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a few of her favorite things

A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.
-Agatha Christie, The Hound of Death

On January 19th, my authentic, loving (so loving), giving, quirky, and beautiful mother took her last labored breath. All we could do was hold her hands and try not to fall apart. I never wanted anything more than to see her finally go after what she’d been through.

A good friend who lost her father years before explained to me how she couldn’t wait for him to pass away at the end. I remember feeling disbelief because I couldn’t imagine wanting my mom to leave. It takes watching someone you love suffer to understand that feeling. I am not particularly spiritual and yet I prayed to God out loud and in my head to please take her and end her pain.

Now, I’d give an awful lot for just one more day to see her, hold her hand, touch her face, and hear her voice say, “Hello my sweet girl.” 

Since she has been gone, life has been very task oriented (teeth brushed, check; went to work, check; dinner made, check) with unpredictable breakdowns scattered in. Everything around me is a reminder of her. Everything. Birds. Her jewelry. Memories in my head. Songs. My drive to work when I’d often call her. The voicemails I refuse to delete. My child’s face. Even this blog, because she was it’s biggest fan. There’s a photograph in my kitchen that sat atop her casket of her happy face standing in front of a red London phone booth. Chris and I both swear when we look at the picture, she is looking back at us somehow. Sometimes I stare at it and relive each moment of that photo (how red-eye tired we were yet exhilarated, re-positioning her several times to get Big Ben in the shot, and the fish and chips and beer we’d just shared) and other times I can’t even look at it.
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I used to think of life as “before cancer” and “after cancer” because everything changed that fateful day her doctor called to confirm the results. It is a moment that is so sharply imprinted in my mind and I can remember tiny details: where she was standing, her tone of voice on the phone, and the very physical and literal color that drained from her face.  Though the diagnosis brought with it an awakening to the sheer preciousness of small things in life, it also left me with a longing for the normalcy that existed before it. In the place of normalcy entered fear.

Now all those who loved her are learning how to live without her. The big question for all of us is: how? She lived a simple life and wanted simple things, but she had sparkle and she loved fiercely.

I keep thinking about things she loved. There’s no way to ever put into earthly words how special she was and how many people she touched, so I’ll just paint a picture of her through her favorite things. Well, some of them. There is so much more beyond this list.

-Her family, especially her grandsons
-Her friends that became family
-Sheep and bunnies
-Birds such as her bird-themed Christmas tree, bird stationary, bird artwork, watching Anderson”hatch” like a bird from his shell of pillows (I can hear her voice loud and clear saying, “Flap your wings little birdie!”) and of course real birds she watched out the window. Her favorite: the bluebird of happiness.
-Thanksgiving
-Easter
-Reading. She wasn’t able to read the last few months of her life (she always said she could gauge how she was feeling by whether or not she was able to read), but oh how she loved reading in the quiet home she found peace in, surrounded by nature. I couldn’t possibly list all of her favorites, but here are a few: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Wells, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, and of course The Tales of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter.
-Downton Abbey
-Cottage-style flowers such as black-eyed-Susans, dahlias, and zinnias
-England, generally (as if you hadn’t already picked up on this)
-yard sales, consignment shops, and hole-in-the-wall antique stores (she didn’t spend a lot of money, but loved hunting for treasures)
-fun costume jewelry
-“salty snacks”
-God
-Life. Feeling joy.

