I’m writing this post, not to depress my readers, but to honor my mom. This post is a tribute to her.
My mom was born in Germany and came to America with my uncle and grandmother at 12 years old, after WWII in 1951. Her stories of the rubble she left behind in Stuttgart are something I will always carry with me. The flattened city she didn’t recognize when she visited again decades later. The scary train ride where she had to be handed through the window to my grandmother by strangers because the train was too full for her to leave the train with her family. Standing outside bakeries during the war trying to fill up on smells because they didn’t have anything to eat. The joyful sounds my grandmother and her sisters would make when a cousin sent them coffee during the war. The extended family she had to stay with that was so horrible to her when she was sent back to Germany while my grandmother got her American teaching credentials here in the states. Her quick return to the states after her father suddenly appeared for the first time in her life out of nowhere. My grandmother freaked out and flew both kids back to the states really quickly once she found out. So, so many stories of those times.
She went on to do costume design at the local junior college which was known for it’s drama department. There were endless hours of sewing and perfecting each and every costume. She would have gone on to fashion design school, but there were no design schools on the west coast at the time and my grandmother wouldn’t let her go to New York City by herself. So she stayed and met my father.
Both of them partied a lot, my father in particular. But when I came along, my mother was ready to settle down and raise a family. My alcoholic father was not. So at a time when divorce was still somewhat unusual and frowned upon, she kicked him out and dedicated the rest of my growing years to raising me.
As I got older, we didn’t live well together and fought constantly. My teen years were not kind to either one of us. But even as I got older and had to move back home a time or two before I really was able to stand my ground in the world, we still did not live well together and I did everything in my power to move back out again.
Once on my own however, mom suddenly became the person I could confide in. The person I had to call every day. That only intensified when I had my son.
BECOMING A GRANDMOTHER
My mom was there for the birth, and I can’t tell you how special that was and is to me. I’m so happy she was there to help me welcome her grandson into the world. That child lit up her life like no other. She loved him fiercely and with a joy that you only see in a grandmother. She painted the most wonderful mural on his nursery wall of a funny bumble bee. Sadly, we had to paint over it when we moved, but I will never forget it.
When he got older, she did all the grandmotherly things you do with a grandchild. Reading stories, fixing boo-boos, and of course, baking cookies at Christmas. He loved to recline in his mini recliner in front of her fireplace. That was his favorite spot at grandmas.
When she got sick, I dropped everything, pulled my son out of school and moved back home to care for her. But it didn’t take long to figure out that her tiny house was just too small for three people. So we sold her house and purchased a house here in Sonoma County. It wasn’t ideal for her, as it is a two story house, but we got a chair lift which helped her for most of the time she was here.
Eventually, I had to move her bed downstairs to the family room, and in the last month or so, we brought a hospital bed into the living room through hospice.
Her death was not a kind or gentle process. There was a lot of pain, and many situations I never thought in a million years I could handle. But I did.
I remember one day, she was sitting in bed crying about all the things she wouldn’t get to do anymore. The Christmas cookies she would never bake again and the painting projects she would never finish. I sat beside her with my arm around her not knowing what to say to make her feel better. But in the end, I simply told her that we were going to get through this together and that she should lean on me. To this she replied, “well who are you going to lean on?“. I told her I had lots of support from friends and that she should just lean on me to get through this. That moment changed our relationship. She truly did start depending on me 100% from that moment on. I have never felt closer to my mother than I did during that time. It was odd to switch parent/child roles, but we did and it bonded us.
In her last few days, she slipped into a coma, which was at that point, a blessing. A relief from the pain. But in my heart, I knew she could still hear me. So I talked to her as much as I could. Sat by her bed for hours reading and singing to her. Telling her it was okay to go and that Mini Chef and I would be fine. Her biggest worry when she was still conscious was if my son and I would be okay financially. So I just kept assuring her that we were fine and that it was okay to go and to end her suffering.
On her last day, I left the house for a few hours thinking that maybe she was hanging on because I was there. The nurse told me that people do that sometimes. Wait for a loved one to leave before they pass. A couple of close friends were staying with me, so I left in a haze, not even really sure of where I should go. I ended up wandering the aisles of Whole Foods with my sun glasses on, praying that nobody would notice the tears coming from behind them. I walked every single aisle of that store, putting random things I didn’t need into my cart.
Hours later, I went back home again. When evening came, I sat by her bed, reassuring her that we were okay and that we would miss her terribly but that it was okay for her to leave. I told her that the only thing I wanted was to be there, holding her hand when she left.
She passed at 7:57pm on August 24th with me holding her hand.
It’s amazing how a face can change when a life leaves the body. I do believe that life continues after death, and certain things that happened after her death let me know that she was there and watching over me. I still miss her terribly and the new normal we are now getting used to still has a very large hole in it.
She was an amazing mother and wonderful grandmother. She touched the lives of so many people and needy, lost or discarded animals. She had a warm, giving heart, and a love for me that I will never feel from another human being for the rest of my life.
She was laid to rest with friends and family surrounding her. Life will never be the same.
I love you mom. Rest in peace.