My memories of my mom are obviously few, since she died when I was just 6 years old. Many of them are things that we all take for granted: her picking me up from school, organizing and flawlessly (in my mind) executing birthday parties and swimming lessons. Those memories are precious and permanently etched on my soul.
There are also a batch of memories that are somewhat painful, but nonetheless important to me now that I am (mostly) an adult and can comprehend the emotions that lie beneath those moments.
In the final months of her life, my mom was counseled by a pastor from the Lutheran church my family attended. His name was Barry. The clearest memory I have of Barry is what he said as he led my mom’s funeral. The second clearest memory I have of Barry is a sunny afternoon in our house a few months earlier. He sat in a chair across from my mom as she sat on a couch that is still sitting in about the same spot to this day.
I don’t remember any of the words spoken between the two of them that day. I only remember that my mom was upset and crying. It seems obvious that she would be upset; she knew she only had weeks left to live. That memory stayed with me, though, because throughout her illness, she was stoic and guarded when my brother and I were around. That memory is one of the few I have where my mom cried so openly.
About 14 years ago, I found myself wanting to know what Barry and my mom talked about that day. I only remembered his first name, and I had no memory of his face. I decided to go to the church and see if Barry was still there (we stopped going to church after my mom died, so it had been more than a decade since I had been there). Barry had left that church a few years earlier, but a nice lady at the church gave me the last contact number they had for him.
I was fortunate enough to speak with Barry for a few minutes on a Sunday (of all days). I told him about my memory of that sunny afternoon in our living room. I told him how significant it was for me to see my mom so upset. He did not remember the specifics of that day, but he offered his thoughts on what might have been upsetting to her at the time.
He told me that the one thing my mom worried about most in her final weeks of life was how my brother and I would do without her (my dad has told Dave and I a similar story). She worried for us as only our mother could. She wondered what it would be like for two boys to grow up without a mother. In some ways, it was probably the most painful thing she endured during her illness. It caused her to seek guidance and counsel from outside her family. Would her children be ok without her?
We turned out ok. Dad did well. He fed us well and didn’t give us junk food. He made a lot of sacrifices and made sure we were well taken care of while he was at work. He clothed us and tried hard to put up with me when I got a bad attitude in my teens. And he kept the house just as you left it like a good husband (seriously, you should see it).
Carolyn and Roger did an amazing job of after-school parenting. They exposed us to cultures from all over the world and they took us camping a bunch of times. They fed us well too and made sure we got plenty of exercise.
I can’t possibly imagine how painful it was to let go and know you weren’t going to see us grow up. Now that I’m grown up, part of me wishes I could go back and comfort you because I couldn’t back then.
Dave and I are not angels. And we’re both still trying to figure out where we fit in this world. But I think that is normal. We had a solid foundation to stand up on and two beautiful families still watch over us in your absence.
We turned out ok. You did well in the short time you had.
Happy Mother’s Day,