On the year anniversay of my mother’s death, I’d like to share my tribute to her. I love and miss you every day, Mom.
There are people in this world who leave deep boot prints on the heart. The kind you long to fill because the hurt curls up in those holes, clawing and scratching. Then there are people who leave soft footprints, as soft as a whisper. You, mom, left the soft ones, the light ones, the soothing ones. You walked beside us, offering your guidance, support, and love and walk with us still. You don’t need to be present. I can hear the echo of your voice, your footsteps;
When I was quite young, you said to me, “You know you are ready to have children when you are willing to sacrifice buying yourself a pair of shoes to buy your child a pair instead.”
Your life as a mother was a selfless stream of sacrifices. More than any monetary sacrifice, it was your personal time that you surrendered to and for us. The time you spent behind the wheel, transporting us to our extracurricular activities from practices, to sporting events, to friends’ houses. You sacrificed sleep, awaiting our arrival home on weekend nights, watching the clock, listening for the creek of the door. You’d make us food at midnight, pull up a chair and ask about the evening, about our friends or about our first kiss. When we were sick, you kneeled beside us, ran a soft hand down our backs, and placed cool cloths on our feverish foreheads. When Rocky and Kevin had the croup, you’d hold them in the bathroom, while hot steam choked the air, drenching you in sweat.
As children, you set the tone in the early mornings, greeting us with your gorgeous smile, as your twinkly eyes turned into crescent moons. You’d dance around the kitchen, making us animal pancakes, and drowning them in sweet sticky syrup or breakfast sandwiches with gooey melted cheese.
I couldn’t fully appreciate it then, but now, as a grown woman, I understand the deep honor it was to have you as our mother. We were never deprived of your love, compassion, and attention.
I will forever long to feel your warm hug and soft kiss on my cheek and listen as you whisper, “I love you.” Post stroke, it was one of the first sentences you spoke. Even if you never told us you loved us in the morning before we left for school, in the afternoon when we returned home, at night when we were all tucked in, we’d know. You exuded love. The heart is one of the first organs to bloom in the body; it’s as if yours never stopped growing.
You cared, truly cared about our lives, who we were, and where we went. You wanted to hear our stories of where our lives had taken us and our visions of where we wanted our lives to go. You held our dreams in your heart as if they were your own. And you did everything in your power to help make our deepest desires come to fruition. As we grew and left the house, you supported us even if you didn’t trust we were making the right or the best decision.
“I just want you to be happy,” you’d say.
I suppose that is what most parents’ hope, for their children to be happy. The subtle difference is some parents believe they know what will make their children happy and know how to guide them to dodge poor decision-making. You never did that. You were there to offer a hand and pull us up off the ground, but you let us fall. You let us fall without judgment or an “I told you so,” and that’s why it was so easy to talk to you, to share our secrets, our dreams, our fears. It’s also why our friends always convened at our home, because they could share their hurts and fears with you, too. Jim, Paul, Rocky, Kevin and I had to learn to share you because you were a mom to so many; you were a safe place to land. You opened the door wide to everyone and said, “Come in. Come in. Sit down. Eat.” One of your deepest soul pleasures was feeding a small army of people. When you’d ask, “Would you like another helping?” If the answer was, “No.” You’d wait a few minutes and say, “How about now?”
Some of my most treasured memories were when our family gathered and you’d whip of one of your epic Italian feasts, and we’d twirl long strips of linguine around our forks, bite into hot Italian sausages and meatballs, sopping up the red sauce with thick, fat slices of bread laced with garlic butter, and sip cabernet sauvignon in thin-stemmed wine glasses as we laughed and shared stories.
I could not imagine you absent from our lives. When you dropped me off at Kindergarten, I clung to your legs. When you dropped me off at college, I clung to your waist. In the final moments of your life, I clung to the bittersweet relief that you would be free from a mind and body that imprisoned you for 12 ½ years, and the paralyzing fear of the void you’d leave behind. I always thought it was you who couldn’t let go of me, but it was me who didn’t want to let go of you.
Do you know the depth of your legacy you’ve left behind? People were drawn to your light, to your open heart, to your unwavering love and kindness. You, of course, were more than our mother. You were a committed and devoted wife, a treasured sister, a true friend, and a loving grandmother. You were a talented artist, and you had the singing voice of an angel.
Throughout the course of your life, your strength and fortitude were tested again and again by your life-altering losses. One of my favorite quotes that has always made me think of you is, “You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.” You taught me this through the way in which you lived your life.
Rilke said to his young poet, “Love is perhaps the most difficult task given us, the most extreme, the final proof and text, for which all other work is only preparation.”
For you, Mom, love was not a feeling; it was a way of being and you stitched our family together with an invisible ribbon of your enduring love. We love you, Mom, for a million more reasons than I could possibly capture here.
Thank you for teaching us how to love each other and ourselves. Your spirit will live on through all of us. It is with deep gratitude to and for you, Mom, for giving us the magnificent gift of life. We know you’re dancing amongst the angels with Rocky by your side. It’s your turn, Rocky, to spend time with Mom.