Photo From Our Family Album
On March 29th, 1995, my dear mother passed away in a bed in Deaconess Hospital, in Evansville, Indiana. My sister Becky and I were at her bedside when she left us. My mother was my life’s anchor, without her I felt un-moored, subject to the waves and currents of life’s big ocean. My dad passed away some 10 years earlier, so now it was just me and my sister Becky. My mother’s life was a life that mattered because she loved her family. To her there was nothing else in the world that was as important as family. She could love you dearly and chew you out about something at the same time. But she did it in such a way, that you knew she meant it for YOUR good. She expected people to have consideration for each other, and she lived it every day of her life.
It dawned on me that day that my sister and I were now orphans. Oh yes, we had our own families that we dearly loved, but we were the last two of our original family unit. It was a chilling feeling to know everyone else was gone. My two brothers passed away before our Mom, and I remember her saying then, “No mother should have to bury her children, it should be the other way around.” She was right in that respect of course, because age itself, is what we think of as being the reason for the end of life. But there are sicknesses that can’t be conquered and our loss of our brothers occurred when they should have been living the best years of their lives.
Becky and I held each other and cried when our Mom died. We cried with each other for the next several days. We couldn’t believe our mother was gone. Every morning we’d awaken, hoping it was all a bad dream. But it was all too real. We had to face that we had to deal with the reality of practical things like arranging her burial and cleaning her apartment.
My mother kept her own apartment in an assisted living community. When they said “assisted,” they meant “however much assistance each individual needed.” Mom did her own laundry, made her own meals, and took her medications up until the time she was hospitalized. She lived there, because it was more independent and peaceful for her. If there was anything she wanted she only had to ask. She was welcome to eat in the dining room, and the nurses in the facility checked on her frequently. Since I lived across country from her, my sister would make a point of taking her shopping or just out to her house for the day, to give her a day out. Whenever I came home, I always spent time at her little place.
After her death, we had to clean her neat little apartment and figure out what to do with all her furniture and belongings. She was so tidy, there wasn’t a piece of clothing not hung in the closet except the few pieces in the hamper before she was hospitalized. There were no dishes left in the sink, she always did the dishes as soon as she ate. The place was “Mom” through and through, and you can imagine what a task it was for us when every piece we picked up held a memory attached to our Mom. It took us days and then more days, because too many times we’d sit down and cry and be unable to continue.
Finally we finished the job, but when we walked out, as we looked back while closing the door, we broke down again. It was like closing the door on our darling mother. We knew we’d never return to the little place again. So we took her clothing, her jewelry, her nicknacks, her plants, her dishes, her pots and pans, her photos, her birthday cards she’d kept from us and her grandkids, and went to my sister’s house, where we sat and aimlessly went around in circles about what to do with them. Our indecision stemmed from the fact that once we gave these things away, it would mean it was really true, she was really gone. And even though our intellect knew this, somehow our hearts didn’t want to acknowledge it. Finally, some practical things were given to those in the family who could use them. Her clothes were given to charity, with the exception of a few blouses my sister and I could wear. Oh believe me, we didn’t need the clothes, but some pieces were so identified with her we just couldn’t give them up yet.
Then we divided up the photos, with me keeping the ones of my kids and her keeping hers. The ones of our brothers were mostly kept by Becky, with a few going home with me. There was a photo of our grandparents, which my sister had copies made at a photo center and sent me a copy after I returned home. There was a rhinestone star brooch, my mother had for years. There’s a photo at the top of this page of her wearing it. I wear it on special occasions such as two of my granddaughter’s weddings, because it’s like I carry a little piece of Mom with me and that she can see the joy that’s happening.
We went to the funeral home, just the two of us. We picked out her casket, decided on her clothing (a pantsuit she loved and looked so good in) and signed over her insurance. We planned the service, picked a speaker and music for the eulogy and tried to hold ourselves together. But we still cried on each other’s shoulder more than once each day.
My Mom’s favorite hymn:
Today, April 25th, 2017, is my mother’s birthday. She would have been 108 years old. March 29th, 1995 is the anniversary of my mother’s death. I’m writing this in between tears, because I want to honor her memory. She was never famous, she was never recognized world wide for anything. But to us, she was our world. She was my mother and she loved us, her family, and that’s why hers is a life that mattered.