To all God's beloved who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
"The memory of those who have gone before us, to whom we are linked by bonds of fidelity and gratitude, must also accompany us in all the acts of our daily life. For this is the memorial they deserve; this resounds to their honor; this is the spirit of Christian prayer for the dead, which is inseparable from Christian life and practice."
~ St. John XXIII
A week ago this evening, I watched my mom breathe her last breath.
What a blessing it was that Daniel and TG had joined me in the vigil that had begun the day before, in case I needed to get some sleep. I didn't want Mama to be alone when she passed.
And we knew she was going to pass soon.
She had spent a week in the Intensive Care Unit, mostly unresponsive. She couldn't breathe on her own without a mask covering her face, and when the antibiotics failed to control the infection, we knew it was time to take off the mask and make her as comfortable as possible as she transitioned into her new life in heaven. Her body was just worn out.
For the most part, I've been at peace, thanks to my faith and for my almost daily visits with my mom over the past few years, which provided me with a huge cache of hugs, smiles, and kisses for the future.
She kept a smile on her face and made the best of things up until the end, but I know she is now in a much better place, holding hands with Daddy, free of her aging body that struggled so hard to breathe.
In her honor (and for my benefit), I've decided to re-post my words from her last birthday. I have a feeling she knew, as I suspected, it would be her last birthday here on this earth...
Last week I asked my mom what she wanted for her birthday. She stared off for a few seconds, then looked at me and said "More time."
But there was a twinkle in her eye, and her mouth turned up in a grin as she added, "Can you tell I live in the present?"
What a wise woman.
Even now, anchored to an oxygen machine, rarely leaving the small room she shares with another woman, and having to rely on others for even the simplest things, like having a glass of water near enough to drink, Mama finds enough joy in life to want to stick around awhile longer.
I know it isn't because she's afraid of death. My mom is a Christian. She has taught me all my life - and I know she believes it most of the time - that there is life after death, much more beautiful than this one, free of pain and sorrow. Most of her loved ones have gone before her...her parents, siblings, her firstborn, and her beloved husband.
Despite what her life appears to be to us, she is still loving it. Her smile is always close to the surface, and she laughs often, finding joy in the simplest things. She loves her aides and nurses, her cups of coffee, her cookies, and the photos of Daddy, her kids, grandkids, and great-granddaughter hanging on the walls.
She does NOT like being told what to do, but that's understandable after years of being such an independent woman and caregiver to others.
For her sake - actually, for mine - I hope she gets her birthday wish, and that she finds joy in every extra second she is given. I believe she will. I know I will.
And in her honor, I will try my best not to waste a single second of the time I'm given with remorse or regrets of the past, or with wishing away my today for some future moment that may never come.
I will continue to keep my eyes open for even the simplest sweet!s. Today they will include picking up some fried shrimp for her birthday dinner, then gathering with family to celebrate her and give thanks that she's in our lives.
On her 77th birthday, I listed the things she had taught me, and I've added to it every year. So without further ado, here's the list...
Things Mama has taught me...
- it's never too late to learn something new
- if you have a choice between laughter and tears, choose laughter.
- don't let anyone mess with your babies!
- only give advice when asked for it (I'm still working on that one)
- pray every day
- pray some more
- reading a good book might not solve your problems, but it's a nice escape from them
- bend but never break
- some people are just takers
- be nice whenever possible, but sometimes nice doesn't cut it
- take care of family
- we're all individuals - let your kids blossom into themselves, not "mini-me's"
- be there
- Johnny Weismuller is the best movie Tarzan
- don't be in a rush to be older than you are - you're only going to be this age once in your life
- if you like something, and you'll use it, and you can afford it, then buy it, or you'll regret it later
- quality over quantity
- never think "can't"
- people will stand in line for a dead skunk if it's free
- roll with the punches
- have fun
- laugh often
- believe in yourself
- don't let others change who you are
- be honest
- don't steal
- forgive yourself
- God loves me
- don't judge
- just do it!
- inside matters more than outside
- don't use God's name in vain
- you can learn anything if you put your mind to it
- you're never too old to dance
- it's okay to ask for help
- show appreciation and express gratitude
- use my manners
- consider the source
- an office or position of authority should be respected, but the individual in that position has to earn your respect
- sleep is good
- take advantage of opportunities
- keep your eyes open and your wits about you
- people aren't always nice
- things can't make you happy
- use your imagination
- just get started and the rest will be easy
- don't be intimidated by anyone - we're all the same, all human, we all have strengths and weaknesses
- you can love someone even if you don't like them
- forgive but don't forget
- learn from others' mistakes
- there are times for being patient, and time for putting your foot down
- speak up
- stand up for what you believe in
- admit your mistakes and expect others to do the same
- persistance pays off
- let your kids be kids
- love unconditionally
- take lots of pictures
- kids grow up fast
- your kids need a mother, not another friend
- pets are family
- help others
- a sense of humor is essential for sanity and survival
- if you look close enough, you can find something to love about everyone
- coffee is good anytime
- messes can be cleaned up
- prayer works
- God is strong all the time - let him carry you
- if you say you're going to do something, do it
- be nice to yourself in case no one else is
- you have to show respect to get respect
- girls are tough
- don't put up with temper tantrums - yours or someone else's
- listen to your body - doctors don't know everything
- don't say everything you're thinking
- asking questions is the best way to learn something
- your babies are always your babies (and their babies are your babies, too!)
- God is.
- Just listen.
- people are more important than things
- there is a time to help others, and a time to let others help you
- God has his reasons, and He will give you whatever strength you need for the road ahead...and never leave you to walk it alone.
- smile and show appreciation to those who are willing to help you - they may have it tougher than you in many ways
- Appreciate every second you're given, because life is beautiful.
Rest in peace, my beautiful Mama. We will be okay. You saw to that. Please give Daddy a hug from me.
Call your mother. Tell her you love her. Remember, you're the only person who knows what her heart sounds like from the inside.