My mom changed her address to heaven eight years ago this week. In some ways it seems impossible it’s been that long since the day I held her hand and heard her draw her last breath is still so vivid in my mind. But then I think on all the things she’s missed. Among other things, my mom loved babies and there have been five new great grandchildren she would have loved to meet and cuddle. Our annual family vacations at the lake, holidays, weddings, graduations and family celebrations of all sorts. However much my mom has missed, though, we’ve missed her more.
My mom had the biggest heart of anyone I know and she shared her love with everyone her life touched. When I was growing up, she seemed to worry about everything and it was frustrating at times, but with age and motherhood, I’ve discovered that worry is part of caring. It’s easy not to worry when you don’t care so much, and my mother cared fiercely about all the important people and things in her life.
But as the years pass and the stinging loss fades to longing, it’s the memories of her that stay bright and remind me of all the things she brought into our lives.
My dad called her his cutie. In today’s world many women would find that offensive, but to my mother it was an endearment she treasured. And it was part of her personality. Even in her last years in the assisted living home, the caregivers often told her she was cute. (She was barely five feet tall by then.) She scoffed at the notion and told them she wasn’t cute, she was old. But I think she was still touched by the appellation.
As I look back over all the years, it’s a kaleidoscope of memories jumbled into one brilliant, beautiful pattern: the hours she spent sewing tiny, elaborate clothes for my favorite 6 inch doll, the abandoned baby squirrel she nursed until it grew strong enough to become a pet, the lily of the valley she would tuck into a tiny basket to leave on her mother’s door on May Day, her encouragement when I was down, her joy when I succeeded. We still laugh over the mosquito she rescued from freezing to death in the refrigerator and her refusal to let us squash it while it was still immobile with cold. And it’s even easy now to laugh at the way she would end an argument she was losing, by shutting her eyes so she could no longer read your lips. (She was completely deaf for the last 50 years of her life.)
Mom, Scotty & Me My Grammy, Me, my son Alex and Mom
Toward the end of her life, she began to horde and hide M&Ms and after she went into assisted living we found all her stashes in the most unlikely places. I think of her every time I find something in my own home that I tucked away and then forgot about. I also think about her when I’m folding clothes and realize how many of my garments are blue. My mom loved blue, pretty much to the exclusion of wearing any other color and I still chuckle about the day we were moving her into her new room at the assisted living facility and my daughter-in-law, who was hanging clothes in the closet held up a pink flowered blouse and began singing the Sesame Street song One of these things is not like the other.
We all have our favorite memories of my mom and we often share them when we get together at family affairs. But the most poignant and heartwarming of all the memories I hold in my heart is that of her smile. She smiled, I’m sure, at my first steps and the first time I called her Mama. She smiled, I know, at my graduation and my wedding and all the triumphs and joys of my life. But near the end of her life, when Alzheimer’s had taken so much away from her, even though she no longer remembered exactly who I was, her smile when I walked into her presence would light up an entire auditorium. She still knew that I was an important part of her life and she was happy that I'd come. That smile still wraps itself around my heart and keeps her close.
I love you mom. And I miss you, always.
Evelyn Woodd Stark Parker December 3, 1922 – February 19, 2008