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.
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.
-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.
-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
-Life. Feeling joy.
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.