In the photo above in 2019, my mom is at my book signing in Fayetteville, NC. My mother died of natural causes Wednesday, August 10, 2022.
She was a child who was born because her sister LuMaddy, whom she never met, was killed in a truck accident at age 2. She had a sister 10 years older. When I lost my son to suicide, my mom dropped everything and drove up immediately with my ailing dad to be with me, and help us with everything including practical things like going to the pawn shop and picking up some of my son’s last possessions. There we stood three women in a pawn shop, me, my best friend Martha, and my mom. We couldn’t have stood out more if we’d worn fluorescent orange pantsuits. But she went and I needed her.
This new grief does trigger past grief but also reflection, love, and the meaning of life.
Generous and practical, my mom’s support never wavered. She ushered me and my brother through a lot of hardship. Some of mine included a broken neck at 15 from a diving accident, a brutal attempted rape, and murder at 18, a brain tumor at 36, and my son’s suicide in 2015. I know my dad’s health and mind were failing right after Charles died and she could have used more of my support then, but she knew I was barely existing, breaths taken in sips, a life that was temporarily underwater. I will not say our relationship was always perfect because were different in so many ways.
She was able to go on a river cruise with us down the Danube in 2019 just weeks before the world shut down. She was physically compromised at this point but she had the best time. In my entire life, I have never seen my mother drunk or tipsy. When she did drink, she never had more than two drinks and usually never more than one.
So it was our final night and we had planned to get the table for 10 so we could spend it with the group of people we’d gotten to know. She had only one drink, a Manhattan, and I swear the bartender put rocket fuel in hers because suddenly she was uber-animated and as everyone entered, she’s waving her arms and laughing and telling everyone to be seated. She had so much fun playing the gregarious matriarch that night, which if you know my mom, was not exactly in her character. We had a ball watching her have so much fun.
She was 87 and blessed to have died peacefully in her sleep in her own home right after a family get-together she enjoyed immensely. That’s exactly what she wanted. And I am grateful for that.
The day before she died she went to her bridge group even though she didn’t feel well–a gathering that had happened for decades. Honestly, it was as much a support group as it was a social outing.
I know some of you lost your mother early, even to suicide, or grieve that you never got from your mom the love and support you deserve. For many, the mom relationship may have been laced with trauma.
I know I’m fortunate to have had someone who thought I was the center of the universe. I won’t lie. I will miss that.