Goodbye, Mom.


I recently wrote the most difficult thing I’ve ever written: my mother’s obituary. My mom – an artist, potter, equestrian, tennis player, animal lover, golfer, traveler – passed away in August at the age of 87. She lived in my home state of Maryland, which had made it difficult for me to spend much time with her. But when she became ill a few months ago, I was able to travel there to spend a week and help care for her. I spent every minute of that time doing what I could do to ease her pain and make her comfortable. The last thing I told her before I returned to Michigan was how much I loved her and that I’d be back soon.

The evening before she passed, I was sitting on my couch when a little voice in my head said, Call your mother. But I didn’t. I’ll call her in the morning. When my phone rang at 6am the next day, I knew immediately that something was wrong. It was too early for my daughter’s daily call on her way to work. My brother, Chris, was calling to tell me that mom had died peacefully during the night. I’ll always regret not listening to that little voice.

A few days later, my brother asked me to write mom’s obituary. As I wrote, my mind was flooded with childhood memories. I thought of my visit last summer when her health was good and her spirits high; we went to the movies, ate crab cakes at Mike’s, and golfed – something we both loved. While it was painful to write, it helped me grieve her loss and gave me an opportunity to appreciate the woman she was and what she gave me.

The flood of sympathy cards I received left me overcome with emotion. One in particular from a group of very dear friends stood out and gave me comfort. It said: Your mother lives on in you. She lovingly nurtured you when you were small and guided you as you grew. Her attitude, values, hopes, and dreams became a part of you. And though she is gone, her love for you remains and always will. Your mother lives on within your heart – her spirit guides you still.

As I look in the mirror, I see how true that is. I look like her. The lessons she taught me were not always appreciated – especially when she made me clean the horse barn on the day of my senior prom – but they shaped me into the person I am today. And I’ve passed some of those lessons on to my own kids. We’ve all at one time thought, Oh no. I’m just like my mother. I can look at myself and say, yes, I am like her – at least in some ways. And I’m proud of that.

A few years ago, I was going through a particularly rough patch and made a visit home to see my mom and dad. As I shared some of the things happening in my life, my father made a funny and somewhat sarcastic comment that left me and my whole family in stitches. I had one of those “Aha!” moments when I realized, yes … this is where I got my sense of humor, this is where I came from and this is where life makes sense.

This month, on my dad’s birthday, I will be in Annapolis, Maryland with my brothers Joe and Chris, my sister Kathy, and many friends and relatives for a Celebration of Life in mom’s honor. We’ll laugh and cry, share memories, and feast on steamed Maryland Blue Fin Crab, cracked open on old newspapers – just the way we did so many times while growing up.

Goodbye, Mom. I love you, and I’ll miss you more than you’ll ever know.


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