"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Legacy of Love


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.

32 comments:

#1Nana said...

Deb, I am writing with tears in my eyes. I am so sorry for your loss. In the end though, your story is one of triumph. It is a wonderful story of resiliance that you and your brothers have made peace with your past and are happy and productive adults. You are blessed to have each other to lean on as you mourn.
Jann

Lilith said...

She did her best. I think it's one of the hardest things, to forgive your parents. I'm sorry for your loss Deb and thankful that your family found it's way back together.

DJan said...

I also found this post to be incredibly moving, and a testament to whatever it was she did right. We all make mistakes as parents, some harder to forgive than others, but as I have said before: with the right spirit in your heart, the pain and grief will gradually fade and the only thing still shining will be the love.

And you can see it in the faces of those your siblings. What a wonderful heartfelt story. I celebrate the love you give to others, which shines through every word in this post.

Jessica Nelson said...

There are tears in my eyes too. I'm so sorry for your loss but I'm just blown away by how you've found the beauty in a woman who maybe couldn't see it herself? I don't know, but that picture is lovely and the whole post is just amazingly wonderful. I hope you and your brothers continue to grow closer and that this story ends happily.

Richard said...

Writing about your feelings for your parents who hurt you when you were growing up can be difficult, but you seem to have found the forgiveness in your heart that makes it easier to do.

Stacy Crawford said...

Deb, you are an amazing woman in which I find great life lessons--often! I am glad you and your brothers are pulling together in a difficult time. I am sorry for your loss. I'll keep you in my prayers.

Wanda..... said...

Your mom would be so appreciative of your post, Deb. Love and Forgiveness are gifts any mother, with faults, would hope to receive. Your photo of her is lovely.

Ann Best said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. But I'm glad that you were able to work through your feelings for her, to forgive and see the good.
I can relate completely. I had a difficult time with my mother, her whole life--she died at 97. But in the end I was glad she was here that long so I could work through my feelings and come to love her before she passed on. She was a good woman but with a sharp tongue; very bad tongue. She made my childhood miserable with it. But she was a good woman who always helped me financially; who loved her grandchildren. And she mellowed before she died and was in a wonderful care place near me. I've always been grateful we both had enough time so I could learn to love her again. Like your family, her death was expected. But it is still difficult, no matter the circumstances.

I'm so glad you have your siblings for comfort. And you've written a beautiful tribute here to her, and to your siblings. It sounds like she did raise a wonderful family. And I believe she is now in a place where she can move forward and, relieved of the burdens of the flesh, can progress and develop her true self. And I also believe in a literal resurrection. I believe this earth life is but a nano-second in eternity.
Ann Best, Memoir Author

Teresa aka Journaling Woman said...

1. I love and feel close to my brother and sister. I feel blessed too.

2. I'm sorry for your loss.

3. You write beautifully.

4. Funny you would say your mom looked like Liz Taylor because I've always thought YOU look like Liz.
Prayers and Hugs!

Linda said...

I am so sorry for your loss, Deb. What a blessing to have siblings around you who know, understand, and love one another. I think your mom left a wonderful legacy: her children.

Hugs,
Linda

Wander to the Wayside said...

There's not much to add to what has already been said. This is indeed a beautiful tribute to a mom with whom you had a bitter-sweet relationship. Except that I'm so sorry for this loss so soon after that of your daughter. And my gosh, I'm continually stunned by the beauty of your words, whether about flowers or antiques or death. You are truly blessed to have such a wonderful gift.

Sandi said...

Ah, Deb. I love this post. I love the photo. I do believe that you didn't learn to love as you do without there somehow being a model for that love, somewhere, perhaps long before any memories you are aware of. Praying for gentle, cleansing, wholesome sweet grieving time spent with your brothers.
Love you so much, Sandi

Wanda said...

I am so sorry for your loss--and grateful to hear of the connection with your brothers. I love you.

deb colarossi said...

I can't find words.
I can't .

oh, Deb.

how humbled I am.

love to you.

yaya said...

What a lovely tribute to your Mother. I'm so sorry for you loss. No matter the relationship or the circumstances, our parent's death somehow leaves us feeling abandoned. I'm glad you have forgiven her and loved her to the end. No one can really know the depth of pain a person endures in life and why they act in certain ways. You have taken a difficult childhood and molded yourself into a wonderful woman. A person who can forgive and give such love as you do is a blessing to this crazy world.

Desiree said...

I have been away and am only reading this now. I, too, am very sorry to hear of your loss, Deb. You have written a loving tribute to your Mother and I agree with your other commenters. Your Mom must have got something right all those years ago to have produced four remarkable children. She looked so much in love with her baby in the picture you have shared, so there clearly was a time, before she succumbed to her inner demons, when she was able to show her love. You have written so compassionately of her. There is no trace of resentment or regret...only an abiding sense of the loss and love you feel. As always, you write so purely and beautifully...so clearly, right from your heart! Big hug, Des xoxo

Retired English Teacher said...

