Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ironically grateful

Thanksgiving was the first day since my mom's passing during which I had an extended time to myself. I decided to bask in it and just do little things: cleaning house, light weeding, and -- a first for me -- raking leaves. It felt nice to be outside on such a crisp autumn day. By the time I arrived at my parents' house I had worked up a voracious appetite.

[piles o' leaves]

At the end of the night I spent some time talking to my aunt, my mom's big sis, who is tiny but has a way of hugging you with the strength of the universe.  And who looks so much like my mom that I nearly started crying as I looked at her.  She told me stories of my mom as a teenager -- looking in the mirror, worried about this or that -- and as a young woman -- "your mom was the most beautiful I ever saw her when she came back from New Zealand.  She was absolutely gorgeous."

And I'd been thinking this for a while, but as I reflected on what my aunt shared, I began to ask: how many people hurt because my mom's not here?  How many memories do other people have of her?  What kinds of memories?  Of when she was a girl?  Of when she was somebody's girlfriend?  Sister? Daughter? Teacher? Friend? When she was someone who wasn't yet my mom? Who has the greater claim to grief?

There isn't a greater or lesser, a more or less.  It's all different.  Loss is loss.  To each person in their own way.

Mom will never not be in my thoughts or my heart; so I don't know that I need to trek out to the grave to "see" her or talk to her. I don't feel bad that I don't recall the exact time I last spoke with her or that I don't remember exactly what she was wearing. The last time I saw her was in the hospital bed and in the coffin, but those aren't the dominant images I have of her. Her influence on my life will always be so much bigger -- and smaller -- than that.

My college roommate came during the viewing and told me that she felt compelled to come because her mother had suffered from a ruptured brain aneurysm, too. She survived, but was not the same. Even before she told me that, I was grateful that I'd been spared a memory and experience of my mother other than who she was when she was alive and truly herself. I remember MyKo's fiance nodding in agreement when I shared that thought (he's a doctor), and I was reminded again when I read Rachel's post about her stepfather.

There isn't a greater or lesser, a more or less.  It's all different.  Loss is loss.  To each person in their own way.

And so, while sadness has taken up residency in my heart this season, somehow -- however strangely -- gratitude finds a home there, too.

This year (and evermore) I am thankful for my mom.  Thankful that she loved me completely.  Thankful that she did a good job.  Thankful that God loves me enough to have given me her as a mother.   I'm thankful for friends whose experience of having lost a parent has cushioned my fall.  Thankful for my dad and brothers.  And for our extended family, whom I've finally gotten to know better.  To laugh with.  I'm thankful for Wild Horse Cabernet Sauvignon on sale.

And I'm thankful for rakes.


  1. What a lovely post. Hold tight to those true memories of your mother and the wonderful relationships she had with you and with other people in her life.

    If you enjoying your raking debut and would like to do more, please come on over. My yard still has a ton of leaves in it. :)

  2. @Marsha: Thank you, friend, for your long-distance support and encouragement. Uhm, I'll pass on the raking... this year....