In the wee hours of the morning on September 2, my mother found her way out of this life. After over a year of struggling on her path towards the next life, she fell asleep. When she awoke, I am sure she found herself in God’s dwelling place instead of in the nursing home.
All my mother’s life, she lived joyously and richly. She squeezed every drop of enjoyment and meaning out of every day. She was almost always happy. It wasn’t that her life was always wonderful or exciting or fun. It wasn’t even that she had a particularly exotic or interesting life. Most people would say that her life was pretty conventional. She was a daughter and a sister and an aunt and a wife and a career woman and a mother and a friend. What made her so special was not so much what her life was, but how she lived it.
My mother had a gift for satisfaction. She collected fulfillment and meaning in her every action, even the most mundane experiences. When we were out driving somewhere and got off course, she’d often say, “I never get lost; I just have adventures.” I think that pretty much summed up how she approached life, way beyond just how she approached a road trip. Wherever she was going in life and whatever she did, she was determined to find happiness and pleasure in the process.
She was the kind of person who attracted other people. She was an interesting and interested person. She was curious about all kinds of things and embraced opportunities to learn. She relished good, meaty conversations. She was an excellent listener. She knew how to make people feel safe. She heard what you said and what you didn’t say. She heard what was underneath your words. I don’t believe there was ever anyone who knew her who did not love her. She constantly sowed love and harvested relationships as she rollicked through her day-to-day existence. She valued those relationships and nurtured them. Even in the nursing home in her very compromised state, she radiated a kindness and joy that attracted people.
On the other hand, she followed her own heart in living her own life. She did what she believed was right and followed the paths that brought her happiness. She used to say that she liked herself and she liked her own company. She had a busy mind that was always tooling away happily, creating thought and considering possibilities. I used to say she was her own occupational therapist because she could figure out alternate ways to do almost everything when her mobility started to desert her. She owned a home computer before most people did and, even in her eighties, she embraced new technology that added interest to her life.
She had courage of conviction. She walked her life with God as her guide. She held firm in her convictions and relied on her relationship with God to support her in her journey. She believed in prayer. She believed in miracles.
She loved God. She loved life. She loved other people. She loved herself. In short, she was a joyful beam of love, illuminating and warming everyone with whom she came in contact.
Now this beam of love has faded into the next life, leaving this life darker and colder and considerably less sparkling. The thought of going on with my journey without her physically by my side seems unconscionable. Considering all the memories we shared, all the things she taught me, and all the gifts she gave me, it is inaccurate to say I will ever be traveling through this life without her. All that she was is embedded in me and will be with me forever. I want to honor all she was and all that made her beam by carrying on her legacy of loving, joyful living.
It seems that now I will have to grow towards the joy on my own, without her walking in tandem with me. I don’t know yet how I am going to do that. It helps to know that she has found the greatest Joy of all.
Thanks to all of you for your support as I have walked this difficult path with my mother. Thanks, in particular, to my friends Louisa and Odete, who encouraged me to write this tribute to my mom. Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a joyful day!
Special programming announcement: I’ll be off the grid next week, but will be back with new content on October 4.