My mother, Muriel, passed away a month ago. She was 92 years old, but her death still came as a shock. I thought she would be here forever; my family always said that she would outlive us all. The reality that she is no longer here hasn’t sunk in yet. I suppose it takes time for something like this to reach the deepest part of you. I wrote her this letter and had it read at her memorial service. Many thanks to Cathy Taylor for doing my dirty work for me–I was a mess that day.
Mom, how do I sum up a lifetime with you? My mind is a swirling, colorful kaleidoscope of memories that won’t gel into any specific point. My earliest memory is you holding me up to the mirror after I fell down the stairs, to see my two big, black panda bear eyes. You took a scary, painful situation and made it funny.
Every day when we came home from school, you were waiting for us, and would make Jimmy Snider and me a glass of chocolate milk and listen to us talk about our day. You did “surgery” on my favorite teddy bear whenever parts of her would fall off. You showed me how to stand up to bullies in a way that was far more effective than Dad’s boxing lessons. You let me skip one school day a year, which would be “our” day to do something special together. You made me endure endless hours in the fabric store as you pored over patterns, but then you made me the prettiest clothes. You encouraged Dad and me to have father/daughter date nights, because you were making sure I had the kind of relationship with my dad that you never had with yours. You encouraged me to travel because you knew how much it meant to me. I never would have seen Europe or the Holy Land without you running interference with my overprotective dad. You told me once, “I would have loved to backpack across Europe when I was your age, but unfortunately there was a bit of a war going on at the time.”
Swirling, colorful memories, some painful but mostly good. Then Dad got sick and life got hard. I didn’t realize for the longest time that you were having problems by then, too. As his Alzheimer’s got worse, he became more paranoid and delusional. My worst memory is him screaming at you, calling you a dirty witch and worse and to get out of his house. You stood there, helpless, sobbing, “but I’m your wife! I’m your wife.” You never understood what was happening with him, you just saw the only man you ever loved rejecting you.
Those memories and ten million more we shared, until the Dementia came for you, too. I could only watch as, one by one, they all disappeared. Now it’s just me holding onto the memories you and I shared, until the day may come when the Dementia steals them away from me, too.
But, I think about where you are right now. They let me spend a few minutes with you after you died, to say goodbye. As I saw your body lying there, I knew that you were already gone. YOU weren’t in that room. What happened then? Did you open your eyes to the most beautiful Light you’ve ever seen? Did the loveliest voice in all the universe welcome you home? Did He wipe away your every tear? And then, in that moment, did you finally understand what a Father’s love really is? I hope so. I believe so.
I miss you, Mom, and look forward to the day I see you again. We will look back over our lives, even the hard times, and have a good laugh, just like we did over my panda bear eyes.
I love you.