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a beautiful day in Ogunquit, Maine

Music. This list could take days to compile. She loved music so much. I have so many memories of her that somehow involve music: seeing Sarah McLachlan at The Pavilion in Boston (where she wept with joy because she couldn’t believe she really was there); seeing Poco (a band she followed when she was in her late teens/early twenties) in Keene NH; seeing Dar Williams in Portland ME; taking her as my date to country recording artist events where she was able to meet and charm Brad Paisley, Toby Keith, Lee Ann Womack, Rascal Flats, Keith Urban, Nickel Creek, and probably others I’m forgetting; watching her take country line dancing lessons where she’d often give up on trying to follow the steps and instead dance her own dance like nobody was watching; listening to her sing Lionel Richie and Gloria Estefan in the 80s to the cassette tapes in her car; hearing her sing James Taylor songs while washing dishes; and the list could go on endlessly. Some of her other favorite artists were: The Beatles, The Eagles, Joni Mitchell, Amy Grant, Vince Gill, Natalie Cole, Alison Krauss, The Bee Gees, and so many others…ranging from Harry Connick Jr.’s songs on the When Harry Met Sally soundtrack to Bonnie Raitt.

I’ll end with a few songs she truly loved. I am unable to actually listen to them at this time, but you should.

The Lucky One by Alison Krauss and Union Station

River by Joni Mitchell

The One Who Knows by Dar Williams

Bring on the Wonder by Sarah MacLachlan

Sweet Baby James by James Taylor

Life will never be the same without her.

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her garden shed and her girls

 

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the last time I stood in the yard I grew up in- all of us (Amber Joy included) happy to just be

 

7 Comments

  1. Gail Harmer (friend from Photo.Net) says

    My sweet Cara, with not seeing many posts, I was afraid that maybe your Mom may be sicker. While her journey was much longer than my Mom’s – or perhaps different – I was told my Mom would only last a month – so she signed a DNR – but she lasted 8 months. They would not put her on I.V. – watching her survive on sips of water for that 8 months was excruciating. Yet I would hold her hand and memorize it’s softness. I do know what you have experienced and you are right – if someone has not been through it – it is so difficult for them to imagine. I am in awe of my Mother’s strength for so long – I don’t know that I could ever be that brave. But what I have come to know is to savor all that she loved as you have done so here – you cannot sing those songs but you can cherish them – I do believe in God and it is with His help, I have healed. You will never stop missing her – I am sure she would want you NOT to live life AFRAID. Slowly the things remembered that choke you up – will become favorite memories – what would life have been without those memories? I still have some of her favorite perfume and I will put a bit on and it soothes me. One day the PAIN and LOSS you feel will be replaced with the knowledge that she is so close to you – and it is OK – never far, always there, and you will dream of her. I have never dreamt of my Mom ill…………she is always younger………..like when I was a teenager or younger………and she may not be talking in the dream………but she is sometimes in the background – like a reassurance that she is always there – and when I look at her she smiles back so lovingly – yes you will see her in Anderson – what a blessing – you will take a deep breath and an aroma brings her close to you – you were blessed with a Mom who was an amazing and glorious woman – who taught you how to enjoy life and all that was in it – and shared a painful journey – but you have learned how she survived and stayed strong as long as she could – this too was a lesson – one she will fight for you not to ever go through – but she was as brave as she could be and lived life as best she could to stay vital in your life. When you can, you will truly CELEBRATE all that she was in your life – and it will hurt a wee bit less – and you will shout to the skies – I HAVE a GOOD MOTHER – and it is HER VOICE that keeps me here…feet on ground, heart in hand….facing forward……..be YOURSELF ……………I never wanted anything so bad……..Jann Arden writes some pretty awesome songs. I love this one and it has helped me as I have journeyed through this space in time – so full of memories.
    With much love and prayers that you have Peace to Soothe you, Grace to HOLD you, and LOVE to COMFORT you – your ‘sister’ Gail Harmer

  2. Amanda says

    This is my favorite blog! She is missed so much! Love you to pieces Cara!!! She would have loved this.

  3. Leslie Kearley says

    Cara,
    A wonderful way to start the day! This is making me smile thinking about Lea’s smile, that smile she always had! Thank you for sharing this with everyone!

  4. Sammie Werkheiser says

    Your mother l o v e d you. I can still hear the way your name came off of her lips. care-ah. . . You are a brilliant writer!

  5. Lara V. says

    Sweet Cara, this is beautiful and I feel so lucky to know you and your beautiful Mom.

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