My mom passed away on September 24. She fought a hard battle with pulmonary fibrosis, faithfully administering breathing treatments, exercising as much as she could manage, following doctors’ orders to a “T”. She was on home oxygen for about two years, which didn’t hold her back initially; but as her needs for oxygen increased, she became increasingly less mobile. Our last big event we celebrated together was my mom and dad’s 59th anniversary, which we’d planned to have at her favorite restaurant, but ended up cooking in her kitchen.
My mom was a craft-loving, animal-loving gardener who shared her talents and creativity with her granddaughters from the very beginning of their lives. Mom put together tea parties, picnics and outings to farms, gardens, ceramic-painting places for all 5 of my daughters. Mom and I made applesauce with the girls in the fall, and she made candy and chocolate-covered pretzels with them at Christmastime. She and my dad had the girls over for overnights, bubble baths, and everyone remembered the whole lot of them (there were never more than 3 kids there at one time) watching movies in my parents’ king-sized bed together. Mom collected long dresses, costumes and hats from garage sales for the girls to play dress-ups with at her house, which they did up until they were probably 10 years old. She loved the girls this way, and they got to know Mom in a way many kids never can know their grandparents these days.
Mom died after having said goodbye to everyone in our family, even my daughter Elena who Skyped in from Thailand. She gave her sweet good wishes to our daughter Caroline and her fiancé Jack, who drove in from Michigan where they are both seniors in college. Our daughter Sally, who we named for my mother, was there, along with our youngest two. Sally’s fiancé Zac phoned Mom from Washington DC while she was still alert. My dad, brother, sister-in-law and my sister, along with me and my husband (who loved her like a son) were all with her in her last hours, and we all were able to love on her, pray with her, stroke her back, and tell her how much we loved her and would miss her. I told her we’d be together again, and I look forward to that.
After she passed away, I frantically searched my files for a photograph of my mom that she would approve of. She didn’t like her photograph taken, and would turn her head to the side for some reason I never investigated. In the last year, with her constantly and urgently tethered to the oxygen machine, the nasal cannula was always present under her nose and wrapped around her ears.
I found this photograph of Mom I had taken on Mother’s Day, 2011, a time she could safely and briefly remove the cannula. I made her look at me without turning her head. I was across the table from her, and this is how I will remember my mom in the end. She loved to “gab” as she called it, hearing about what everyone was doing and saying, and where they were going. This is Mom, across the table from me (or any of her family or friends), enjoying one of many, many conversations we had together over the last many years.
Mom, I loved you. And I will miss you very, very much.