I knew it would happen eventually.
We’ve ridden this twisty, terrifying, and unpredictable roller coaster of her health for the last ten years, and though we had our seatbelts on and were sitting at the top of the hill knowing the brakes would come loose any minute, none of us was prepared for that drop, and it still feels like we haven’t yet caught our breath. I’m not sure we ever will.
On Mother’s Day, May 13, 2018, my mother died surrounded by my father, myself, and my four brothers. We got the call that it was bad. We all rushed to be by her side, and we stood and watched her take her last labored breath.
It was terrible and beautiful all at the same time. I’m so very glad I was there.
I learned a lot about my mom in the last two weeks. I always knew she was a giving person, the kind of person who was everyone’s best friend. I used to joke about how she could make a new friend in line at the grocery store. She knew no strangers.
My friends knew they were welcome in our home. Her table was always ready for an extra seat, and when I was younger, she never seemed put out if one of my friends stayed for dinner, or the night, or the weekend, or even sometimes the week. My parents have adopted all of my friends to the point that they call them “Mom” and “Dad.” In my own self-absorbed world, I never realized the same was true for my brothers.
My oldest brother and I spent more time together in the last two weeks than we have in years. He’s seventeen years older than I am, so by the time I was old enough to matter, he had moved out and was beginning his adult life. It was nice to hear his stories of my mom and how she was the same with his and my brothers’ friends.
A lot of you know she and my father ran a homeless shelter when I was a child. Their giving spirit shaped me into who I am, but what I was shocked to learn was that my mother was so humble about her kindness, that there were countless stories of her generosity that I didn’t even know. She always did so much for others. She was so giving.
My best friend, Kimberly, read something that her mother, Diane, wrote during the funeral. Her mother was my mom’s best friend and was working out of state and couldn’t make it to the service, but she told a story of my mother’s generosity. They moved in next door when I was five years old. They had three daughters, and her mom was pregnant with her fourth child. She said when they pulled into the driveway, my parents came out to greet them. My dad didn’t hesitate and began helping her father unload the trailer.
Three days later, Diane was put on bed rest. She knew nobody and had no family or friends. She called my mom and told her the situation, and my mother took over. She unpacked her things, helped Kimberly’s dad with the kids, prepared meals, and did laundry until after the baby was born. I’ve known this family for 35 years, and my mother never told me that. I don’t see that kind of kindness towards neighbors today, but my mom didn’t even blink. She just helped. And then never boasted about it.
My brother’s ex-wife called me last week to check on me. I told her how nice it was to see her and all of my nephews. We talked about her oldest, Ryan, and I mentioned how much my mom loved what she called her “Ryan day” when he was in preschool. I was a selfish college student at the time. All I ever knew was that my mom spent one or two days a week with my nephew after preschool and that she looked forward to it every time he got to come over. What my sister-in-law told me, something my mother never mentioned, was that she was pregnant with her second child, and my brother had to travel a lot for work, so my mom offered to take care of Ryan a couple times a week so that she could go home after work and nap. She said that my mom would call her to wake her up and say, “Dinner will be ready in thirty minutes,” and then when my sister-in-law would arrive, the table was set, dinner was ready, and my nephew had already been bathed. To anyone who has ever been pregnant and also taking care of a toddler, that kind of break is priceless, and my mom never even told me that. I just knew that Ryan day was special to her.
Death is so final, and even when you’re prepared for it, it’s unpredictable. I don’t know how to grieve correctly or appropriately. I enjoy hearing other people talk about her, hearing stories that I never heard. I miss her terribly, and knowing “Mom” will never flash across why phone again shatters me, but I find comfort in hearing about her kindness, and what is even more extraordinary is she continues to give even after her death.
My mother donated her body to science. She was horribly claustrophobic and said she didn’t want to be in a casket underground, and whenever anyone talked about it, she always said that she wanted to donate her body. She must have said it to me a million times growing up, but I never really took her seriously. The thing with death though is that the first question after the family leaves the room of the deceased is: “What would you like us to do with the body?” We all knew the answer. My mother didn’t just tell me. She told my dad and my brothers. So in her last act of generosity, she is helping to further research into medical science. The thank you card from the medical school says “To give of oneself so that others may live in health and happiness is a truly noble gesture.” This is how she lived her entire life.
She has inspired me and several of my friends to do the same when our time comes.
Mothers always want to teach their children. My mom never really did that overtly. Instead, she lead by example.
She was a damn good human. I only hope I can take her example and continue to shine her light to the world.
If you’re inclined to learn more about this kind of donation, you can find the link here. My parents live in a town with a major medical school, so donation was quick and simple for us, but if it’s something that you or a loved one is interested in, it’s best if it is set up prior to death but if not, it’s important to act quickly.
***This is a brain dump. I didn’t edit or even proof read.***