It's been eleven years since that Saturday afternoon when Mom quietly slipped away while my brother and I were gone from her hospital room, but sometimes, like today, it feels like a lot less time has passed. I put it into much better words, of course, on the Book Face in 2009...
"Mom was a hard worker. She was a secretary or office assistant through her working days, and a damned good one. She'd work all day and came home and worked some more around the house. She loved to garden, especially flowers. She hated shopping, but she loved going to rummage sales. She also liked having rummage sales of her own. She didn't have a whole slew of friends, but the friends she did have were like family to her, and her whole family, both immediate and extended meant the world to her.
Christmas was her favourite holiday. She loved decorating the house and really enjoyed shopping for presents every year, though she hated the crowds with a passion. She lived for the look of surprise on a person's face when they opened them.
In addition to decorating the house, she also made pine wreaths and sprays by hand. She did this for as long as I could remember. Grandpa (and for awhile Dad) worked at the cemetary and after the wreaths were taken off the graves at the end of winter they would gather decorations, rings and stands for her to recycle into her own work every year. They were absolutely stunning. She made them for people for their loved ones' graves and to hang on their doors and never charged a cent for them. The last Christmas she was alive she wasn't able to make the actual wreaths, but she still bought a few from her neighbor's grandson who was a Boy Scout and embellished them with more decorations so Dad and the Grandparents would have nice wreaths for their graves. She tried to show me how to make them, but I never got the hang of it, something I feel bad about. I would've liked to continue the tradition...
She bloomed after she retired. She was finally able to devote time to doing things she loved and found new things to do that she loved as well. Mom and Dad bought a trailer in Arizona and "snowbirded" down there for a few years before Dad died. She would spend her winters making new friends from all over the country and taking part in the various activities around the park. Her favourite was learning crafts--her favourites being quilting and making butterflies out of two litre plastic soda bottles (sounds sorta weird, but they were so damned beautiful). She even learned how to shoot pool and a bit of taekwondo! After Dad passed she was able to go down there one last year before she got sick and she was so proud of herself for doing all the driving by herself.
Quilting. Ah, the quilting. She was a quick study, learning most of her skills from my Aunt Sharon. Aunt Sharon lived up north about 6 hours away, and Mom would drive up there and spend a few days quilting and talking about everything and nothing. Her first big projects were Irish wedding ring quilts for my brother and I, which she gave us for Christmas one year. Neither of us had any idea she had been making them, even though she worked on them at both at home and at Aunt Sharon's. She later told us how she would have to scurry to put everthing away when either of us would stop by without calling first.:) She gave my niece a quilt right after she was born, which she used til it wore out (the last I knew she still has it, but I haven't seen it in awhile...)
She loved butterflies. She didn't collect actual specimens of them, but she collected all sorts of butterflies in made in different media--porcelain, metal, wood, and the plastic ones she made by the dozens for both herself and friends and family.
She absolutely adored her granddaugher. The angels truly sang the day she was born, she was (and continues to be) such a gift to our family. She took turns babysitting Cassie with her other set of grandparents while John and Karen were working. She absolutely loved spending whatever time she could with her! It was something to watch, the doting grandmother.:)
She and I didn't get along very well during my childhood and adolescence. We clashed like oil and water. I prefer not to look back on those years. In my twenties we finally started to mend those fences, letting each other know how sorry we were for the bad times and how we both did the best we knew how during those bad times. We eventually became quite close, as a daughter and mother should be. It wasn't always rosy, but we were able to communicate through the rough times and move forward.
She died from complications of a very rare blood disease called primary systemic amyloidosis. It's so rare that only about 3,000 people are diagnosed with it world wide every year or some such, if I'm remembering the statistics correctly. What happens is the bone marrow produces too much of a certain protein which ends up in the blood stream. The protein then builds up on major organs, eventually leading to organ failure. It primarily affected Mom's heart, which is what I think hastened her death. She died less than five months after her diagnosis. I was with her the last night of her life, trying desperately to comfort her as she fought death, both when she was semi conscious and while she was unconscious. It was the toughest thing I've ever gone through in my life. It was my final gift to her, and despite the pain I went through, I'm ever so glad I was there for her in those last hours.
Mom was definitely unique, and a very strong, loving woman. I hope I can be half the woman she was.
I love you very much, Mom. As I said yesterday for Dad, I wish you peace and happiness whereever it is you're hanging out these days, and I hope you're with those you loved on this Earth who passed before you and have passed since you left us."
I also post this song, as an homage to her, and the very last night of her life that we shared together, as she went onto the last part of her journey.
"Of all the things we should've said,
That were never said.
All the things we should've done,
That we never did.
All the things that you needed from me.
All the things that you wanted for me.
All the things that I should've given,
But I didn't..."
Do ya think I've a little bit of guilt, this daughter? Yeah...yeah, I do...And I always will, therapy be damned, though she'd kick my arse hard if she were here to do it. I'm trying to get past it, Ma. I really am.
Love you and miss you dearly, Ma. Hope you're having a ball Out There in the Great Beyond...