How to say Goodbye
To say that my mother is survived by her three children and their spouses and children would be such a discredit to her legacy. Her offspring, her loves, will thrive after the loss of our beloved mother and Sugar. Not because we are not heartbroken, but because she taught us grit, determination, and grace.
My mother lived with a cancer diagnosis; she thrived and glowed in the last days of her life. She forgave and loved and faced the transition from this life to the next with such beauty and grace.
She taught us what thriving looks like.
So, this will not be an obituary talking about survivors and garden club activities. It will not be a litany of the things we think are important here on earth; what it will be is a tribute to a woman who dug in every time things got uncomfortable, who did hard things, who in the end forgave others, forgave herself and let go of fear.
As it became apparent that we were no longer going to keep dancing with cancer. That the lights were dimming and the tune to the last dance was starting, we shifted gears. We moved from radical optimism to quiet acceptance.
She fought, I fought, we all fought for so long. To achieve an unattainable goal, to beat death, I called upon every imaginable resource. Short of a village witch doctor, we have seen and done it all. And if the pandemic hadn’t grounded as, I would have had her in a hut in Malawi with a Ghuli Wamkuli if I thought we had a chance.
It took me three years to realize that it was not about the end goal. I could not keep my mother alive no matter how desperately I tried. And I tried. Desperately.
We learned it is not about living or dying. It was about the time we had, the lessons we learned, the victories we had, the soul-crushing defeats we weathered. It was a culmination of it all. It was the little moments that mattered.
Sometimes I missed my mother even as she was sitting next to me. I longed for the end goal (of eternal life on earth) when my prize was right in front of me. I was counting minutes looking for meaning in this mess when all the meaning I needed was sitting beside me.
I wanted an immense aha moment. I wanted to learn something profound that made all of this suffering and discomfort worth it.
The lesson never came in the package I wanted. It came in the moments, not in the minutes.
It came in the acceptance and the surrender, not the fight or the miracles.
Life rarely looks like we think it should, but it goes as it should.
Life is more expansive than our narrow minds can imagine.
My mother’s story has not been a storybook. It was hard. A single mother who raised three children without a lot of support. A woman who did jobs she didn’t like and didn’t match her enormous talent because she was so determined to give her children more than she had while raising her children to be self-sufficient, motivated problem solvers.
Perhaps to her detriment, her first loves were always her children. Matters of the heart proved challenging, maybe because she used so much of her heart to raise her three children.
Despite the hardship, she saved and sacrificed, and she loved us.
Her legacy to her family is one of love, strength, and in the end, surrender and forgiveness.
As we traveled the last days together, I asked her if she was scared. She said no, but she wished she had spent less time being petty, holding onto anger, and that she wished she had practiced forgiveness earlier. She told me not to waste time being petty.
In her final days, her gift to us was acceptance, surrender, forgiveness, and love.
These are the components of a powerful legacy.
These are the ingredients for a life well-lived.
Life often feels like too much and also never enough. Living with cancer was, at times, too much and never enough.
Death is the same. It is unbearable, yet it is bearable. It feels like too much. It is never enough.
We could never have enough of our mother.
It will never be enough.
It will have to be.
I read that the half-life of grief is infinity. Fortunately, the half-life of love is also infinity.
We will lovingly grieve our mother for infinity.
Until we meet again, momma, you are so loved.