Momís Final Gift
Of all the memories I have of my mother, perhaps it is a time we shared shortly before her death that remains closest to my heart. I was 37 years old when my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer, an unfortunate consequence for years of smoking. Despite the fact that the cancer spread to her liver and spine, she made the most out of the good days and accepted the bad days that the doctors predicted would be inevitable.
I watched as the rigors of chemo took its toll. She realized that she couldn't win the battle but it didn't stop her from courageously fighting for time.
Watching her sleep I'd hold her hand and wonder about all the times I thought of her as a weak and indesicive woman. Throughout my childhood my mom always seemed withdrawn and distracted. Partly to blame was her co-dependance to my father's dependance on alcohol. I also believe that if she were alive today she would have been diagnosed as clinically depressed.
I visited my mother every day, but Thursdays became my self appointed day to care for her. I would be there when she woke up and I wouldn't leave until I tucked her in bed for the night.
One night my mom gave me the gift of a memory I'll cherish always. Over a cup of hot chocolate, and with some gentle encouragement from me, she began reminicing about her life. As she lay in the hospital bed that was now occupying her living room, I witnessed a woman filled with more life and love than I could ever recall in year's past. Her eyes sparkled when remembering my wedding day. She spoke with pride of my older brother who had been a Navy Seal. A smile of pure joy lit up her face when sharing her feelings of being a grandmother. I was able to see my mother for the woman she was in those last few weeks of life. Sadly, she passed away less than two months after being diagnosed.
After the funeral, while going through a suitcase filled with old photos, I came across the face of a beautiful young woman, and in that moment I saw my mother as she was before she was a wife, mother and grandmother. What I recognized was that the same smiling eyes that seemed to light up the tattered photograph had also lit up the face of this older, gray haired woman who was now nearing the end.
Almost 20 years later I still hold onto the memory of a strong willed woman who loved her family and who fought to live with grace, guts and a strength I never knew she had. I am thankful for the gift of this memory shared over a cup of hot chocolate on that unforgettable, final Thursday, before my mother died.