Sometimes it still seems incongruous in my life to even accept that my mother passed away ten years ago today. The thought of her not being in my life all those years, the lives of my children, and the rest of our family seems impossible to accept, for she had been so much a part of our lives when she was here. However, as the years have passed, I have gained strength not in being without her but knowing she is with me, with us, and the aura of her presence not only helps me get by but confirms the power of her spirit, the eternal aspect of her love.
Remembering all moments with her that I can recall, I also think about ones not remembered. When I see pictures of me with her when I was very small, I can see the sparkle of love in her eyes. I imagine what it was like to look up at her from the crib as she looked down on me; I know her face was glowing with love for me, and all the years of my life that unfolded from that time forward that was always the case – my mother’s countenance shone love all around me.
Growing up there were those mother and son moments that ranged from silly to sublime. I don’t think I ever laughed so hard as when Mom and I started joking about something together, and she had a marvelous sense of humor and most notably could laugh at herself. One time I walked in on her when she was sitting at her vanity after taking a shower, and her hair looked like a wet mop. She looked at my reflection in the mirror and pushed her hair all the way up above her head to look like a dunce’s cap and said, “Boo!” The sublime moments included our mother-son dance at my wedding, when we joked and laughed during the whole thing. Afterwards many people expressed amazement that there were no tears, but Mom told them that her happiness for me was so overwhelming that she couldn’t help but smile.
Sometimes there were difficult things we lived through, and at those times Mom was strong too even when she cried. There was also her battle with rheumatoid arthritis, which is such a debilitating disease and took a toll on her over the years as the disease worsened. Still, despite having tremendous pain sometimes, Mom always put on a brave and happy face, especially for the children in our family. Of course, whenever they visited her, it was very therapeutic and brought her great joy.
I recall sitting with Mom on the front porch either reading together or watching the world go by. Sometimes we would talk about the news, the family, or just about silly things. Mom also found a guilty pleasure in watching the neighbors, giving them all nicknames based on their quirks and behaviors. She would wave and smile at a couple as they walked by and then turn to me and whisper, “They’re always fighting.” Mom loved her TV soap operas, but I think she really preferred the one that played out every day on her street.
Mostly now I think of all the many years of birthdays and holidays, of how Mom’s house was always home, a warm and nurturing bastion of love and safety. If I was feeling down, out, or hurt by the cruel world, I knew where I could go to receive love and understanding. It is an amazing thing to know you can go home again – and again and again – and Mom’s house was always my home until the day she passed away quietly there in her chair watching TV.
In the years since she died I have grown stronger in my love for her, knowing what she did for me in life and feeling what she does for me now after life. Her presence sometimes seems to be everywhere, and I know that she is actively with me and my children. A number of incidents that have happened have convinced me of this, most notably one time when my son was three. We were playing in the living room and he turned to me and asked me, “Who is the pretty lady on the stairs?” I glanced over and saw nothing and asked, “What lady?” He looked again and said, “She’s gone now.”
A few weeks later I was going through an old photo album with him, and he saw a picture of my mother taken right before she had married my father. My son pointed to it and said, “Dad, that’s the lady on the stairs.” A shiver went up and down my arms, meaning that I was electrified with happiness, knowing that she was truly with us because my son had never seen any pictures of my mother as a young woman before.
Other things have confirmed my mother’s presence to me, and that has helped me get stronger as the years have gone by. When I went to her grave for Mother’s Day this year, I discovered that I could finally go there and not bawl like I used to. As I was standing there I remembered us dancing at my wedding and the luminescent glow in her face that enveloped me with love that day, and at that moment at the grave that same light seemed to be all around me.
So ten years have come and gone, but today I choose to celebrate Mom’s life and not mourn her passing. Her gentle and loving presence in my life helped me though every day of it, even during these last ten years. Mom taught me to love, to laugh, to treat others well, and to cherish my family. She didn’t just tell me how to do these things, she showed me the way, and she is still guiding me as she takes my hand into her evanescent one and leads me through the day and lights my path even in the darkest hours.
I love you, Mom, now and forevermore!