Sunday, May 8, 2011

Losing Mom

I was three years old the first time I lost my mother.

We were shopping for fall clothes at Nordstrom at Northgate (back then it was still called Nordstrom Best). Somehow we were separated and I couldn't find her. I was scared and crawled under a clothing rack until my panicked mother and a helpful saleswoman tracked me down.

Now I'm 40 and have really lost my mom. The bond between a mother and child is unbreakable, so watching her suffer through the last weeks of her life was like having my heart ripped out. I would have traded places with her if only she could have gotten better. But alas, it was not to be.

My mother was more than just a mom to me. She was my best friend, my confidante, my fun girlfriend and a encyclopedia of knowledge, all wrapped up into one stylish and humorous package. I cherish the memories of our phone calls. We spoke almost daily and I loved hearing her rant about politics and especially about the responsibility we all have to take care of the most needy. We were not a churchgoing family by any means, but we always had a family Bible handy. And one verse was drilled into me ever since I was a small child. The last sentence of Luke 12:48 reads, "From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded." She lived by those words and expected me to do so also. She also embodied the spirit of the Beatitudes, words that have given me great comfort over these past few weeks:

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.
Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice's sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Mom was selfless, so much so that she once ran into a burning apartment building, knocking on doors and trying to get everyone out. Her knuckles were bleeding but she didn't stop until the firemen basically dragged her out. She always put everyone's needs before her own, regardless if they were family, friends or even complete strangers. She cared for our entire family and loved each of us with all of her heart. Mom especially loved Neil and thought of him as a son. She believed in justice and equality and spent much of her life working on behalf of the most vulnerable members of society.

Growing up, I watched my mom do everything: sew amazing Christmas decorations, do needlepoint, oil paint, but most of all, she cooked like a shorter Julia Child, with whom she was friends. On the other hand, she loved to laugh and goof around and was known to listen to The Rolling Stones while decorating the Christmas tree.

I've been told all of my life how lucky I am to have had a "cool mom." She was all of that and then some. If I could be half the person my mom was I would be satisfied, but even doing that is a tall order. There will never be a statue erected in her honor or a holiday named for her, but to me she was and always will be my hero. I'm so grateful for the times we had together, for the summer we spent reading "To Kill A Mockingbird" together when I was young. I loved that she never failed to cry while watching the film. Mom taught me to read by the time I was two and was quite the taskmaster. Did anyone else's mother give spelling tests? Well, mine did and now I'm grateful for it. She loved her country and believed that anything was possible.

So much of what is good about me came from my mother. I owe her everything and I will miss her until I take my last breath.