My Mom passed away a little over 4 years ago. Even while somewhere inside I believe we all knew it was coming, there was still a major sense of shock that I could see threaded through our family. We all came together from the places we had established our adult lives to spend our mother’s last days supporting not only her, but also each other, through this time of heartache and painful acceptance. After several years of battling back and forth with cancer through mostly natural means, the woman who had birthed, raised, taught, played with, and loved us unconditionally had physically withered away. Even while there is no realistic way she could come back from the state she was in, there was always this small piece of my mind that begged for a miracle to happen.
It did not.
She passed away in her hospital bed with her husband next to her, while my brother and sister attempted a large jigsaw puzzle. We were trying to distract ourselves from the grief and sheer shock of what was happening. As we connected each piece, our fingers moving and our brains trying to hold fast to any semblance of normalcy, we recognized that there was a connection to her. Of the many, many experiences and pieces of our lives that our other had offered us, building jigsaw puzzles was one. I know we’ll all likely feel a sense of our mother as we connect piece to piece. I don’t think this spark of connection will ever go away for me. Building puzzles will always remind me of my mother.
As my daughter grows older and poses more and deeper questions (oh, the numerous questions!), and I offer up more information about the world. As I share this intricate and amazing world with my wee one, I’ve also been sharing more of myself. When she does something, sees something, smells something that reminds me of my childhood, I take the opportunity to open up new windows to look into the past that she’ll never be able to walk through. One very big one, of late, is sharing my spunky, silly, musical mother – her grandmother – that she will never meet in person.
I don’t want her to miss meeting the memories. To work together cohesively as a family, we need to be able to understand each other. Understanding a person, I feel, has just as much to do with understanding their past as it does with understanding their now. And so, I share.
I share how I loved the feel of the long, prairie grasses slipping through my fingers as I ran. I share the songs I sang as a child. I share the books and games I used to enjoy. I share memory after memory, when the timing is right. And in those memories, this is much to share of my mom. I want my daughter to know of the woman who is connected to her through blood and through the memories her grandmother helped to fill her own mother’s upbringing with. Memories of experiences that will forever help to define who I am.
The Ties To The Piano That Binds
I opened up the door to workshop yesterday. I felt drawn to the piano that so strongly connects me to my mom, having been hers for all of my conscious life. The piano I watched her play and sing soulfully at. The piano I learned to play on, with her instruction. As Z sat next to me, plunking away on the keys, she realized that she wanted to try playing with her feet. Remembering trying this as a child, I helped her remove her shoes and commented on how I liked to do that when I was little, too. That I had done so on this very piano, and that it had been my mommy’s piano.
As I shared this last piece, Z sat up to look carefully at me. “What was your mom’s name?” I had to take a minuscule moment before I answered. The genuine interest she showed to know about her grandmother filled me with a sad sort of happy. It was so small, and so simple, yet it meant so much to me. “Wendy. Her name was Wendy.” “Ooooooh…. Wendy.” And then she went back to singing and making up little songs.
Let The Memories of Loved Ones Live On
Losing a loved one is hard. It’s harder than hard. It’s incredibly painful, and changes you forever. There is a piece of you that dies when a person who has been such an integral part of your life, whether or not you grew apart in physical distance, is no longer there. When they will never be there again. When that is… it. There will be no more moments together. There will be no more chances to ask all those questions you’ll realize later that you wish you could. And there’s nothing you can do about it, but accept and move on.
But the memories. The memories of loved ones can stay alive. Through conversations with those who knew her, and those who did not. Through those experiences that hold a connection. By taking a moment to acknowledge birthdays and special occasions, even when they’re gone. With pictures and letters and rememberings.