Sunday, May 13, 2012
Today is Mother's Day. It has been almost 4 months, but it's still hard for me to grasp. You are on my mind constantly as try to carry on, going through the motions of daily life. Hardly a day goes by that I don't cry, my heart aching from missing you so very much. Of course all of us miss you, your dear friends, family and grandkids. Last night while I was trying to get Lily to bed, she called you on an invisible phone she held tight to her ear. She told you about the fun things she did while camping. She said she missed you and asked you if you were happy. I think she may be having the hardest time of all of us, grasping the fact that you are gone. She talks about you all the time and often out of the blue comes up with a question. A common time for her to do this is on long quiet walks on the trail with the dogs. After walking in silence for awhile she will turn to me and say "Mommy, does Gamma's leg hurt?" referring to the pain you experienced in your leg where the cancer was attacking in the days before you passed. I worry if it was a mistake to have her spend so much time with you in the last days, but my heart tells me it was not. I believe her being there brought you joy and of course she loved spending time with you, even in the end when you were unable to speak. I remember how sweetly she pretended to put nail polish on your fingers even when you could no longer grasp her hand. I do my best to remind her that you cannot feel pain anymore and not to worry. This question is almost always followed by the question "Is Gamma happy?". This is such a hard question to answer. I know how much you didn't want to leave us. How you fought so hard against the awful disease, enduring the often radical chemo appointments almost constantly for 2 years just to try and prolong the limited time you knew you had with us.
Two years ago, when we were told that your cancer was terminal, we all mourned. We knew what we were facing and it was just such a hard thing for all of us to take. We felt as though giant boulders were placed on our chests and we could not breath. In your usual style, you would not let this sadness go on for long. You quickly told us that there was nothing to gain my sitting around being depressed about the cards you were dealt. You set your sights on living life and trying as hard as possible to think about happier things, like spending time with your grandkids and riding your horse. This was the reason that you asked me not to write about your diagnosis on the blog. You said you already had to live with it, you didn't want to be reminded of it by reading about it on the blog. You also said you wanted people to think of you as "regular old Mardee, not poor Mardee with cancer". I could understand this, although it was hard to continue blogging, leaving so much of the story of what was going on in our lives unspoken.
Looking back, I am so very thankful that you did fight as hard as you did. I am grateful that in those 2 short years your granddaughter got to know and love her "Gamma". Visits with you were some of the biggest highlights of her life. She just glowed when she was around you. You were a big kid yourself, and kids just naturally gravitated to you. These qualities were part of what made you such a special mom, as well. You provided Zack and me with the most wonderful childhood we could ever imagine. We had all the love and fun a kid could ever ask for. You were not only our mom, but our amazing teacher as well, homeschooling us all the way up until college. You were so proud of all we accomplished, but of course it was just a reflection of what you instilled in us.
I would like to try and list all of the things that made you such a special individual. I realized though, that I could write for years and never really express how wonderful and selfless you really were. One of the most incredible things I have ever experienced was your memorial. All of your friends and family coming out in a terrible ice storm to celebrate the life of one extraordinary woman. So many people stood up to express the ways in which you touched their lives, often changing their way of thinking or helping to see something in a new light. The night was such a beautiful tribute to your spirit, you would have absolutely loved it. I felt guilty getting to see all of the old friends that I know you would have loved to have seen. It was the kind of thing you would have loved. Of course it was sad, but it was also uplifting, hearing all of the funny and sweet stories that people told about you.
Some time after the memorial, I received a beautiful letter from a friend of mine who attended. I think it is a beautiful tribute to the kind of person you were. Below is an excerpt from that letter:
"I only met your mom maybe twice, but I remember thinking to myself when we met her the first time, "What a nice lady!". After attending the memorial service I think "nice lady" is quite an understatement. I was amazed by how much good one person could do in their lifetime. I was amazed by how many people's (and animals') lives she had touched in such a positive way. I was amazed by how many true, devoted, caring friendships she had developed in her lifetime. I keep saying "I" but I speak for my husband, too. We both looked at each other many times through the service and just said, "Wow!". And we both cried our eyes out.
I was extremely moved by your mom's passion and drive for the things that were important to her. Her involvement with animal rescue, breastfeeding mothers, and individuals with special needs though her social work career is truly inspiring. Most people go through their lives not really making a difference in the world in any way at all. Some people have a big impact in one very specific area of need. Your mom made a huge impact on MULTIPLE intense areas of need, which was clearly evidenced by the number of people at the service and the amount of love one could feel in the air.
How is that possible? How is it that one person could do so much? I think the only way to explain this is by saying that some people are just born that way. There are just some special people that grace this earth for a short period of time that somehow, for some reason, from the deepest depths of their soul are just meant to be good people and do good in the world for others to see. I realize this might sound a bit extreme or dramatic, but I was truly inspired by your mom's life. It made me think really hard about the way I want to live my life. It made me think about how I want others to think of me. It made me think about how I have so much passion for some causes, but somehow can't seem to make the time to make a different win a big way like I want to. It made me think about the type of mom I want to be. It made me think about A LOT of things, which is really freaky because I did not go to the memorial service to have a life-changing experience. We just wanted to show some friends our love an support, but came home with a lot more than that."
I love this letter so much because it gives me it gives me a bit of peace. Peace in knowing that your mission in life will live on and even though you are gone, you are continuing to inspire others to make the world a better place. In your short life, you made such a huge impact. The world is so much better for having had you in it.
I wish so badly that I had Lily's magical phone through which I could still call you and hear your sweet voice. There are so many things I want to ask you. I want us to share the joys and frustrations of life, just like we always did. I want to hear you get angry about corrupt politicians and have you tell me a funny story about trick you just taught your horse. I want to hear your laugh as I tell you about Lily's latest antics.
I love you Mom and will miss you always.
slideshow my brother created for for the memorial:
Video of my mom with my niece from Christmas, Dec. 2009