I taught a Freshman Seminar class at a community college a few years back. One of the ways I had the students introduce themselves, was to tear toilet paper off of a roll, that I passed around the class. They were to tear off the amount of paper they used, when they went to the bathroom. They then had to share as many things about themselves, as there were squares of the tissue. There would be embarrassed laughs and inevitably someone, thinking they were cute would tear off just one, while someone else would tear off 10. It was a way to break the ice and it worked. If my mother was in the class, she would have told us four things.
September 10th, 2017 was the third anniversary of Mom’s death. I always say “my mom”, as if she had only me, but there were four of us kids. She had three daughters in a row, while making it perfectly clear, that her goal was a son, as my dad desperately wanted a son to farm with. We were a conservative farm family, on the brink of poor, raised to love country and the Catholic Church. Mom wasn’t raised Catholic, but joined when she married Dad. That is the first thing you should know about her she loved the Catholic Church.
You would think after three years the unexpected jars on my heart would stop. Days will go by and boom…. some unexpected trigger sends a feeling of loss over me, and I cry. I cry because I miss what we could have been, friends. Mom and I shared little until her death, we talked, but nothing from our souls. We became closest the months before her death because the second thing you should know about her is she was very private.
Mom overcame much in her life by putting things in little compartments, only taking them out when she needed to and could handle them. Some things never came out, but ate at her anyway. If Mom ever loved you, she never stopped. The third thing you should know is she was loyal to everyone she loved, except herself.
Mom’s last days were spent on Hospice. They gave us books that told us the signs of her impending death and “helpful” hints; darkening of skin, talking to people that weren’t there and that we should make sure and tell her it was ok to go. All of us did our best, to help her, support her, tell her we loved her, sing to her and recite the rosary. Even those of us who had abandoned the Catholic Church, or felt like it had abandoned us, could still say the Rosary… She clung on to life, like I can’t imagine. Everyone had told her it was ok, to go and be with Grandma and Aunty Anne, be she didn’t seem to hear.
I thought about it one night, her last night, and realized something. I went in and put my head by hers, told her how much I loved her, and that I would try my best to do what I could, what was expected of me for the family and then I told her, “Mom, you leave when you’re damn good and ready, and not a minute before. We will be here as long as you need us to be.” The fourth thing you should know is that Mom was stubborn.
It’s easy to get caught up in what we missed.. She loved me and trusted me, putting her faith in me, when it was her darkest time. Maybe it doesn’t matter that we weren’t baring our souls, in an earlier time, maybe it just had to be, when she was damn good and ready. Rest in Peace Mom.