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Life Lessons from Mom

My mother had been gifted three bonus years of life through the help of modern medicine and her unwillingness to leave her family just yet. She got a devastating medical diagnosis as the holiday season approached ten years ago. Through her grit, strength, and ability to endure weeks of chemotherapy followed by surgery and radiation therapy, she won her battle with cancer. But as always happens to us, eventually, death pulled her in after a time when she was weakened and ready to stop fighting the inevitable.

Mom couldn't swallow solid foods in the final months of her life. Sports drinks and coconut water kept her hydrated, but with little food, her body melted down to little more than stretched-out skin covering her frail bones. During the dog days of summer, the year she died, Mom dressed in her warmest sweaters and long pants since there was no more body fat to insulate her skeletal frame. But every day she found the strength to get up and dress, put on sneakers, and come downstairs to sit in her favorite chair where she'd watch TV, do a word search, and enjoy a visitor now and then in her home.

I still think of her often. Her essence lingers in my memory and the mirror—more so now that I look more like her as I get older. I feel good remembering her now, but our relationship was sometimes stormy, a love/hate, at least for me, as it can often be with mothers and daughters.

Tears well up in my eyes at times when I recall how I, as my younger self, was unkind to her and blocked the loving connection that I know she would have preferred. She was selfless, and her love for me was unwavering; I am certain of that. I swam in the stormy sea of ego for so much of my younger years, as many people unknowingly do, not recognizing that quality in themselves until much later in life. We're creatures of habit and sometimes continue to act on autopilot, repeating behaviors that no longer serve us well. But we have free will to change direction, to choose to break out of a routine or established pattern, once we come to our senses. Happily, Mom and I became closer and more loving to one another in her final years. I was able to let my ill feelings connected with her dissolve once I knew I'd be losing her soon and that she was now living her final chapter. The words 'I Love You' didn't flow between us, but we showed our love for each other by spending more time together. And we both enjoyed those precious times. It helped me realize that small moments comprise a big part of our lives. It can be simple if we allow it to be and have free time to spend on ourselves.

Looking back, I realize how much my mother loved me by what she didn't say and how she didn't react. She just wasn't harsh. She was generous with her time, her home, her money, and whatever she had. There were plenty of times when she could have been mean but chose not to be. That's a quality of her character that I most admire. And her generous spirit.

My mom stayed in our family home until she died. We moved there when I was ready to start first grade. It was a wonderful bedroom community where I had many friends, always kids around to play with, and friendly neighbors. It was a great place to develop a sense of community and family. Knowing that she was there over the years, even in her old age, and that her door was always open, even when I'd stop over unannounced, gave me a secure foundation and sense of her love that didn't die with her. I still have it and can sense her guiding me at times. I remember to listen only to love and let hard feelings dissipate, to be accepting, and to figure out how to not be combative. That leads to resilience and better outcomes. One last lesson from Mom - death comes, but love remains. Thanks for the memories, see you again.

Written by Janet Polech, blogger, on April 30, 2024

"A Mother holds her children's hearts forever." Janet Polech

"My Mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it." - Mark Twain

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