appreciation, families, Love, mothers

Mom

I don’t know how to talk about her.   I never have.   My love for her grows up from such a deep place within me that words have always seemed elusive.  Few others matter as much as her.  Still, the words to describe how I feel about her, seem to slip away before I can pin them down.   Perhaps others might feel this as well?  There’s just something about mothers that make them so significant that they evade definition by the sheer magnitude of their importance.

I used to write about my Dad all the time.  Especially when he was alive.  Birthdays, Father’s Day and any other holiday that might require a gift of words.    It was easy to gift him this.  I could write pages about him.   The words flowed easily and often.   He was larger than life.   And he loved the words.  Loved to hear how he was seen.  How he was loved.

My mother asked me once, why I didn’t often write things about her?   She misunderstood it, I think, to mean that she meant less.   But the opposite was true.   She meant so much more, that my heart wouldn’t allow me the words to describe it.   She isn’t larger than life, she is life.

But she’s turning 86 this week.  And I know I can’t avoid it forever.   I don’t want the first words I write about her to be a eulogy.   I want her to KNOW.   So here is what feels like a feeble attempt at describing what she means to me.

I think, perhaps I can explain some of it through who I have become by being loved by her.  If you are my husband, or child and you are sick.   I am there for you.   I will climb mountains, sacrifice both my own health and my sleep, pray deeply and spare no expense…to do all within my power to restore you to health.  I will not think twice about this.   I consider it my greatest honor and my duty to be able to love you.  For when you are hurt I am hurt.   This I learned watching my mother.

Thinking back to the times when I was sick during my childhood, I can still hear my father in the middle of the night, waking up my mother….”Beverly, she’s calling you….”   I never called for him.   Always her.   She knew how to soothe.  How to comfort.   Her hands were always cool and refreshing to a fevered brow.   It seemed she could make me better just by willing it to be so.

When I grew and left home, it took me years of dealing with late night illnesses, before I stopped longing for her presence when I was sick.  It was one of the hardest things to give up when I moved away.

And my mother KNOWS things.   She always has.   Still to this day even.   “Are you alright?” she’ll ask.   I have revealed nothing, yet she knows.   I love that.   It’s an instinct she has.   Cultivated over years of having to read between the lines with her children.  And no matter her age, this instinct is as sharp as ever.

My mother is a part of everything I have become.   When I am like my dad, I am noticed.  But when I am like my mother, I am loved.  People just love her.   She’s the person you bump into in the grocery store and end up telling your life story to.   You don’t know why you did it, she didn’t ask, but something about her openness compels you.  She is a safe place to reveal yourself.   This is part of what always made her a great secret keeper!   I could tell her anything.

The funny thing about my mother is that she doesn’t even grasp how much she is loved.  She struggles with feelings of unworthiness.  Her life long focus has always been so much on others that her world is off kilter when the emphasis is on her. She often thinks people are catering to her out of the goodness of their hearts.   When the truth is they are responding to her in love and with love – a love that is just for her.

I can’t change this about her, but I have tried.  I’ve tried to impress upon her the significance she plays in her children’s lives…but she can’t hold on to it.  She struggles to understand her own great worthiness. Recently she said to me, “Won’t you be so glad when I’m gone?   You’ll have some free time!”   These words hurt, but she doesn’t mean them to.   She hates to impose.  Hates to take.   And she so values me and my time that taking up some of it feels like a tremendous burden to her.

Will I be happier when she’s gone?  Not a chance.   There is not one moment of time that I have spent with her that I would exchange for something else.   And I know, no matter how many more moments I have, there will never be enough time with her.   I will always want more.

I grew up being told by her (repeatedly!!), “You should never hate anyone.”   I was the dramatic child who hated everyone and everything when frustrated.   Her words drove me crazy.   Didn’t she understand, some things deserved to be hated?  But I regularly hear her saying that in my head these days and the older, less drama driven version of myself, recognizes the beauty in what she tried to impress upon me.   She was right.  Little did I know, she was shaping how I see others.

But she has also shaped how I see myself.  I showed her something I wrote the other day.  She read it, smiled and responded with , “You are really something!!”  And when she says it, I believe it.  I feel like something.   Who else on this planet thinks of me and thinks, “She is really something!!” in the way my mother does?  All blinders to my faults, seeing only the good…..when she says it, you know it’s only a part of who you are but she sees the best part.   And it makes you want to be even better.

