My mother, who lived with us for the past eight years, passed away very suddenly last August. We had no warning, not even a hint of what was to come. Her last words to my husband the night before were, "Don't throw away my coffee; I'm going to drink it in the morning". I always told my Mom that she had to live forever because we shared the same soul. Losing her has been devastating and even now, three months later, I'm still in having a hard time with the reality of it all.
We held Mom’s Memorial Service on her birthday, in October. The minister asked if anyone wanted to share memories of her and I would have liked to say something but I couldn't speak. I’ve regretted my inability to stand up and talk at the time. Had I done so, here are some of the things I would have shared.
When I was a little girl in kindergarten, I would come home from school and Mom would give me lunch. Sometimes it was a fried egg – I loved the yolk but was never wild about the white part. Mom would wait until I finished the yolk and then cut the egg into “pie” pieces and give me a piece for each of my cousins. The egg would disappear. In later years, when I recounted this memory for Mom, she told me that her mother did the same with her.
She read poems to us and acted them out. I can still see her reciting James Whitcomb Riley’s “Little Orphant Annie”, a poem written in dialogue. "And the Gobble-uns'll git you, Ef you don't watch out!" I can still recite this poem.
When I was about eight years old, I had to have allergy shots. Mom would sing to me and teach me different songs to keep me from being afraid. Singing alto to my soprano, we would sing together all the way to the nurse’s house. To this day, I can hear her singing “Cheyenne” (Shy Ann) and “Horsey Horsey” in rich harmony.
I used to sit at the top of the stairwell at night after I was supposed to be in bed and listen to her playing the organ. Begin the Beguine was one of her favorites…and mine. She loved music and she loved playing the organ.
She made the best chicken pot pie…the kind with the flour strips. I have no idea how to make it and I wish I did. She also made great sour cream cakes at Christmas time…they were my favorite. One Christmas, she decided we would have an old-fashioned theme. We strung popcorn and hung satin balls and gingerbread men on the tree. She was a fun Mom.
She cleaned a chicken bone like no one else, even chewing on the ends of the bones. I told her once it was like living with the Giant in Jack and the Beanstalk. It was a little sickening, listening to the bones crunch.
When she moved in with us in 2006, she told me that her mother always made her an orange flavored cake for her birthday. I always made her an orange cake for her birthday. I made one for her memorial service. And I will make one every year on her birthday.
She ate orange marmalade with peanut butter…I thought that was gross. She hated my grape jam and peanut butter just as much.
Her death has had the curious effect of making me feel old and young at the same time. On the one hand, Mom was the last of her immediate family so I am now part of the oldest generation. It seems unnatural. But most of the time, I feel just like I did the time when I was about four or five and I somehow got separated from her in a store – lost and panicky. I'm five years old again. The relief I felt when she found me that day was palpable…but now, she’s forever beyond my reach. How does one get over the pain of such a loss? I heard this line on television once and it seems apt. “You don’t. But one day you wake up and find you don’t mind carrying it around with you.” My broken heart and I await that day.
October 24, 1926 - August 16, 2014