It’s been two and a half years since you passed away, your last words of whispered love in the dim Comfort Care room at St. Vincent’s etched into my heart forever. Thank you for leaving me with absolutely no doubt that you knew you were loved more than words can say, and for making sure I knew the same from you. What a precious gift you gave to me- one of countless others.
You told me toward the end that I was not sentimental, but you were wrong about that. I am just sentimental in a different way from you; where you saved everything, I keep only those things that really make me feel my loved one with me. Remember how surprised you were when I told you I had saved every single letter and card you ever sent to me? I see your writing, from it’s careful, painstaking beauty of your younger days, to it’s messy scrawl of your last year when your tired body was giving out, and I can hear you speak the words to me in your sweet Southern drawl. I cherish your mahogany chest-of-drawers, and keep snowmen out all year in your memory. I toot your walker horn and press the button on your happy pill to bring a smile to my face when I am missing you most.
With the passing of time, I’ve processed a lot of things, so much coming into clarity that perhaps I just didn’t really understand or appreciate before, and I need to thank you for some things that I didn’t know I needed to thank you for.
Thank you for teaching me that money doesn’t make us rich. I think about every space you lived in, from the old house on Westwood Lane to your apartment at the Home for Wayward Seniors; you always made your home your palace, no matter how humble it was. You took great pains- no matter the lack of money- to make the space so completely yours. Your home was filled with priceless gifts of love and laughter that always made people feel warm and welcomed. Dan and I do our best to do the same.
Thank you for teaching me to be kind and gentle. The more time passes, I think of this as one of your super powers. You often said that “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar“, and over and over throughout our time together I saw you move through your life constantly thinking of others, doing small kindnesses that were in your ability to do, helping people where you could- when you were often the person in need of help yourself. You made a difference in the lives of those around you, something I strive to emulate each day.
Finally, thank you for teaching me to choose to be happy in my life, no matter my circumstances. You experienced so much sadness, upheaval, and loss in your ninety-two years, and yet you chose to hold your head high, fix yourself up (in true Southern Lady style, no less), and face the world with a smile. I laughed the other day when I looked in the mirror while getting ready for work…even though I am your tomboy daughter much of the time, I had taken great pains to put on make-up, a nice outfit, pretty jewelry, and, yes, used your beloved hairspray. They say we become our mothers, and I guess I am becoming you- not such a bad thing, though. About now I can hear your giggle echoing in my heart, along with your “I told you so, Neese.” I have had my own sadness, upheaval, and loss in my fifty-four years, and like you, I will always choose to be happy, to look for the good.
Thank you again and again for the many lessons you didn’t even know you taught me. But most of all, thank you for your love. Just like all those lessons you imparted, your love will stay with me forever, too.