“I have loved you for so long.” These were the words my mother said to me just days before her death, as she reached up to brush my unruly hair away from my face.
“I know, Mom,” I said, as I took her frail hand in mine and kissed the bruises left from her IVs.
“Oh, yeah?” she asked.
“How do you know?”
“Because I have loved you for just as long,” I said.
And, for a moment, it was just us — me and mom — sharing a delicate moment as so many mothers and daughters do. She wasn’t an Alzheimer’s patient fighting for her dignity. She wasn’t a cancer patient who was unable to comprehend her diagnosis. She was just a mom. My mom. Trying her best to let me know she loves me by telling me…and fixing my hair…because that’s what mothers do.
On Mother’s Day I’m reflecting on everything about my mom
Many months have passed since she left this earth, and as my first Mother’s Day without her approaches, I find myself reflecting on everything about her. I think of her smile and the way it lit up a room. I think of her laughter, and the countless times we giggled over the most stupid things — the kind of giggles that make you fart out loud and laugh even harder.
I think of the way I would hear her storm down the hall to my room on weekday mornings in search of her shoes, scarf, or lipstick — whatever it was I “borrowed” at the moment to make myself look more sophisticated than I was at 12 or 13 and how crazy I must have driven her from time to time.
I think of the days after my adolescence was far behind me when we became more than mother and daughter-the days we became lifelong friends-meeting for wine and shopping after work, talking daily about anything and everything.
I think of the way she was in the room when my son took his first breath, and the times I would call her crying because one day he would be leaving for college. I think of the way she would gently remind me he was only two or 10 or 13, and how there was no need to be upset because when the time came, I would survive it (she was right, of course).
I think of the day we got mom’s Alzheimers diagnosis
I think of the day I drove her to the neurologist’s office to be tested for Alzheimer’s, and the anger in her eyes when the diagnosis came back as expected. I think of the way she would scream at me when she accused me of thinking, “She’s crazy,” and how the hazy, distant look in her eyes seemed to progress with each passing day. I think of the plaque that continued to grow on the neurons in her brain, and the combative years she had before turning a corner and not remembering her diagnosis at all.
I think of the day I found out she had terminal cancer and how difficult it was to decide whether or not to tell her. I think of the weeks I lived with her and the time we spent coloring, dancing to King George (Strait), and falling asleep holding hands. I think of the pain she was in at the very end, and how much I had to fight with healthcare workers who refused to acknowledge her nonverbal cues and withheld the much needed morphine.
I think of our last day together at the beach, listening to The Beach Boys and Jimmy Buffet and how thankful I am that she had the strength to make it to our cherished place one more time.
I think of how lucky I am. Not only because she is my mother, but because I didn’t have to watch her degenerate into the final stages of Alzheimer’s when one loses the ability to speak, eat or function. I think of how my prayer was answered and something other than Alzheimer’s took my mother home, just six short weeks after diagnosis.
Even though my mother is gone, I am not motherless
I think of how I am just one of millions who will wake up on Sunday and wish they could hear their mother’s voice just one more time. I think of those who consider themselves motherless, and I hope and pray they realize they are wrong.
We aren’t motherless. No, we may not be able to hold their hand or send them flowers or take them to lunch on Sunday, but we aren’t motherless. We are still daughters. And sons. The only difference is that our mothers have been called to do something else for the time being. Remember, it’s not goodbye…it’s just a see you later.
Most of all, I think of the day, God willing, I’ll see her again and how I know it will go something like this….
I’ll arrive at the Pearly Gates with my hair in a messy bun or sweaty ponytail, and as she’s reaching up to fix it, I’ll hear her say the words, “I have missed you for so long.”
“I know, Mom,” I’ll say to her, as I gently kiss her hand.
“Oh yeah? How do you know?” she’ll ask, with a knowing smile.
And I’ll say, “Because I have missed you for just as long.”
For a moment, it will just be us again — me and mom — sharing a sacred moment as many children and mothers do. Her pain will be gone. Her memory restored. She’ll just be a mom. My mom. Trying her best to let me know she missed me through her words and actions. And I’ll tell her the same…and let her fix my hair…because that’s what daughters do.
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