I'm writing this from the blessed position of still having my Mom. I feel a bit morbid doing this while her health has improved so much, but I know when things eventually and necessarily decline, I won't have the strength to endure it. I will need to grieve and feel it all but won't have an outlet. So I will read this. And hopefully the many people who loved her will read it too and remember what a beautiful, loving, crazy woman I got to share with the world.
Mom's early life was filled with a lot of doubt and trauma. She experienced hurts no person should and came through full of faith, positivity and love. Because of her pain she became a confidante, mentor and advocate for many hopeless and helpless people. She turned her desire to protect the weak into a long and fulfilling career as a nurse. She never cared for office politics (though she craved the feeling of being recognized, appreciated and even loved by her peers and employers) and as such would work beyond what was expected to provide all her patients the love and care she would give her own mother. I saw it first hand as she set aside her grief to carrying each of my grandparents gently into Heaven with the greatest amount of dignity.
Her name means Justice, which is fitting because justice and mercy always followed closely beside her, although she always prefered mercy. As a mother, being firm wasn't exactly her strong point. She wore her heart on her sleeve and, though often racked with deepest emotions, was slow to anger, quick to cry and quicker to forgive. Her last years in this battle for life, I watched cancer try daily to steal her peace, but she fought back, rallied by the husband she chose again daily for nearly 40 years.
But I don't want to remember her as the woman who fought and finally succumbed to cancer. That is just the final short chapter. I want to remember more of the truth of her. She was crafty. And not regular crafty. She could sew, knit, felt, crochet, dye eggs, make rosaries, and... well... everything. I always had the best Halloween costume (as did many of my friends whom she gifted lovely costumes). I was guaranteed a ridiculously embarrassing and slightly dated wardrobe (blossom hats, hammer pants and coloured jeans, each at least a year behind the trend faded). We had homemade playdough, a puppet theatre and any stuffed toy we wanted, all made from scratch. She could bake better than the best of them. Her cooking was full of reliable home style favourites. She was everything a Mom should be in the old fashioned sense. She was a devoted protector of animals. She had brute strength you wouldn't believe. She could fix a toaster (and even knew not to shove a metal utensil in while it was plugged in....looking at you, Dad). She had repeated run ins with a snake on a family vacation (it loved the warmth of our crock pot) and showed us all how a country girl dealt with pests. She was a strong swimmer and once rescued me from drowning as a small child like the fierce Mama bear she is. She often got bored by the political, theological and general -ogical chatting Dad and I got into. She would sit while we chatted, plugging away at whatever her latest craft was. A Ukrainian Easter egg (put a ribbon on top and they make great Christmas presents). She collected tea pots, patterns, stories, and friends. She had a remarkably large head for a woman her size. She was a shopaholic, but rarely shopped for herself. She wasn't a girly girl, but gained a loved for mani-pedis in her final years. A late touch of vanity can be forgiven for a woman who seldom saw how beautiful she truly was.
She could sing. Sweet and soothing and powerful. She taught me how to make harmonies. She was the keeper of folk songs and skillful at lullabies. She had specific taste but always listened and liked what we were listening too. Whenever she sang a solo at Church she craved our praise, which was easy to give. Music wove through our early lives and the voice singing in my head will always be hers. I'm sad my kids won't be able to hear her sing the way I did. My voice is hers, just younger. I strive to give my children her gift to me. The gift of a life lived with a soundtrack of their own making.
Wherever Mom went, she made a friend. Her openness and kindness made everyone love her. Dad and I would joke that part of the reason most people liked us was because of her. She worked hard to make friends. Some of that came from a genuine fear of being unloved. She had felt so unwanted as a child that that seed planted in her heart would grow like a looming tree without warning. Our whole family worked diligently for years trimming it back, planting seeds of love, friendship and faithfulness that would be forever choking out that ancient fear.
I don't know how I'll go on now, Mom. These past few years have been impossibly hard as even now I can't call and lay my burdens on you like the little child I always want to be with you. I have had the weighty blessing of being able at last to take care of you in my small ways. I'm sorry for all the times I wasn't kind or was a handful. I'm sorry for all the times I didn't accept your generosity because it got in the way of my ego. I'm sorry for every wasted second I didn't take to make you feel like the precious and beloved woman you have always been. You were a gift from God. I know already you're up in Heaven, bugging Jesus to make my life more full of the shiny things. I know you're praying for each of us. I know you're feeling entirely what it means to be able to forgive every hurt. I know you finally know how loved you have always been. Our journey down here without you will be a lot less bright, but in the end I can't let go of the feeling that the impossible pain of losing you is nothing compared to the joy of having shared my life with you. I will see you again, Mom, while we share eternity. Until then, I will always love you.