When I was in my 40s, my dear mother passed away.
I knew my mother had many medical problems that she had stayed on top of for years, but being diligent about one's health isn't always enough. She had had some serious surgery before my children were born, and fortunately I was available to help take care of her.
Even after I got married, my mother was a big part of my life; hardly a day went by that we didn't chat, even if only for a few moments at the end of the day. She loved hearing my stories about work, child rearing and my experiences; I could always make her laugh.
As my family increased with two boys, my mother couldn't have been happier. She had so looked forward to having grandchildren, and between my brother and myself, she had four wonderful boys to "kvell" over. Since I continued to work after my children started school, she was a large part of our lives, looking after the kids when I needed her. If she happened to be doing her "Mall Walk" at that time, I would drop the boys off and they would join her.
When my parents went to Florida for the winter, along with the other snow birds, she would spend the whole winter hunting for bargains to bring home to the boys -- to her enjoyment. For her, it was the "hunt as much as the kill." The boys knew that when Grandma came home in the spring, they would have bags of clothing that Grandma had collected over the winter.
The last winter she and my dad traveled to Florida, she had not been feeling herself. Hoping that the warm Florida sun would improve her health, she waited it out.
But, since she had gone through two open heart surgeries previously, we were leery that her health was again failing.
People live day to day thinking their parents will just keep living. Before we realize it, they have aged, and along with age come ailments. My mom was still young by today's standards when she died, 70 years old. When she entered the hospital with her symptoms, I naturally assumed it would be for a short time and she would resume her routine soon enough.
That was not the case this time. Her heart had been slowly failing, and to open her for a third time would be unsuccessful. There were too many things failing this time. I think in her heart she knew this was her final stay, but even until her last waking moment, she put up a hopeful face for us all.
Losing a parent has to be right up at the top of the list of pain and grief. As I watched my mother's life slowly slip away, I felt the worst pain I have ever experienced in my life.
From that point on, my life took on a different face. I began to take nothing for granted, began to really realize how short life really is, and found something every day to be thankful for. I know this is how my mother perceived life -- and I finally got it.
As I begin to age myself, I sometimes look into the mirror and can see my mother in me. I know she is in good hands, because she can only be among the angels. Her inspiration and spirit will live within me forever, and knowing the lives she touched along the way serves to comfort me.
I still miss sharing my stories about the day with her but I somehow know she can still hear me.