and her overall health began to decline. She gave up her house and her car...she moved into a small apartment near my brother so someone could keep a closer watch on her. About 18 months ago, she moved into an assisted living facility and this was her home until her last hospital stay.
I mention the transition in her living spaces for a reason. When my mom retired and moved to be closer to her sons, she gave up the home she had known for almost 50 years. Only a dozen years later, she's forced by frail health to entirely give up the freedom of home ownership, driving, and independence...and it changed her. I really didn't understand how much at the time, but in the last year or so, it became painfully obvious to me that it hurt her deeply.
Her health decline precipitated a serious issue with her memory. This became a safety issue as much as anything else...cooking, falls, and security issues more specifically. But, she didn't forget the fact that she once was allowed to drive, had a beautiful yard full of flowers, and would cook her own meals!
My own relocation to a new city made it more and more difficult for us to talk. She never said so, but I think it hurt her that I moved 100 miles away. As her hearing grew worse, and with her memory issues, she often misplaced her hearing aids. Phone calls were very frustrating because she often didn't even hear the phone ringing, and if she did answer, often couldn't understand enough of the conversation to make it a real meaningful communication.
I began to try to visit her at least once a week. When I would arrive, we would spend a few minutes reviewing my family's history (that she'd forgotten since my last visit). Inevitably, the conversation would turn, at some point, to her grumblings because she was living in "that little room" at the care center. She missed her yard and flowers, she missed driving around town, but most of all, I think she missed being "free".
It just broke my heart to hear the sadness in her voice. What could have been...what should have been...what if??? Then, about six months ago, she began to speak more specifically about her life. Unfortunately, her words were those of regret and melancholy. She talked about how she felt that her own life had been a disappointment...how she hadn't really mattered to anyone...how she had failed to be a good parent...how her life hadn't contributed to anything or anyone (...at least in her own mind).
It made my heart hurt and I physically broke down and cried when I was alone. How could she feel this way? Throughout my life, she was a hero to me. Raising two sons as a working, single mom...she often had to be father and mother. We never wanted for anything, but she kept us very grounded. And we weren't spoiled by any means! But, more than material things, she ALWAYS provided us with love. I WAS LOVED ALWAYS! IF LOVE WAS GOLD...I CONSIDER MYSELF THE RICHEST MAN IN THE WORLD! I'm sorry...you aren't a failure if you love and care for your family like she did.
END Part 1 - If you want to read the rest, please come back for Part 2 next week.
Husband, father, sinner saved by the Grace of God, old teacher, wood-worker, bad golfer, USM Golden Eagle (forever) and MSU Bulldog lover (It's a daughter thing)