|Mama in Boulder, sometime in the 1980s|
Just because your mother has died, it doesn't mean you don't have one. The experience of being mothered is deeply ingrained within us. I suppose some people who are raised in an orphanage or somehow separated from their natural mother might be an exception, but we are born into this world as tiny, helpless little creatures. It's true throughout the natural world. Last year I watched an eagle cam and peered into the nest at a loving set of parents feeding their infant chick, whose cries were answered by those doting birds. It aroused a deep emotion within me, and I cared for that infant and watched obsessively to make sure he was well taken care of. I know that my experience of having been cared for like that, caressed, fed, diapered, worried over, helped to shape me into the person I am today. Just because my mother is gone from this earth does not stop me from having had a loving mother and still benefiting from her love for me.
I was the oldest, and Mama was only nineteen when I was born; I was only nineteen when my son Chris was born, so Mama was a grandmother at what seems to me the incredibly young age of 38. She was still having children of her own then, and one of my sisters and my son were born only two months apart. That was a really long time ago now, and next year I will be the age Mama was when she died at 69. She seemed really young, and now that I am in her age ballpark, I know for a fact that she was both young but also lived a complete life. She was a widow with six grown children and lots of grandchildren when she died, and she is still missed and remembered with love by all of us. Two of my siblings changed their Facebook profiles in the last week to pictures of Mama. I thought about doing the same thing, but I have the luxury of this blog that gives me another outlet for this day. Happy Mother's Day, Mama, wherever you are.
And just because my two sons are no longer here does not mean that Mother's Day does not apply to me as well. Stephen died after only having been on this planet for thirteen months, and it was in the early 1960s, so long ago that the memory of him is lost to me. The pain that I bore for so many years is now gone, too. Today, I can rejoice in my beautiful grandniece Lexie and other small children. That was not the case for many years; I turned away from any infant because the pain was so intense. Now when I think back, the memory of that pain is like a scar on my heart. I can feel it was there, but it's healed over and has become a part of who I am today. It no longer hurts, but when I feel the edges of that scar with my mind, I can easily recall those years.
Even the more recent of my losses, my son Chris, is no longer so painful, but it's only been nine years ago that he died, so that emotional scar is still red and hurting. But today when I think of Chris, I remember his laugh; it was so uniquely his own that its sound comes to me across the depths of time. Just because your children are gone, you are still a mother. Everyone's child, if they are fortunate, grows up and away from their parents anyway. Things just never stay the same.
The nature of life is change, and the older I grow, the more I realize that trying to hold onto any moment in time is fruitless. We are both blessed and cursed by our memories, but I would never willingly give up mine. It's true that they may not be not the same events that actually occurred in the past, as they have been changed by my ability to recall them through the lens of my faulty memory. My mother's faults have fallen away and I remember her only with love and tenderness. Even when I recall something she did that gave me grief in the past, now I smile and wonder why it was such a big deal back then.
This is actually a gift, I realize now. Memories are not cast in stone and unchanging, just as all life is amorphous and unpredictable. We just have to ride the waves and remember the good times.