Deb, I read this post last night when I was too tired to utter even one cogent thought. Today, I still find it difficult to respond to your post. You are a survivor in so many ways. You have had to deal with so much over your lifetime. But, I am very much struck with emotion when I read "raised in a home where we rarely got beyond survival."

I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your mother. You've had so much grief this year. You've had much to process. You amaze me with your strength. No doubt much of this strength comes from acceptance.

The high mountain wild flowers of Colorado come to mind when I think of you. I've always marveled at their beauty and tenacity. They bloom in an environment where most vegetation will not survive. You continue to bloom despite the environment in which you spent your early years.

Please accept my sincere sympathy on the death of your mother.

Pam said...

Deb, may I join with others here in expressing sentiments they have articulated so well, and along with my condolences on the loss of your mother recently, add that the photo of your brothers is very touching and sweet.

Linda Myers said...

I'm sorry for your loss also. I understand about a difficult mother, coming to a place of compassion, and the extraordinary gift of siblings.

Barb said...

You've endured so much loss this past year, Deb. I hope your healing continues. I'm glad you have your brothers nearby. The photo of you and your Mom is so poignant. She had a lovely smile which seems to be shining onto you in the photo. l'm glad you could make peace with her, "in spite of the crooked brokenness with which she loved..."

She Writes said...

Hmmm, it's our own humanity that helps us forgive others, I believe. I love that you and your brothers still found your way to one another.

patricia said...

This is, without a doubt, my favorite piece of yours. It also is proof of how far you have come as a growing, emerging, healed woman. Your mom did some amazing work in her life, if only by bringing you and your brothers into the world. I love you, my friend!

kario said...

I am awash in goosebumps, the waves continuing to break over my arms and legs. I am sorry that your Mom is gone, but so thrilled at your perspective of her and who she was to you and your siblings.

I wish you continued peace in your newfound relationships with your brothers.

Love.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

"in spite of the crooked brokenness with which she loved us, each of us has found a way to encircle her with love"

and forgive and love each other. Wow, what a year you've had. I'm so sorry. I'm so happy that the four of you have found a way to be one. Be most kind to yourself in the days ahead.

Out of My Mind said...

Deb, that comes so close to describing my mother and the relationship I had with her that I cried. I cried for you, for me, and for both of them. This was beautifully written and in some way helped me let go of my mother and the relationship that I wished I had with her. She was also in a nursing home, had dementia, but passed away over 5 years ago........kt

Amber said...

You have so much grace.
Peace be with you, friend. And my love.

:)

LauraX said...

Deb, I'm so sorry for your loss. Love can be both complicated and simple at the same time, don't you think? The photo of your mother holding you is lovely...it clearly portrays her truest feelings for you as one looks at her face. (I am assuming that is you)...It matters not...this is pure love beaming from her eyes. No matter how confusing her moods and behavior was over the years, that look says more than her words every could have conveyed.

I'm so sorry for your loss my friend, and so happy for you and your brothers that you have all found your way back to each other as a family of wholeness, despite the brokenness of your childhood, and I'm sure shatterings along the road through adulthood. The human heart is truly awesome in it's capacity to heal.

May your Mother now rest peacefully, and her memory be a blessing for you and your brothers.

Ann Best said...

Hi, Deb. I just saw your comment today (Sunday) on my new blog. I'm so glad you like it and stopped by. I love the way you can reply, how anyone can reply right beneath the comment. I've got to post on Blogger and tell my followers I will always reply beneath the comments if they want to check back.

Hope you're having a lovely Sunday.
Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror, A Memoir of Shattered Secrets

Terri Tiffany said...

Each time I come here, I am saddened by what you are going through this year. But I loved your story, it makes me so happy for you as well that you have this relationship together. I also think the picture is beautiful of her!

Katie Gates said...

Beautifully written, as always. I am sorry for your loss and heartened by the love you express for and with your brothers. You are blessed with an ability to step back and assess the dynamics and then step back in with an open heart.

Terry said...

I am so sorry about your loss Deb. Despite the difficult relationship, it's obvious that you care a great deal. The picture of your mom as a young woman is lovely. That you and your brothers have forged such a bond despite such a difficult upbringing speaks volumes. I found this very moving and a testament to your resiliency. Thank you for sharing this.

Charlene: the Polarblogger said...

This is such a soul-stirring narrative of a mother's love and her passing away. Memories of mothers are always heartwarming to recall. Sometimes, the death of a loved one can bring the bereaved ones closer to one another.
My deep sympathy to you and your brothers. May God's love comfort you in your difficult times.