When a Mother Dies
Something big happens to a family when a mother dies.
Odd thing, death. I never get used to it. You would think I would, by now. My uncles: Bernhard; Hub; Tony; Kenny; Ray; My aunts Evelyn; Emma. My grandmother, Maude Ann. My beloved mother, Harriet and my father, Gunder. I say their names, because these elders of mine…my elders…let me stand on their shoulders.
And today, we had another death in the family. My mother-in-law, Betty, died this morning a little before 9, joining her husband, Harold, in the Presence of God. She just turned 93. A long life, yes. Well lived, yes. But still…it is over. We knew it was going to happen; we had hospice. We all prayed for mercy, for Jesus to gather her to Himself. And yet when death came, we were startled, somewhat stunned. “Are you all right,” we ask each other, just to make sure of each other. “You still there? Good. So am I.” Unexpected tears flow.
My son Eric calls, asking me, “What was Grandma’s favorite dinner?”
“Well, I guess it would be pot roast…with carrots, mashed potatoes and gravy. And pie for dessert. With ice cream.” So on his lunch hour he went to the store, got the ingredients for a pot roast dinner and we had Mom’s “Sunday dinner” tonight, Tuesday night.
Something big happens to a family when a mother dies. Even if she is older, and can’t remember anyone’s names; even if she can’t make her special pies and recipes anymore. She is the mother, the grandmother. The matriarch. The heart of the family that holds things together. She represents the core of the family, and family revolves around her.
How does one prepare for death in the midst of life? In the midst of Christmas?
Just live: Savor every moment, every beautiful moment. Today, I babysat my eight-month old grandson; did piano lessons with my ten year old grandson; and watched my eight year old grandson practice hoops. I wrapped Christmas gifts for our kids in California who won’t make it home for Christmas. Admired the Christmas trees and lights. Talked with each one of my children, loving the sounds of their voices.
Tomorrow we will do the work of putting a much-loved life to rest. But tonight we listen to music and the swirl of conversation and laughter of family, savoring creamy mashed potatoes. And rhubarb pie—with a scoop of ice cream—and a great cup of coffee.