The other day I was reading a book with my students. In the story, one of main characters was very ill, the mother. As she is lying in bed listless and despondent, she asks for her mother. Her mother is alive but far away. I asked the kids, “Think about a time when you were sick or not feeling well. Who did you want to take care of you?” My mom, my dad, my parents was the response from many. It is the response for me as well. Growing up, whenever I wasn’t feeling well, my mother was there to take care of me. Whether it was a cold, a skinned knee, the chicken pox or even heartbreak, my mother was one who comforted me.
I remember the times I stayed home from school because I didn’t feel well. My mother, who was a nurse, would have the same routine. The same routine I would follow years later with my own children. She would get me set up on the couch with my blankets, tissues and the tv. She would implore me to drink fluids, lots of them. She would even go to the store and buy ginger ale which was a special treat since she refused to buy soda normally. Then my mother would make my favorite, go-to meal when I was under the weather, soft-boiled eggs.
I had a lot of favorite dishes that my mother would cook for me. Soft-boiled eggs and toast was my favorite meal when I didn’t feel well. It was simple and she cooked it perfect every time. I never realized until I was older how difficult soft-cooked eggs really were to cook until I tried to make them myself. My other favorite meal was hot dogs and potatoes. Every year on our birthdays, my mother would ask my siblings and I what we wanted her to cook us for dinner. It was a special treat. As a picky eater growing up, I enjoyed the opportunity to choose what I wanted to eat for dinner. Again, hot dogs and potatoes is not a complicated dish. The ingredients were simple but she cooked it to perfection. I cook a version of this dish today for my own children. I do not nearly do it justice by my mother’s standards. It still gives me comfort however and keeps me connected to my mother even though she passed away over ten years ago.
I’ve talked to many people who have lost their mother. They say that you never get over the lose of your mother. I agree. Although I do not grieve for her with the intensity I once did, there is not a day, a week or a year that goes by in my life that I do not miss her. The ebb and flow of my grief for the loss of my mother will be a part of me for the rest of my life. I miss her unconditional and unwavering love and support for me and everything I do in my life. There will be no one in my life who will love me quite like my mother did, of that I am positive.
My mother passed away just around the time that I had become a mother myself and my children were young. My boys were ages 3 and 6 years old when my mother died. I had just begun to understand what it was like to love a child like she loved me. I watched her love my children with that same intensity and with her whole heart.
My mother was a part of our daily lives when my family was young. She lived just across town and would visit my house every day, sometimes several times a day. When I went back to work after each of my children were born, she would come over during the day to help and support my husband as he care for our children. At the time, he worked the 4-midnight shift. Instead of sending our boys to daycare, we decided he would take care of them during the day and I would take the evening shift. The was our arrangement and it suited us. We couldn’t have done it as well as we did without the unconditional love and support of my mother.
Sadly, my husband’s mother would never live to see our children. She passed away four months after we were married. She was young at the time, only 48 years old. On her death bed she told me she was so sad that she would never live to see the children she knew we were going to have, her grandchildren. She was so happy that Jason had me and my family. She was a peace knowing that he had my family to love and support him. She also knew and had asked Jason to love and care for his 10 year old sister that she was distraught about leaving behind. At the time, I was newly married and overwhelmed. I have come to treasure Bette’s words to both Jason and I. To have had the opportunity to be with her and receive her love during her last moments here on Earth was a gift.
My mother passed away suddenly and alone in her apartment. There were no last words or meaningful words of wisdom. I did not get to see her take her last breath or hold her hand in those last moments. What I had with my mother was a lifetime of memories and experiences that shaped who I am. In my search for me, I must revisit my relationship with her and make those important connections between us. The lessons she taught me didn’t end when she died, they live on. She taught me how to love my children and someday my grandchildren. She taught me how to love my family. Her lessons live on through me and my children. They live in through my husband and what she taught him. They live on through my siblings and their families. My mother may not be alive in the physical sense, but she is alive in me and in my life. I just need to remind myself that she is never very far away.
The thought of my mother not being far away gives me comfort, just like soft-boiled eggs did when I was sick. Lately I have been feeling sad. There are times in our life when work, stress and family respsonsibilities can be overwhelming. It is in these down times when my heart aches for my mother. How I long to call her on the phone or to have her make me one of my favorite comfort meals. I can make those meals but they don’t taste the same. There is a missing ingredient that always made it taste so special, a mother’s love.
On Tuesday, my older son turns 17. How my mother would be proud of the young man he has become. How she delighted in being his grandmother. How she loved him since he was born and even before he was born. I asked him the other day what he wanted me to cook him for birthday dinner. “Goulash,” he replied. Another favorite dish my mother used to cook for me. And so life goes on and traditions continue. I will not forget to put some extra love in the goulash this year from his nana.
Christmas Morning 2005 (Max helping Nana open her present. I picked this photo because I love that Max’s hand is holding her hand)