Well I made it through another D-Day anniversary. It’s been 21 years since my mother passed away. And in case you are wondering…Yes, it still sucks!
I’m not sure it’s the passage of time or the fact that I am a mother now that has made the day a little easier for me. Before having children I would take the day off and be alone with my sadness and self-pity. A bottle of wine and some crappy Lifetime TV usually did the trick. Now that I have children it seems as if the day just rolls on through with a slight air of begrudging knowledge.
This year was marked with an odd realization though. I have one year left. One year until I’m the same age as my mother when she died. If I was in her shoes right now I would have cancer and I would be fighting a losing for my life.
I look at my babies and this terrifies me. To be this close to the breath of death, although it is not mine, is humbling. The preciousness of life in all its fragility is just plain humbling. As my age increases I cannot stop myself nor time from reaching that dreaded date. Like the first time you ride your bike down a hill and realize that you aren’t too certain you know how to use the breaks, you know it’s coming and you’re not entirely sure what the impact is going to look like.
I am constantly imagining myself in my mother’s shoes. As I look at my children and think of the dreaded impending date. I am aware but was she?
My fear of leaving my children the way my mother did is something that flows in and out of me frequently. Its a roller coaster of denial and precaution which forces questions like: Who lost more?
Knowing that the both of us were on the loosing end has given me a panicked love of life. I’ve loved my children so fiercely that I’d like to think that even through death and loss of memory my love can’t be stripped away and will be forever felt. To know that death and life can be so intertwined amazes me and is also reassuring in an odd sense. It is probably because of her death that I have fiercely loved my children as the precious beings that they are. I came to this realization today by the strange occurrence.
Today, as I was putting away laundry in our hallway closet, I found the jewelry box from my childhood. As The Toddler is now in her ever so fashionable stage of jewelry I decided to open it up to see if I could find anything appropriate for her to play with.
In the top drawer I found the little blue bear broach that my grandmother had given me from her trip to Alaska one year, a movie ticket from one of the first movies my husband and I saw when we were dating, and some very old and very ugly earrings. As I made my way down the drawers I was filled with silly and fun memories from my childhood. In the last drawer of my small jewelry box I found a folded piece of paper.
This small, thin paper that showed its age in its tattered creases and faded coloring sparked a long forgotten memory.
I was transported back to a time right after my mother had passed away. A time when I clung to anything and everything that she had touched. Scraps of paper she had jotted down a quick shopping list, her driver’s license, her appointment cards, anything was cherished. Anything that gave me any indication as to who she had been was a treasure. My dad never spoke of her and my family rarely recounted memories. I had such little insight to my mother’s life.
But this paper was something different. For the message scrawled on it had held such a mystery in my youth. I remember finding this paper in her jewelry box. It wasn’t her handwriting and it’s message was so beautiful but in my young mind so unattainable. But somehow even in my youth it was worthy of keeping. I slid it from her jewelry box and into mine. I would read over the words of the note wondering why she had kept this. It was a mystery I frequently came back to over the years.
Who had given this to her? Was she sick at the time? Why did she find it so important to keep? What did this mean to her? Was it meant for me to find?
“The Most Important Person on earth is a mother. She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She need not. She has built something more magnificent than any cathedral-a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby’s body
“The angels have not been blessed with such a grace. They cannot share in God’s creative miracle to bring new saints to Heaven. Only a human mother can. Mothers are closer to God the Creator than any other creature; God joins forces with mothers in performing this act of creation.
“What on God’s good earth is more glorious than this: to be a mother?”
– Joseph Cardinal Mindzenty
As I carefully unfolded the paper and read over these words today, the full weight of its message lay unraveled before me. It took being a mother myself for the message to reveal itself .
The miracle of motherhood is as humbling as death at your doorstep. To realize that I have held in the palms of my hands two immortal souls entrusted to me by God Himself and that upon their death will be given back to God is a knock-me-to-my-knees humbling experience. To have grown and sustained life inside my own body for 9 months and then watched as that new life took its first breath. To have two completely helpless beings depend so completely on me for each and every need. To look into their eyes as they grow and realizing with every action I take I am showing them the world and writing upon their souls. And in turn they write upon my soul as well. They show me that grace and love and compassion are found in childhood and renewed in parenthood. For in the fragility of life we write on each other’s souls. My mother did all of this for my sister and I and then had to trust that in the short amount of time she was able to spend with us that she was imprinted forever on our souls. Our children are our hearts forever walking outside our bodies. But our souls are images of our love, our transcendent love.
What has my mother written on my soul? What part of her will I take with me to heaven? What will I write on the soul’s of my own daughter’s? What will my daughter’s take of me?
These are heavy questions that I can only have hopeful answers for. As for the person who took the time to write this quote down that my mother cherished? After 30 birthday cards and nearly a hundred letters send to me over the years I would now recognize my grandma’s handwriting anywhere. A note on motherhood from her own mother. While they were not in her own words I think that the message is just as beautiful and know that when my daughter’s grow up and create little souls I’ll have these words to pass on to them.