Motherless Daughters-31 Years Ago Today, I Lost My Mom...
I was 12, only one and a half months shy of my 13th birthday.
Mom had been diagnosed with cancer sometime in 1976, she was given chemo and radiation which put her into remission. She re-lapsed in 1979. More chemo, more radiation, more hospitals. At the time of the re-lapse we were living in Warrenton, Virginia. We had moved there to be closer to Dad's work. Unfortunately that meant we were far away from Mom's family and support system in Baltimore. Dad worked as a government contractor in a very stressful position after retiring from the military. He had his hands full trying to get Mom to all her appointments, work, and take care of my two older brothers (14 and 15), my younger sister (7), and me. My Grandmother, a very wise woman who I am blessed to have been named after, turned to my Aunt Catherine and said "Catherine, Don (my dad) needs help and you are the only one who can go." Aunt Kate moved in with us, nursed my mother and nurtured us. An angel for an angel.
I don't want to share my mother with you in her death, but in her life. Mom was the youngest of 7, favorite Aunt of all the nieces and nephews (5 nieces were even her bridesmaids), devoted daughter, loving wife, and an amazing mother. Most importantly, Mom was a strong Christian who believed in God with her whole self, to the end. While in the hospital Mom would pray for the "poor souls" suffering in the next bed or in the next room, even while she herself was suffering.
My mother had the voice of an angel, she even studied at Peabody. She performed in countless musicals at St. Martin's. She was a member of the church choir often given solos for special masses. One of her specialties was the Ave Maria. Whenever I hear it tears come to my eye. We have a tape of my mother singing it at my cousin Peg's wedding. Mom was in a tremendous amount of pain, and had to hold on to the piano to get through it, but she wasn't going to let my cousin down. I am forever greatful for that scratchy recording of Mom's powerful voice. My husband even surprised me by playing it in the delivery room right after my daughter was born. It really helped to feel her presence at such a special time. I remember family trips with lots of singing. Sometimes it was Dad's old Army songs, often it was songs Mom had learned at camp as a girl including "Barefoot Days". Many of these songs I have taught my own kids. I have to tell you, it's pretty funny to hear a four year old singing "Whiskey, Whiskey, Whiskey, it makes me feel so frisky"!
My mother taught me to love reading and the captive family time of car trips. She would read us stories as we travelled to visit family in my Dad's home town of Erie, PA or for family vacations. I can remember learning about a family adopting special needs children in a Reader's Digest Condensed version of "Nineteen Steps Up the Mountain. There were so many books, games and fun adventures on those trips. To this day I love to read and devour all types of books whenever I get some time. I love the time that I have had with my kids over the years in the car, we have had some awesome conversations and many teachable moments while traveling, for that I am greatful to my mom. I am of the opinion that while DVD players in the car have been a godsend for many, there have been many missed opportunities for conversations, games and sing-a-longs that the kids may have "poo poo'd" while happening, but would have fond memories as adults.
Mom taught me the importance of family. She was very close to her brothers and sisters, never having a negative or unkind word to say. She made sure that we all took care of each other, watched out for each other and treated each other as friends. To this day, my brother's and sisters are the first one's I think of when planning a get-together. There are always lots of laughs when we get together, and in crisis, I know they are who I can count on.
I can remember family parties in my grandparents basement or in our backyard. There was always lots of laughter, and if in our backyard, almost always rain! Christmas was a special time when all the family gathered in my grandparents basement. How we fit 30 grandkids and more than 16 adults in the basement of a row home, I don't know, but I do know the room was filled with love. We celebrated birthdays and St. Patrick's Day, First Communions and graduations. My cousins are still an important part of my life, even as they have moved on with their own lives, kids and grandkids. We can count on each other.
Mom taught me the importance of supporting your husband. My mother married my father, an army man, moved away from all she knew, to places where she didn't speak the language, and thrived. She made good friends, she learned the culture, she adapted, she grew in who she was. She taught me the importance of the vow of marriage, and in accepting the faults of others, and of yourself and still loving.
She taught me the importance of chores, not for allowance, but because as part of a family there are things that need to be done. We were all able to step up and help when needed, and my kids were taught the same. Mom taught me to cook and the importance of family dinners. Mom wasn't a gourmet chef, but she was always willing to try a new recipe. We always had good and wholesome dinners. This is another thing I have shared with my children. My son's made their first cake before they were 4. Sydney cracked her first egg at 2 years old! I have Mom's recipes and love to share some of mom's specialties with family and friends. Some of her recipes were handed down from my grandmothers, or passed on from clubs she was involved in. I can still remember the look I got when I was about 9 years old, mom was flattening chicken for cutlets in the kitchen. I asked her if she could do it quieter since I couldn't hear the TV. NOT a good idea!
Mom taught me that it is important to have fun and to not be too "girly" while being proud of being a girl. When we went fishing or crabbing, mom was the first one to put the worm on the hook or help tie the chicken neck on the trap. She loved to square dance and to entertain. She loved to spend time at the beach or on the water. She loved riding bikes and skiing. She was willing to try anything, and had fun doing it!
My mother was a gentle woman, with an infectious smile and a great sense of humor. She taught me to put God first and everything else would follow. She taught me charity by allowing us to come with her as she delivered food to those less fortunate, a tradition my family and I continue. She taught me to be greatful when we said grace before each meal and attended Church on Sunday. She taught me to respect others and be kind, and to not say anything unless it was nice. Mom taught me that every day is precious and you are not promised a lifetime together. She taught me that it is as important to choose good friends as it is to be a good friend. She taught me how to be the best mom I can be by always being there for me, even if only in my heart.
My mom missed out on so many milestones in my life, but I know that she was there in spirit. She also made sure that we had the support of an amazing family who loved us through it all. We keep her memory alive by sharing pictures and funny stories. I wish she could have met my husband and my children and been here to see how great my brother's and sister turned out. I just know she is looking down on us....and smiling.
I was blessed to have this beautiful, Godly woman as my mom, even for the short time I did. I hope if you still have your mom, you know how blessed you are, even if she makes you crazy.
If you, like me, are a motherless daughter, I am saying a prayer for you that you have peace in the time that you had. I hope that you have had women in your life who can help to fill the hole in your heart and that you are blessed with the knowledge that you are loved.
Motherless Daughter's-31 years ago today I lost my mom.