The two men worked side by side in a state of perfectly synchronized concentration on the job before them. Both in their fifties, their mirrored hairlines and mustaches marking them as brothers. I stood by as invisibly as possible, thrilled to be witness to their closeness and their ease with one another.
As we worked throughout the day setting up Mark's expanded antique space, I felt such gratitude for the relationships the four of us have forged in the last few years. Our older brother had been there helping the night before and would check in with us repeatedly throughout the day.
As adult siblings raised in a home where we rarely got beyond survival, the fact that we've grown so close is a blessing beyond belief. It's not always easy to find common ground, and our differences often create challenges that require a strong inclination to forgive. However, these three men, my younger brothers, are the people I love the most and feel the safest with (except for Walt). I know without doubt that they'd do anything for me, as I would for them.
Our mom died on Monday, two days after we set up Mark's space. She'd been in a nursing home for years, and just recently been placed in the care of Hospice. So her death wasn't unexpected, but neither were we prepared for it to be so soon.
In the hours after we were notified, I was amazed at the flurry of phone calls between us. Everyone talked to everyone else, and some of us talked a number of times. Through the physical shock of the first onset of grief I was aware and deeply grateful that we were reaching out to each other automatically.
As many of you know, I had a complicated relationship with my mom. One which I've spent most of my life reconciling, and one that I'd come to accept for what it was. I discovered in the last few years that I'd forgiven her to the point of loving her and feeling compassion for the difficult life she endured.
She was 79, and had been lost in the canyons of dementia for years. Before then she was reclusive, shy, and intensely private. Her childhood was a nightmare we only learned the barest bones about well after our own childhoods were distant memories. She was an equal partner in our dairy, kept books for other businesses, raised four children, and cared for her sick husband in his last months. She loved flowers and puzzles and little dogs. Giving gifts made her happier than just about anything else. She was a bad cook who still managed to create memorable meals that continue to speak comfort to us. She believed God would provide. She had beautiful hands, and when I was a girl I thought she looked just like a young Elizabeth Taylor.
There weren't many calls to make, and there won't be a public memorial service or a funeral. There aren't many people for whom her death holds any meaning at all.
Except for her four children. We are her legacy, and I hope that she can finally enjoy what she created and shaped. We are resilient, productive and resourceful. We are creative, amazing problem-solvers, and easily generous. By a number of different measures, we are successful and contributing members of society. And we love each other.
As we've spoken in the last couple of days, it's clear we're all grieving. And that may be the greatest part of her legacy. That somehow, in spite of enduring all her wounding words and coldness and mercurial moods, we emerged as adults who love. Somehow, in spite of the crooked brokenness with which she loved us, each of us has found a way to encircle her with love. Somehow, the love she felt for her babies, and lost hold of along the way, was enough for us to remember - was the seed from which a stronger softer love could grow in each of us.
|The first picture of Mom as a mother.|