Joyce, my Mother, passed away one year ago today on April 6, 2016, at eighty-three. Her cancer was diagnosed three weeks after Daddy passed away from prostate cancer. Five years she survived before Multiple Myeloma, bone marrow cancer, and chemo weakened her heart; all alone on her favorite couch, Mother had a massive heart attack-all alone. That haunts me. I know in my soul that You, Dear Lord, were with her as well as Daddy, Mama, my grandmother, my Granddaddy, and a host of other relatives and friends that had gone on before. But I wasn’t there; none of her daughters were there; we weren’t there. Again, that haunts me.
I am not in denial; Mother wasn’t an easy person to love; Mother was loved by many, those that weren’t family. She had a commanding personality; few people really crossed her. I guess I’m the one that challenged her the most. We had many knock-down-drag-outs, as we call them in the South. She usually won; but I got in my licks as well.
Okay, now … that’s out of the way.
Mother was a delight to be around. She never knew a stranger; after five minutes with a new acquaintance she’d know their history up one side and down the other; again, as we say in the South. She had the best smile; it could light up a room. Her laugh was contagious, her wit quick, her energy amazing into her sixties and early seventies, and she was beautiful. She really was.
Mother was a twin and she and her sister won Miss Hartsville together. We have pictures of them in huge Southern belle hats and dresses of lace my Mama sewed for them. Mama made all their clothes; they and the clothes were stunning! Mother and her sister have many stories growing up as identical twins. I will write them down one day; most are hilarious; many are daring; and some are just downright unbelievable. But they are true!
I remember Mother dancing the ‘jitterbug’ with us girls in the kitchen. She had a dance partner in her teens. She and Danny Mack would have a dance date early and then they’d have late dates with those they were sweet on. I would have given anything to see her dance with Danny Mack. I don’t know if he’s passed on, but, I just bet Mother has found someone to ‘jitterbug’ with in Heaven. It won’t be Daddy; bless his heart, he couldn’t dance!
Mother went back to college in the late sixties and graduated with a B.A. in Elementary Education in 1972. I started college in 1974 and by 1980 Mother’s three girls were teachers. We followed her into the profession; one for which we girls were uniquely suited. During her college days, the ‘Hippie Era’, Mother became ‘hipper’ than her girls; which was kinda strange and kinda cool, too. I tutored her in Algebra and helped her study the parts of a frog. We all studied then; we were all students then; we were.
We sang together, my sisters and I; we started when I was seven and the twins were five. Mother made our dresses; Mother was our director; Mother was our cheerleader; Mother was our critic; Mother was our biggest fan; well, she and Daddy were our biggest fans. Mother always said she didn’t do anything well-not true. She and Daddy reared three girls who became career teachers, serving the Great State of South Carolina. After Mother earned her Master’s degree, the three of us earned ours; later my sisters and I became National Board Certified Teachers. That’s a big deal; it really is. My parents were quite proud of their girls. I am and always have been proud of both Mother and Daddy.
Families are really strange unions. I have yet to find one that didn’t have some sort of quirkiness, some dysfunction, some monsters, aliens, or ghosts hiding in their closets. No matter, blood ties are strong. DNA is even stronger. Love exists there. Where there is love, no matter how much or how little, where there is love there You are, Dear Lord; right there in the midst of any family You are there. Ignored maybe, revered maybe, hated maybe, but there-waiting on the porch, knocking at the door, asked inside for a visit, asked to leave, or greeted with warm hospitality.
Mother spoke of her God. I know You were with her when she passed. I know You were with her in the hospital when three nurses and I almost lost her in the wee hours of the morning after surgery; she had two rods implanted; one went through her left femur, through the cancerous tumor, and connected with another rod joining the hip. The surgery never did anything but cause her pain; she became less and less mobile; she wouldn’t take pain pills as prescribed; medicines scared her. She suffered for five long years. She survived major surgery, rehab, radiation, chemo, steroid induced diabetes, breathlessness, and all the other unpleasant side effects of chemo that rob one’s dignity. I really don’t know what her last hours, minutes, were like. I pray she did not suffer long. I see Daddy reaching down to take her hand and join him in Paradise. Daddy loved her so. Dear Lord, I am sure You and Mother had a lot of straightening out to do; I hope she did some listening, which would require her not to talk. But You know all that. Please assure her that I love her and miss her every day. She and I talked on the phone almost daily; she was my best friend. I am doing my best to be a good girl; that never came natural to me, as You know, Dear Lord. I like my life here, but dying isn’t fearful for me now. Mother, Daddy, and Anne have preceded me into Heaven; I am not ready to leave now, but, I look forward to our Heavenly Reunion … I’ll be there ya’ll … in the blink of an eye!
“Motherhood is a choice you make everyday, to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is … and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.” Donna Ball, At Home on Ladybug Farm
“A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.” Washington Irving
“There is something about losing your mother that is permanent and inexpressible — a wound that will never quite heal.” Susan Wiggs, American author
“The death of a mother is the first sorrow wept without her.” Author Unknown