Looking down at her face my emotions were in turmoil. The woman who had given me life 47 years ago now lay before me. On Friday she had been alive in the hospital. Late that night though, she had taken a sudden nose dive she could not pull out of. Now I stood there on Sunday and she was gone. My life would never be the same, I had entered a club I did not ask to join. As I stroked her face, I realized she really wasn’t there. The cold waxy skin did not repulse me, but was strangely comforting. Even in death, Mom was giving me what I needed.
Mom and I did not talk daily, nor were we particularly sentimental with each other. Though six hundred miles apart, we were close and I knew she was always there when I needed her. On visits with each other we would stay up late into the night talking and listening. Our paths had taken us in different directions, but she always believed in me.
My brother and I watched as our sister lovingly put Mom’s makeup on her for the last time. It was a gift I could not give, but was beautiful to watch. Through my tears I said goodbye as we left the funeral home and headed back to the house. The house that now held only one parent instead of two.
We had gone out of town celebrating the end of another school year. Looking for elusive waterfalls, touring a Native American village of my mother’s Cherokee heritage and enjoying the majestic Smoky Mountains filled a couple of days. Dad called to tell me that Mom was in the hospital, but by Friday she was out of CCU and on the mend and another event in a long line of health crises throughout the past several years seemed to have been averted. I promised to call the next day when we were home.
Early the next morning the sudden ring of the telephone jarred me awake, fear instantly gripped my heart. My husband handed the receiver to me saying, “it’s your sister”. My fears were realized as she said “Mom’s gone”. A sudden blood pressure drop, emergency measures taken, but all too late. Hanging up the phone, my husband held me as emotions overwhelmed me. Tears flowed as shock that Mom had finally succumbed to death enveloped me. Preparing for the trip I did not want to make, I found myself weeping at any given moment. Surrounded with love, I felt all alone.
At the visitation I was drawn to the open casket. Touching her hand, her face, reminding myself of her one last time. One last time a source of strength. Gone, yet not gone. For I will always be her daughter, and she my mother. The best of her and the worst of her lives on in me, mutated and adapted into my own self – to live on another generation.
(This is a submission for a writing contest – Baby Boomer Women)