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My Mother – Ursula

Ursula SusanMy mother passed away almost nine years ago now. When I do the math I am almost in disbelief. Nine years ALREADY? ONLY nine years? Depending on where I’m at in my head her death seems so remote, so ancient and at other times so fresh and raw.

She was diagnosed with cancer when my first-born son was about 6 months old and died about 26 months later when my second born son was about 6 months old. Those years are a blur. The combination of watching new life grow and flourish juxtaposed against watching “old” (my mom was still quite young by todays standards, diagnosed at age 67) life struggle to overcome a terrible disease created some magical and some brutal moments. I gave birth to my second son almost exactly one month before my mother became debilitated by brain metasteses and her active dying process began. My baby boy was such a blessing. Even when my mother could no longer talk and it was difficult to tell how much she was taking in, her face would light up in a joyful smile when my baby was held close to her.

My mother was the strongest person I have ever known. Of course I wasn’t aware of that when I could have told her, it was just dawning on me as we travelled her cancer road and my “new mother” road together. Sounds foolish doesn’t it? How could I not have known she was a strong woman as I watched her fight her cancer? But much of that knowing needed to percolate through my own life experiences. I look back on my childhood with a very different lens now that I am *almost* in my mother’s shoes. I say *almost* because she was so much more of a hard worker than me, so much better at organizing her time, saving her money, staying disciplined, running a tight ship so to speak. She preserved the aura of a stay at home mother while working at various jobs. She worked as a teachers aide in a special needs classroom. She worked in a preschool. She worked nights at a nursing home at one point. I was 9 then. She would see me off to school, then I imagine she slept for awhile but she was always awake when I came home for lunch. Yes. Lunch. From the egocentric perspective of a child I never thought about what a big thing this was. I honestly don’t know when she slept in those months working at the nursing home.

My mom was the strictest mom around. She was no saint despite all her good qualities. She would lose it with us, give us the occasional cuff across the ears, she had high standards for behaviour, for neatness, for punctuality. She took excellent care of us, but rarely let her hair down to play with us. I do remember her doing her calisthenics with the assistance of a record she had – I remember a smooth voice explaining what to do, counting the reps, the odd little pop and scratch as the record turned. I’d get down beside her and try to copy her and I remember her laughing and smiling with me. I remember her baking millions of varieties of Christmas cookies, and she had special cookies for Easter, and for all the “hallmark” holidays like Valentines, Halloween etc. She helped us come up with fun but economical costumes, using stuff we had at home instead of buying us the covetted plastic drug store batmans and princesses. I remember her baking us cakes from scratch for our birthdays while we eyed the boxed cakes with jars of icing with longing. I also remember her folding and mending and ironing clothes, knitting and crocheting while we watched tv together. Her hands were never still. My mother was the hardest worker I have ever met.

I think I understand her more and more as I experience being a parent of four kids. (I have three siblings). I can relate to her frustration at just wanting to get SOMEthing, ONE thing done without interruption. I can see why she kept shooing us out of the kitchen – its SO much quicker and easier to work alone than with four little “helpers”. I can see how she must have felt when she resorted to yelling at us – I go crazy inside when my kids ignore me! I understand the millions of directions she was pulled and I understand how she really really did the best she could for us.

I miss my mom deeply and it really stinks that as I learn to understand my mother more I can’t call her up and tell her how much I appreciate her and how much she sacrificed for us. A couple years ago I had the wonderful opportunity to travel overseas to her childhood town; to walk the same streets she did as a child, to touch the stone banisters she talked about sitting on out front of her childhood house, to walk in the forest she walked in with her parents as a child and to stand in front of the school doors she entered every day. It was such a treasure to feel a physical connection to her again.

I wish I could have had longer with my mother, been able to make more memories with her as she watched her grandchildren grow, but I will hold the memories I do have of her close to my heart and though I can’t tell her personally, I will tell everyone I meet that my mother was the best mother she could be and was the strongest, hardest working woman I will every have the privilege of knowing.

Posted by Susan

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