My mother has always been a kind, gentle soul.  A fierce protector of those she loves.  There have been moments though, where she has had to rise to tough challenges.   Like the time when I was hit by a car at 16.   My leg was shattered.  One bone in a million little pieces and the other coming right out of my leg.   My foot torn up so much that the bones could be seen.  My mother entered the emergency room and the doctor put her to work.  I don’t know where the rest of the staff were that day, but while I lie awake on a table, the doctor and my mother proceed to clean my leg.  It was a slow, painstaking process.   I know I was in agonizing pain but I don’t remember the pain.  What I remember from that moment was my mother.  She was a rock!  She assisted the surgeon, did everything he asked and did it well.  How on earth, did she do it?  I still don’t know.   But the image of the strength she portrayed that day has stayed with me ever since.

Yes, she’s a kind, gentle soul who did whatever she needed to do for those she loved.  I’ve been the beneficiary of that love and devotion my entire life.  So when I’m spending time with her, I’m not thinking about where I might rather be or what else I could be doing.  Instead, I’m thinking….I love this woman.   Every moment with her is a gift.  And it’s a gift I can never get enough of

Happy Birthday Mom.  I love you.

 

 

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families, living and growing

Transforming Love

“It’s been a slow but steady change. Something that bordered on indifference had transformed into investment and caring. An awakening awareness. 6 years ago my Uncle Ed died. His death, which came a year after my Aunt Mary’s death, shattered my father. He was the oldest of 4 siblings. He had lost his youngest brother years ago. But it was the recent death of his brother and sister, that broke him. The man who had always played the role of the big brother had no siblings left to care for and protect. He struggled with the injustice of them going before him. The consummate big brother had lost his purpose.

My Uncle Ed and my Dad had for many years, lived within a 40 mile radius of each other. They got together often, talked on the phone regularly and were deeply invested in each other’s lives. Each had children of their own and tried to get these cousins together on a regular basis.

Some of my siblings developed, early on, deep and lasting relationships with these “Framingham Convery’s” as we called them. My relationship with them was different. There were six Framingham cousins in all. Three of them were quite a bit older than me, closer to my own siblings ages. But I had one cousin a year older than me, one a year younger and one two years younger. And for most of our childhood we had the type of relationship children have when they feel forced to play with one another. I liked them more than I disliked them and as we all got older we came to like each other even more and let our own insecurities go.

But the overall indifference I felt, remained. Until their father died. Having their dads brother as my dad, I knew what they had lost. I understood the impact. Both men were larger than life. Both left a huge vacuum that time and space could not fill. My dad died just over a year after his brother. And my understanding of exactly what their loss felt like, grew.

And as that understanding grew, my indifference began to be transformed into something new. The indifference had not been born out of dislike but rather stemmed from the busyness of life. For our entire lives, our fathers updated us all on each other’s lives. No real investment was necessary. I could listen as my father would recite to me all he had learned about each of my cousins from his latest phone call. I could smile or be sad for them, whichever was appropriate and then go on with my life.

Until there were no more updates to rely on. And these people, this small band of Convery Framingham’s began to grow in importance to me. Why? Because THEY KNEW. They understood the depth of my loss. We had a shared history that I could no longer allow to languish on the sidelines of indifference. Slowly and surely I began to care. Indifference gave way to curiosity. Not a gawking kind of curiosity but the kind that develops as one starts to see the value another holds.

Each year since their dad died, my Framingham cousins have held a fund raiser around St Patrick’s day to raise money for a scholarship in my uncles name. And each year I have gone. Our dads both loved their Irish heritage and the day that allowed them to celebrate it. It’s a warm time and as the years go by, it feels less and less sad and more and more of a tribute to exactly what those two men would have wanted. The tribute goes well beyond the Irish celebrations because the real tribute is the growing relationships. It would have delighted both of them.

This year I noted a change when I went. I always enjoy it and have looked forward to it from its beginning. But this year, I felt something new. I felt at home. Completely relaxed. No pretense. No walls built up from years of indifference. I felt a deep abiding appreciation and a deepening curiosity. These people MATTER! I need to know more about them. I WANT to know about their lives. I feel that I have been given a gift……a gift stemming from the love two brothers had for each other. Finally I was open to it being passed down in a way that transformed my heart. My cousins have experienced this too…I can see it and feel it when I am with them.

