An Orphan at 54
Sounds strange right? That at 54 and 59, my sister and I are orphans. I never thought in my younger years about losing both of my parents. Even 13 years ago when I lost my dad, losing my mom was so far from my thoughts. But it's a very strange feeling to know that both of your parents are no longer living.
Granted, my mother was taken from us intellectually long before she was taken physically. So we had a very long goodbye with her. But you still can never prepare for being without parents. Sometimes I get the feeling that popular thought is that since I am an adult, and my mom was ill for years with Alzheimer's, that my feelings of loss should be less. It's definitely different from losing my grandson at 4 months old, but it's not less.
Things I didn't think about missing while she was still physically here have crossed my mind many times in the last 39 days since she left us. Not ever getting another Christmas or birthday card from her, even if it was one that my sister had to buy and sign for her. Not ever hearing that laugh that could make my heart overflow with joy, or hearing her hum along with me in harmony to a song in the car or church. I don't ever not want to remember the special things about those I've lost. The way her house smelled, her wonderful cooking and the way she lovingly prepared it or even the way she began to mumble to herself when her disease started to progess.
My sister Kellie and I both spoke at mom's memorial service. We didn't speak long, because no matter how long we spoke, there would have never been enough time to remember all the wonderful things about her. I spend part of each day doing that, sometimes prompting tears, smiles or both. Don't minimalize your loss because it's different from someone else's. You've earned the right to grieve, for as long as it takes and however you need to do it (as long as it isn't causing you harm). Below are the words I spoke that day about my mom, and some of the many things I was Thankful for this particular Thanksgiving.
My prayers for you who are grieving are that you will find comfort for your heart, and peace for your soul. Etch those memories in the fiber of your heart, for I believe that even when our brain can't remember, our heart does~
How ironic in this season of Thanks, I find myself here at my mom's memorial service. I grieve the fact that she is no longer physically with us, but I am happier that she is present with God. Some of my earliest memories are of her teaching us the Lord's Prayer and taking us to church. And even though we grieve, there is much to be thankful for. I am thankful for a mother who always believed-in God, in me and in the good and worth of others. Mom never saw a social status, color, religion, race or the difference in other people. She truly practiced the golden rule. I am thankful for a mother who taught me how to cry, and not be afraid to, but she also taught me how to laugh, and love. I am so thankful that even though her illness was long, God was gracious enough to take her memory, so she didn't realize what was going on, and that she didn't suffer the pain of some other debilitating disease such as cancer. I am so very thankful that my daughter Rebekah got to spend so much time with my mother, and make so many wonderful memories. Mom found joy in so many things, and was never a pessimistic person, for that I am grateful. Her joyful outlook on life touched those around her. She had 2 of the best friends in the world in Martha and Erlene. They were like the 3 Musketeers. Now they are all together again, and I am sure it was a most joyful reunion. I am Thankful for a God that I believe in, that sent His Son to die for me, so one day I will get to see my mother again. Mom was a very strong woman, she endured losing her adult son, my brother Danny, after only a 16 week battle with cancer, and then 13 months later losing Dad to cancer. All of that grief and stress takes a toll on a person, but mom kept on going. Doing for others, visiting shut-ins from church, working at the food ministry, playing the piano at church, bowling, traveling and always being there for whomever needed her. I am thankful for a Mom who's shown me how to be a strong woman. Mom was so independent, she was the kind of woman who in her mid 70's, would climb a ladder to her roof with a bucket of tar to fix a leak around the chimney. Holy cow! I almost fainted when she told us she did that. Her reply was, "Well, It's not leaking anymore is it?" She was the kind of mom who when I told her I thought I'd thrown my wallet in the garbage, and the garbage truck had already come, said, "Well let's go to the dump and look for it!!". We did, only to come home empty handed, filthy and stinking to find it hanging on the back of a dining room chair in a grocery bag. She didn't let me forget that one, but we had a good laugh about it.
She made the best spaghetti, and would cook up anything my outdoorsy dad brought home, as long as she didn't have to clean it! If I ever found a stray animal, she was the one I had to ask first to bring it home. When daddy was sick with cancer, and housebound, a calico cat showed up at their house. My niece Kristen named it Murphy, because we thought it was a boy. But when Murphy turned out to be a girl, she kept her name. Mom and I started feeding her, without telling dad. We made an appointment to have her spayed and vaccinated, also without him knowing. We figured if he wasn't going outside, he wouldn't know about the cat. But one day, he said, "If that cat's gonna stay around you may as well feed it and fix it!". Ooops, he was on to us. Murphy outlived Dad, and was a source of great company for mom. Even though she kept brining Mom "presents" in the form of chipmunks. Every time she did that mom threatened to get rid of her, but she never did.
Mom wouldn't want people to be sad that she's moved to Heaven, she would want us rejoicing as she is, to be whole, healthy and happy forever! Remember her fondly, and be sure to be thankful everyday for every minute you have with your loved ones. Thank you all for loving her so much, and for being here today to help us celebrate her wonderful life!