My mother was incredibly beautiful, from as far back as I can remember. She was also unbelievably nice. And smart enough to have a top-secret clearance during WWII, as a secretary in the government. And funny. And a gifted gardener. And a damn near perfect mother. I miss her daily.
She use to sing & dance w/ me when I was small. She would put on Glen Miller, or the music from South Pacific, and we would dance around the living room & dining room. Sometimes she would put on old jazz, and we would dance to that. She loved Louis Armstrong, as do I. Even into the 80s & 90s, she had favourite bands, singers, songs. Music was as much a part of her as her love for orange or her love of charm bracelets, both of which I also share.
As her memory began to fade, and pieces of her past fell through the widening cracks in her mind, she remembered less & less. Sometimes this was darkly funny, as when she asked me who was dead:
Is Dudley [my father] dead? Yes, I responded, Daddy’s dead. Is Mother dead? Yes, Grandma’s dead too, Mother. How about Aunt Bonnie? Yes, Mother, she’s also dead. And Ina? And Mom? I would nod, and nod again. Well…. I guess they’re all dead? And yes, they all are…
My sisters & I learned to just shake our heads and laugh — what else is there?
But up to the deeply sad end, my mother had her music. In the early days, she could still run a CD player. And she would play it over & over — we bought her oldies from the 30s, 40s, 50s. And Christmas music. My sister has inherited that passion — she has Christmas music on much of the year. Eventually we had to turn the CD player on for Mother, but she would always hum and sway. And in the end, as we gathered around her, we held on to her and sang: Que será, será…Whatever will be, will be…
Even as she curled into herself, my mother would respond to us, would smile and brighten. Like Henry in the youtube cut that follows, she came alive:
I would have taken on fear, if it would have meant my mother slept peacefully in those first difficult years. And later, as I watched my youngest sister’s name drift like smoke from Mother’s memory, I would have offered up my left foot to stop it. If I could somehow have held off Mother’s unraveling, the fear that haunted her early nightmares, there is very little I would not have done. And that’s the point of this Mother’s Day meditation: for the lucky among us, our mother is our first and longest love. So that modeling on that first love is easy when we reach out towards lovingkindness. I remember that when I practice, that my love for others should be as deep & true as mother-love, my daughter-love for my mother & mother-in-law and other mother-figures; my mother-love for my two amazing sons, my daughter-in-law, my nieces and nephews, the children of my heart.
It’s one more gift my mother left me: my practice, infused w/ her humour, her goofy charm, her courage and her faith. Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy. I miss you.