Friday, June 5, 2015

The Sum of a Life

My mother passed away 2 weeks ago.  And now I am a motherless person, a second-hand victim of cancer, like so many others.  It took less than 6 months. That wasn’t enough time.  Not enough time to ask her all of the questions I now have rolling around in my head. Like how do I gracefully transition into this next stage of my life? A life without children in my house and with lots of time on my hands to do what? She figured it out on her own as she did so many other things.  Now I’m on my own. It feels so foreign. 

For decades she and I have exchanged emails almost daily.  If there wasn’t anything important to share, we at least shared the weather with each other, since we lived several hours apart.  Frankly, I’m shocked at how much I will miss those mundane messages.  Sometimes I hurried through them without much thought.  But several times in the past month I have sat down at my computer and looked hopefully for that email from Mom.  Then I remembered that she wasn’t able to type anymore because of the tumors in her brain.  And I felt so let down.  I knew the end was coming eventually, but when I got the phone call from my brother it was still a shock. 

Now here I am, not knowing how to deal with this sadness.  Mom would know. When I was sad, I would tell her how I was feeling, and she would say. “Well, of course, that’s because…” and she would hit the nail on the head every time. That’s because she knew me before I knew myself.  She would tell me today why it’s been days and yet, I still can’t cry.  I suspect it’s because I’m afraid that I won’t be able to stop.  And because I abhor the emotion.  Stoic is the way to go.  It’s a lot safer.

When I got married, I couldn’t so much as fry an egg.  That’s one area where Mom sort of dropped the ball.  She felt it was so much easier to just do the cooking herself, rather than take the time to teach me, since I wasn’t a very willing pupil.  But she did teach me many more things that were far more valuable in life:

She taught me empathy.  I believe this is the most important thing to teach a child.  She continually pushed me to think about how I would feel in the other person’s place in any given situation.  That has served me well as a mother, teacher, friend.  Trying to imagine how the other person is looking at life helps you understand why they do the things they do.

She taught me to trust my gut.  Probably the best motherly advice she ever gave me.  And I pass that on to my daughters.  So comforting to have someone tell you that you already have inside you just what you need to take care of your baby, if you can just trust yourself.

She taught me to be frugal.  Need I say more…

She taught me to be brave. She was SO brave.  She started a business with no prior experience and made it a success.  No fear.  And she faced cancer the same way.  No fear.

Over the years, all of the tears, anger, worries about little imagined slights and insults, when the end of life comes, all that matters is what a person gives.  I am astonished at this.  I don't suppose that should surprise any of us who are Christians, and yet, we tend to lose sight of what we are here for.  Now, when we celebrate my mother's life, all we can think of to sum up her life is the gifts of her time and loving influence.

Our parents’ influence determines how we raise our children.  And so it goes.  John and I have always believed that the most important thing we do in this life is raise up the next generation.  What a gift it is to have the proper tools for the job.

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