>Goodbye again

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She was in my dream last night; my beautiful Mother, with the voice I ache to hear, and the presence that filled my life and my heart whenever she was around. She was back in the hospital, and I was relishing the music of her voice as she was recounting the mundane things about her care and the hospital staff. Dad went to get her prescriptions. Next she became very sick, and then near death. As we began gathering around her, she was strangely lying face down in her hospital bed. She was unmoving, silent, and we were trying to decide if she was “gone”. All of a sudden, she miraculously rose and began walking around, completely healed.

She wanted me to help her find the doctor we had dubbed Drama Queen, a portly gray-haired man who had scared my mother into the surgery that I believe hastened her death.. Ironically, in real life he could only exhibit a lack of patience with her when she was most afraid, and with us whenever we challenged his God complex. When we found him in the dream, sitting in the lunchroom, I said to him, “You didn’t even realize she died, did you?” He looked up at us, and even though my mother was standing right beside me, I realized he couldn’t see her.

Next she and I were in the hall, and she was sitting in a chair, and I was kneeling in front of her, holding her hands. She said to me, “I am just not ready to leave all of you”. I said, “Mom, it’s okay” and I woke up.

With love I lied…it’s not okay, and in some ways, it will never be okay again. I swallow my tears, get up and off to work, and make a silent appointment to cry at the end of the day.

>It was Enough

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How do you celebrate Mother’s Day without your Mother? Especially when she has only been gone for a short time, and you can’t remember why you didn’t realize that last year (when you only bothered to call and send a card) would be her last? Yes, it’s only a Hallmark holiday, but my feelings of being orphaned are looming large. My daughters would be my salvation. They burst into my home with all their youthful energy, yummy food, cards and gifts. Andrea, the youngest reminds us of the reunion Mom is most certainly having with her mother after more than 50 years, and I weep at the thought. They present me with a beautiful Pandora bracelet that will be created over time with charms of love, experience, and remembrance.

But something shifted on Mother’s Day. Two truths permeated my sadness. The first was this: My mother is never coming back. My head has known this for some time, but my heart finally surrendered to that reality. It sounds absurd, I know, but grief is awful and strange, exhausting and lonely and yes… absurd.

The second is this: My Mother loved me enough. She loved me with all she had until the end. As the oldest, I not only had her the longest; I was the first beneficiary of her hopes and dreams as a new mother, and later, she became my friend. But she wasn’t just trying to love me through my mistakes, my misadventures, or even my triumphs. She was trying to love me enough to outlast her; to fill my heart with the love and strength I would need to live the rest of my life without her. Despite her childhood, the ghosts of poverty, anger, sadness, and years of quiet decline, she gave her whole heart to the cause..

It’s up to me to pass on that spirit to my Joni Rose, Alecia, and Andrea; the kind that will outlast me, sustain them when it is my turn to say goodbye. I know now that I won’t live forever. My mother was my buffer from that truth as well.

I have made so many mistakes, like my mother did, and in forgiving her, I must also forgive myself. But there is time to learn from my regrets and do better…for me, and for her.

Oh, how I long to hear her voice. I think this is what she would say if I could share my epiphanies with her: “Get on with it, Angie…I know you can do it!”

>Singing in the Pain

>With eight daughters ranging in age from 31 to 18, it is amazing that I am not yet a grandma. However, as of April 2, I have a new g-baby, albeit by marriage. Her name is Elijiah Scout (yeah, it’s weird) but we will call her Ellie. I don’t know what she will call me (my grandmother answered to Muzzie) but I will think of something original and appropriate to the politics of being the wife of the Grandpa.

My oldest daughter is still reeling emotionally from two miscarriages, and my heart aches for her when she talks about how everyone around her is pregnant. She is being confronted with the reality of wanting something she can’t get easily and she is used to getting what she wants. She isn’t spoiled, but she has high expectations for herself, and sees this as some failure or reflection of imperfection. I only know what an amazing mother she will be someday.

On the fringes of the ritual blessing of the g-baby, I find myself in a church; familiar with all the Sunday traditions of my childhood, making me miss my Mother and wondering if “this is the place” where I can find her, feel her, or perhaps, even please her just by being here. The organist is playing hymns I have played, and my heart starts to hurt. I instinctively grab the hymn book and sing in the voice of my mother; not the melody, but the harmony. I am 13 again, sitting by her on the piano bench, showing her the notes as she pecks out the alto part, repetition overcoming her lack of lessons. I realize singing the under-notes is symbolic. My mother loved the under-notes of life. She trained herself to hear what was below the surface. She could find the harmony while listening to your solo. Her beautiful voice is silent now, and I know the music will never sound the same..