It can be devastating to lose a parent and it’s certainly hard to go through the natural grieving process before we finally accept it. Having recently lost my mother, who was 73 years old and in failing health, I can now say I know this firsthand because I miss her more than I ever thought I would. Fortunately, I made sure she knew how much I loved her over the last several years and it helps me feel a little better, but knowing how much she loved me helps too. Here are three good memories I have that I’d like to share with you. I have more, of course, but these three seem to link together now that she’s gone. They also make me smile and show the love we shared.
The first memory, and the earliest I have of my mom, dates back to when I was only four years old. My parents and I lived in an old row home that for a little boy with a vivid imagination, was quite scary at times, especially when I was upstairs by myself. Before I even reached the top of the old wooden stairs that creaked and led almost directly to the small dark bathroom, I was already calling out to my mom, so I could hear her voice and feel more secure in my venture. “Mom!” I would yell. “Yes, Darryl?” She would ask. “What are you doin?” “Watching TV” she’d answer in a voice that said she knew what was coming next. “Mom!” I would start again as I stood in front of the toilet getting ready to do what I went up there for. “Yes, Darryl? She would patiently ask again. “Do you love me?” Her standard answer was always “Yes I love you, now hurry up and get done.” When I was done, I would ask her something else while quickly flushing the toilet and running out of the bathroom toward the stairs. Although by this time her patience would become somewhat diminished, she would still always answer me back. I’m fairly certain I’d ask yet another question on my way down the steps, but I am entirely certain of one thing. When I got back to our front room and saw her sitting there watching TV, I wasn’t scared anymore.
The second memory I have, and one of the most recent is when my mom and dad visited me and my wife over Father’s Day this year. Just after their arrival, we all sat outside on the wooden deck we had built to do just that and talked for a while. What made this memorable was the fact that I sat beside my mom and the whole time we were sitting there, she was holding my hand and rubbing it with her thumb. Now, this wasn’t all that unusual as she had done it at other times when we were together, but this time she did it in such a way that I could tell she wanted me to know she was doing it. This wasn’t the most significant part of this memory though. My mom had lost a lot of weight over the years, mostly due to emphysema from smoking, and it was evident that it bothered her. Although she had always been a very pretty woman, she was never entirely happy with her looks, and the weight loss greatly added to the unhappiness she felt about her appearance. The weight loss also made it hard for her to find clothes she liked while shopping, and she had remarked that day how upset she was that she couldn’t find anything nice to wear to my son’s upcoming wedding.
On the day before she left, however, my wife and I decided to take her shopping determined to find something for her to wear to her grandson’s wedding. My dad happily went along, as he always dreaded taking my mom shopping on his own. But anyway, at our very first stop, my wife, who’s very good at picking out apparel for herself and me, found a beautiful little black and white dress with an appealing pattern on it, and a dark-colored shawl that matched it perfectly. At first, I could tell my mom wasn’t sure about the selections my wife made, but I told her to go try the dress and shawl on before she said no. While she was in changing, we stood outside the dressing room area waiting for her along with two young ladies that worked there. I had been carrying on with them and told them how hard it was to please my mom when it came to clothing and asked that they express their approval when she comes out.
After coming out, she stood there and raised her arms up beside her with an expression that asked. “Well, how do I look?” Everyone was silent for a few seconds because of how eloquent she appeared standing there in that dress and shawl, and then one by one we all told her how good she looked. I could tell by her reaction that she was satisfied and even happy. After shopping, we went out to eat and eventually ended the day on a very happy note. My mom and dad would leave the following day, and this would be the last time I would see my mom alive.
A week later, I got a call from my dad that she was in the hospital with bad stomach pains, but after talking with my mom that same day, I didn’t worry too much about it. However, the following day, I became very worried. My dad called me and said the doctors told him things didn’t look good, and I could tell he was upset and scared. A few hours later I called and talked with one of the doctors and knew I needed to leave immediately and make the three-hour drive to the hospital she was at. The one where she would tell my dad and my two children that she loved them for the last time. And the one I would arrive too late at to be able to tell her anything. This brings me to the third memory I want to share.
It happened during a visit to my dad’s house just a few days after she passed away. We were in their bedroom looking at different things of my mom’s and talking when my dad walked over to the closet and pulled out a hanger that held the dress and shawl my wife had picked out for my mom. “Here’s that dress she liked,” he said and started to cry as he added. “She was so happy to finally have something to wear to the wedding.” I started crying too and took the dress and shawl from his hands so I could have a closer look at them. After just a few seconds I released the left side of the hanger, and pulled the dress and shawl to my chest with my right hand, while at the same time wrapping my left arm around the back of it. I then closed my eyes and began hugging the dress, and sobbed out loud. I’m not sure how much time passed, but when I opened my eyes I saw something that made me smile through my tears. Without realizing it before, I was standing in front of a long vertical mirror my dad had put up for my mom many years ago, and because of the way, I was holding the dress, it kind of made it look like I was wearing the combination. I told my dad that Mom would have laughed at this, and he agreed. I also felt like I got to hug my mom one more time, and that too brought a smile to my face.
Below is a Carpenters song my mom used to sing to me when I was young. I always liked when she did this and in some parts, she would actually sound like Karen Carpenter. Just like that dress, this song is a reminder of my mom. One that makes me cry, but also smile.