I had just seen her the day before. Happy. Hyper. Helping. Normal.
She was gone when my little son and I arrived for a quick visit before heading to the neighborhood library. We used to pop over at least once a week, if not more often, while big sister was at school. My dad said she should be home later, so we headed over to the library first instead.
He looked at books and chose a few dinosaur ones. Then, we moseyed over to the movie section and spent a few minutes scouring for appealing movie covers that we had not seen already. We then made our selections, got in line, and were checked out quite promptly. With our library excursion over, it was time to visit Grandma again. He loved our visits to Grandma and Grandpa's house. He always got treats and hugs.
When we arrived at the house, mom was gone again! Dad said we had just missed her. We talked for a bit. He said that she finally went to see a doctor today and got some medication. This was great news. She had been feeling sick for months. Said she had bronchitis or a developing wheat allergy and nonsense like that. I'd been so frustrated that she wasn't taking care of herself.
Then, we see her car come racing down the street toward the house. She tears into the driveway, gets out of the car saying how she forgot something for one of her patients. When she came out of the house again, I told her how we were almost going to leave and how fortunate it was that she needed to come back for something. She and I gave each other a big hug and we said I love you, then she got back in her car and drove away. I walked out to the street to watch her leave and waved good bye to the back of the car, standing there watching until she turned at the end of the street. I think she waved back...
I never did that, you know. We rarely hugged or said that we loved each other. I never walked out to the street to watch her turn the corner until that day. We were big on showing each other by giving time--writing letters and mailing them even though we saw each other at least once a week and only lived ten minutes apart, making each other's birthday cakes, and stuff like that. But this time was different. In hindsight, it was as if I knew somehow but still in the moment not knowing this would be the last time.
And then that call around four o'clock in the morning.
Wake up, Laura! Answer the phone! Pick up the phone! Mom is dead! Wake up!
After this point, what I tell you is from a 6 1/2 months pregnant woman's perspective who just found out her mother has died.
Running up and down the hall crying. Somehow not knowing what to do. How does one get clothes on at a time like this? How does one drive a car in this condition? Why? When? How did this happen? I saw her yesterday!
Then, I am there. I have no memory of whether I just went in my pajamas or got dressed nor do I recall the drive over to my parents' house. I remember not being there and then being there with my father and brothers and two of my great aunts, then my grandparents, neighbors, family friends. My best friend came immediately. So many people kept urging me to go see her, but I'm telling you, I could not. I had no desire to see my mother sans life--sans the spirit which made her who she is. I sat there crying, then quiet, then crying, then talking, then silent, and so forth.
After a long while, I began to plan the funeral. Having that to do gave me purpose. I had to give the eulogy. I couldn't imagine not doing it. We needed music--lots and lots of music. We ended up with a large choir and musical performances by two of my brothers. It was beautiful.
In the following days and weeks, I cleaned to keep busy. I sorted through every single pile of papers, photographs, keepsakes. Everything. I made myself sick some days with work (remember, I was pregnant at the time). Somehow I felt close to her by taking care of her worldly possessions--sending care packages of photos and old letters to her siblings and other family members, writing letters to those whom I found addresses for amongst her things. The hardest thing, and I cry as I think about it, was giving away her clothes. I sat with one of her favorite dresses and smelled it and cried for a good long time. I kept a few of my favorites, gave some to family who might fit them even sort of, and then gave the rest to Deseret Industries, the local thrift store. I cried driving home. So hard.
To this day, I do not regret anything. She and I became the best of friends. I helped her and she helped me. We talked on the phone almost daily, at times more often. We made dinners for each other. We had parties together. I helped her organize their 25th wedding anniversary party. I put on a fabulous surprise party for her 50th birthday with the help of her brother, David. We marked the milestones with style, not allowing them to casually pass by.
So on this day, I shall mark ten years without her. I can say I have felt her influence every step along my path since. Her vibrancy and loving way she had about her continue to teach me. I used to think we were so different--that we had so little in common. Yet, as I grow older, I realize I have always been my mother's mini-me. And I am proud to carry on in her footsteps in so many ways. I only wish I were better at some of the things she used to do so effortlessly. I use her sewing machine, but only at 1% the capacity that it used to handle. I play on her piano, but still at the level I did when I was ten. I sing and lead the church choir with enthusiasm, but with only a mere fraction of knowledge that she did. My inadequacies keep me trying though, reaching out to be close to her. Whenever I sew, sing, plunk around on the piano, bake her bread, teach, write, speak of good grammar, play Scrabble (or even Words With Friends), or say things to my children that she used to say to me, I think of her and smile. She was wonderful.
Writing this has called so much to remembrance, and I miss her poignantly at this moment. Even so, I will always have that last hug showing me how God knew he was taking her home and wanted me to have that goodbye embrace to cherish. And I do. Every single day.
In Her Footsteps
Missing Her and Waiting
The Snow Lay On the Ground