I know my dad and my uncle are smiling down at us….glad we finally understand what they knew, all along. These growing relationships reconnect us with a part of ourselves that was lost when our dad’s left this earth. But connecting with each other isn’t just about holding onto to something we have all lost. Its bigger than that. This connecting transforms us. It takes us off the path of indifference and puts us on a path of deep, abiding love. That’s a transformation worth celebrating and a tribute to the special love that began long ago. A love that transforms.

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comfort, death, dying, eternal life, families, home, hope, living and growing, military, mourning, moving on, music, peace

Major Tom

Shortly before my dad died, a song came on the radio.    I hadn’t heard it in many years.  It immediately struck me that this song would become connected to my fathers death.

https://youtu.be/VNYFsOAmuFc  Major Tom – Coming Home by Peter Schilling.

Having served in the Air Force, my father retired from the military as a Major.  Even 40+ years after his retirement he was still introducing himself as Major Tom.    I remember his pleasure when this song came out in 1983.

Several days passed after my hearing it on the radio.   My siblings and I had started sleeping over my parents house in anticipation of my father dying.   We did not want to leave him and my mother to walk through that valley alone.

Four, three, two, one – Earth below us
Drifting, falling – Floating weightless
Calling, calling home……..

The night before my dad died, my brother and I were sleeping over my parent’s house.   I had woken up around 3pm to see if my father needed his meds.   He was alive but quiet, I decided to leave him alone.   I went back to sleep.   Shortly after 5 am, I was startled awake.  A sense of urgency caused me to jump up and rush into the room where my father was.   I slipped beside his bed and listened.   My brother had been in a recliner beside my dads bed.   He rested his hand on my fathers chest and we both looked for signs of life.    We quietly called his name.    For the first time in our lives, there was no response.

Back at ground control -There is a problem
“Go to rockets full” – Not responding
“Hello, Major Tom – Are you receiving?
Turn the thrusters on – We’re standing by”
There’s no reply……..

My brother assumed the awful role of going to tell my mother.   While he was waking and then telling her, I had a chance to one last time tell my father thank you.   To tell him, he had been a good dad.   I told him I loved him and I was going to miss him.   As my mother entered the room, I left to call my other brothers and sister.   And so began the truly, most exhausting day of my life.

Earth below us – Drifting, falling
Floating weightless – Coming home….

By mid afternoon, I arrived home.   The mortician had come and taken my dads body, calls had been made, events set in motion.    The trip to the florist has been forever stamped in my mind.   As my sister and I sat there trying to pick out flowers that would somehow express the magnitude of our love for this man, I was overwhelmed with exhaustion.   Every movement and thought was an exercise of sheer will power.  My physical body and my emotions were tapped of all strength.  When I finally arrived home I laid down on my bed, too tired to even cry.

As I laid there, I sent a friend a text telling her what had happened.   Her texted response, “Oh, Beth, I’m so sorry!” was spoken into my heart as if she had said it out loud to me. The sincerity of those words had an effect on me that I still can not describe.   My broken heart responded with a relieving flood of tears.

Desperate for something to soothe the pain, the song I had heard a few days before came to mind.  I found it on youtube and within minutes was listening, and sobbing and unknowingly starting down the path to healing.

The words continued to comfort me in the days and weeks following my fathers death.   My father was like that astronaut in the song, heading into the unknown.   My Dad understood that dying would be his last mission.  He knew that he was heading into uncharted territory.   A countdown had begun.   We all knew it as we gathered around him in his last days of life.   In his last week of life, He repeatedly asked about my mother, did we know where the paperwork was?    We reminded him, he had done a good job, that he had made sure her needs would be met.   And we were here.   We would take over.   He could rest.

Far beneath the ship – The world is mourning

They don’t realize – He’s alive
No one understands – But Major Tom sees

“Now the light commands – This is my home – I’m coming home”

These lines in particular give me peace.   He is no longer here because he’s gone home.   My mind wants to war with that idea.   We are his home, it cries!   But that is not the truth.   We were part of a place he called home for 88 years but his true home, where he will spend eternity, is not here.    And I am reminded that he is very much alive.   His soul, the truest part of him, has not died.   He has gone ahead.   Not with a goodbye.   For those of us who believe, his death comes with a simple thought – ‘I’ll see you later….at home.’

 

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