If I look at my life, I can definitely say that there are moments that define me. Moments that changed the course and direction of my life. Moments that could not be avoided or bypassed.
In recent years, one such moment occurred on Wednesday, March 8, 2006. Seven years ago, my mother suddenly passed away of a heart attack. It was unexpected and to be frankly honest, it left me emotionally paralyzed. A year earlier, my father had been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. For a year, we had been talking about how life would be without dad. We were preparing for the inevitably of his passing. Never did we anticipate that my mother would die first.
It has been seven years. Seven years seems like a lifetime ago as much as it seems like yesterday. In these seven years, I have missed my mother very much. For a long time, I could not think about specifics. My heart ached too much to remember specific stretches of time; I could not conjure memories that would make me feel more pain. As with everything though, when enough time passes, the ache is assuaged, and once again, I can conjure memory and recognize the beauty of her life.
In memory of my mother, I compiled a list of the things that I miss.
- Elephants. My mother had a very extensive collection of elephants. She was superstitious, and she wanted to do everything in her power to bring herself luck. Thus, when she learned that an elephant with its trunk up is good luck, she started to collect elephants. Carson was only six when my mother passed away, and as with any childhood memory, one often wonders what a child remembers. Carson remembers the elephants. Recently, we were in Clare’s and Carson found a necklace with an elephant with its trunk up. “Mom, can I get it? It reminds me of Grandma?” Even better, last Saturday when she walked out of her room to go to the Plain Dealer Spelling Bee, she was wearing it. When she saw me looking at it, she touched it and said, “Grandma is with me, today.”
- There was no one who could take care of me when I was sick like my mother. She would tuck me into the couch with a dozen or so blankets. She would check on me often. She would bring me tea or juice, soup or popsicles. When I was sick with fever, she would get a cool compress and lightly pat my forehead. When I ached with pain, she would gently rub my back. Yes, my mother had a way of bringing me back to health; so much so, that at 27 years old, even after I had moved out of the house to live with my fiancé, I returned home for two days when I contracted a fever. I knew that the only way I could and would be healed was if I was with my mother.
- Backgammon. My mother was a very competitive woman. She taught me backgammon at seven years old. We played often, and she never let me win. I learned that to win at a game, you had to be strategic. I learned that winning takes effort. I learned how to compete. I also learned a tool that I use with my own children. When I play games with them, I do not let them win. They are learning, as I learned, that victory is sweet, but it must be earned. There are no free handouts in life, even in the game of Candyland.
- My mother pushed me to excel in school. She knew I had cognitive abilities, and she did not want those abilities to go to waste. However, she encouraged me to experience life at my own pace. When people questioned and scoffed because I took a year off of school, she told them I was broadening my horizons. She believed in me, and she never doubted that I would achieve personal success.
- Lastly, I miss just hanging out with her. In my twenties, we spent a great deal of time together. I lived with my parents from 19-25, and at the time, I felt judged because people were moving out of their parents’ homes and setting up lives of their own. In retrospect, I feel blessed that I was able to spend so much time with her. We would drink coffee in the morning and watch Regis and Kathy. I would be home for dinner. We would spend afternoons together bargain shopping. In the evenings, I would join my parents and watch a movie. Really, those were six years I do not regret, and I am so happy that I was slow about starting my life because now I have all of these memories.
I wish my mother was still here today. Nothing can replace a mother’s love. However, she is forever in my thoughts and in my heart.