I learned some important things these past two weeks about living and dying, families, and funeral preparation.
And gifts…. Because in her infinite Mother’s wisdom, mine left me and my brother and sister some valuable gifts, customized for each of us.
Christmas is not my favorite holiday – never has been, never will be. Oh sure, I love the Christmas Nativity story of the star and the manger and the shepherds and the swaddling clothes, … but the hustle and bustle, the pressure to get THE Perfect Gift for That Special Someone (isn’t EVERYone a “Special Someone”?), … the constant noiseNOise NOIse NOISE! (thank you Dr.Seuss), … the foods and the time crunch to pack in every concert, every light show, every television special into three or four shrinking weeks, … and the clutter…
Oy… the clutter! Don’t get started on the clutter!
I knew you’d show up sooner …
…Rather than later? Of course ! I am, after all, your better half.
Says you. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, the clutter…. Can’t stand it. At least not for long.
You got that tree and everything down in record time this year.
Yep – had to. Amazing how easy it is when you don’t put out every little thing, isn’t it? I think I left two-thirds of the Christmas stuff packed in the basement – and I didn’t miss it, either.
How about all the gifts? Finished returning them all yet?
No! Yesterday was the first chance I had…
Oh. Yeah. Mother died… New Year’s Eve.
Yes… I had to take the Keurig I bought for her back to the store yesterday.
The purple Keurig? She would have liked that …. You should’ve kept it.
Nah — I need pots of caffeine. She did too, come to think of it. Dumb gift – what was I thinking ? Well, let me continue on about her gifts for us this Christmas.
You’re kidding! She left you gifts? When did she have time to go shopping?
She didn’t… they weren’t those kinds of gifts. More the type of gift that you don’t shop for or return later.
Eh… you’re gonna get all sappy on me now, aren’t you?
*sigh* Right. So spill. Or write. Blog… whatever you’d call what you’re doing. I’ll shut up.
Why thank you. You can applaud and say “Brava!” at the end.
Huh.. Yeah… Let’s see about that.
Well, Mother left us three kids gifts. Not the boxed and beribboned type left under the tree that can break or wear out… but the kind that can’t be touched or used or consumed. Like the O. Henry story, these were sacrificial gifts of love that offered each of us a deep insight into our relationship with her. To my brother, she gave the gift of Trust. She gave him her practical business matters, but also her precious memories of the happiest time of her life, raising her children. She entrusted with him the responsibility to take care of the vague, all encompassing ‘Everything’ she left behind when she passed away.
To my sister, she gave the gift of Matriarch. She’s the sober, responsible, clear thinking planner – even though she may not see herself that way. But she was with Mother at the most critical times during her hospital stay… and Mother appreciated it with all her heart. And in her eulogy, my sister did our mother proud. She is seen by the rest of the extended family and friends as the new Matriarch of our family.
My gift from my mother was Faith – in myself, in my God, and in others. I prayed with my mother, I soothed her, and I did all I could to infuse life and oxygen and food and drink into her. And even though she decided to enter into the Kingdom, I can rest in the knowledge that she was at peace and comfortable and happy. I’m not the smart one, nor am I very responsible – I tend to be emotional and sappy and sloppy. But… I now have a belief in myself, that I can handle the messy stuff as well as the gentler, kinder events life hands us.
I can do it.
If this all sounds sappy and sentimental and a little bit religious, so be it. Until you hold your mother’s hand as she talks with loved ones long dead, you don’t know what you’re capable of and you don’t know where you’ll get your strength and support from. I know the source of my strength.
“Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”
I flew back from my home to hers to help with the funeral preparations. I had more gifts – an empty seat beside me on a full plane, so I could spread out (somewhat), and an nun across the aisle who gave me her ear and let me blabber on about how our family had a birth, a wedding, and a death in one week, and a tornado blew out some windows in the hospital where my mother had been and knocked out the power, and the best gift my mom gave me this Christmas —
Out of four days of drug induced talking, Mother said three things that were clear and perfectly appropriate to that moment: “You have blue fingernails,” … “That pain patch is on my chest, not on my back,”… and the last one…
“I love you Pam.”
….Yes, … that makes me cry.
I kissed her and I told her I loved her too.
That really was the best gift.
…and Happy New Year.
Hey… So what did you learn about funerals?
Wear slippers or comfy shoes. Life’s too short to suffer in shoes that hurt.