Every Day Should Be Mother’s Day

Every Day Should Be “Mother’s Day”

 No one loved Christmas more than my mother. She reveled in the conspiratorial nature of it all. She just had to know what everyone was getting for everyone else. Her own presents would sit by her chair, unopened, while she sat under the tree… orchestrating the delivery of gifts to the rest of us. Mum couldn’t even wait for Christmas morning. We have been celebrating the Yuletide rituals on Christmas Eve for years. We’ll be at my parents’ house again on that night again this year… but my mother won’t be there…

…I was driving my daughter to school on the morning of December 3 when I got the phone call I had been dreading for months… if not years. “I think your mother’s dead,” Dad said, his voice more calm than I expected. I drove on through tear-filled eyes… so close to my daughter’s school that it didn’t make sense to head straight to Dad. But I could tell from her face that she didn’t need to be in class that day. We headed to Hixson and the house I lived in when we first moved here…

 …I beat the hospice nurse to the house… and I’m glad I did. I’ve been around a couple of dead people. A guy who flew through a windshield on Bailey Avenue. Another roadside fatality that I barely remember. But nothing can prepare you for the sight of your dead mother… laid back on a hospital bed in her den. The initial shock passed quickly, though. I knew one thing with solid certainty: my mother was no longer there. She had left her “earth suit” behind and moved on to a better place. My dad was still mostly calm. When your wife of 50-plus years is in hospice care, you have time to “prepare.” But, as I said, nothing can really prepare you…

 …The day moved in a blur. The hospice nurse shed tears for my mom… and leaned over to kiss her on her forehead. Father P arrived and delivered the Anglican death rituals while all four of us held hands. The nurse called the funeral directors. Not long after, the hearse arrived to take my mom away from the place she called home longest…

…Phone calls had to be made… and my dad made them. There is no stronger man in the world than my dad. At 73, he carried my mom to the bathroom when she needed to go. He kept detailed diaries of every conversation he had with every doctor he spoke to since her cancer diagnosis. He has stacks of paper printed out from websites, detailing every medication she ever took… and leading-edge research on the lung and brain tumors that eventually took their toll. The hospice nurse told me that my dad was the single best male caregiver she had seen in 21 years. (Can you imagine being a hospice nurse for 21 years? I had a huge amount of abstract admiration for the hospice teams before they cared for my mom. Now I’m amazed at the work they do… and urging all of you to support their efforts.) Dad broke into tears during most of the calls he had to make. But he kept making them…

 




 

…Thursday and Friday flew like a surreal slow-motion movie. My uncle and aunt drove down from Indiana. Cathy, my mom and dad’s “almost adopted” daughter, flew in from Phoenix. Dad asked if I could take some of his favorite pictures and put them into a format that people could view during the visitation. Four or five hours of work later, I had put over 100 slides into a PowerPoint presentation that showed my mom from age 20 to a few months before her passing. There were lots of pictures of my mom and dad’s wedding… and several of my mom and me over the years. I had a Marty McFly moment when I realized what a looker my mom was when dad met her… and beyond. In some pictures, she looked like a supporting actress in an Austin Powers flick. Big hair and mini-skirts. You could see my dad’s love for my mom in every frame. She was his whole world… and this is an unbearably tough time for him…

…Saturday’s visitation and funeral service were perfect. The church was filled with friends of my parents… and friends of mine. An all-star cast of Episcopal clergy read my mom’s favorite bible verses. We sang her favorite hymns. And, finally, we placed her ashes into the ground next to the church she loved so much…

…You never really know how long you have on this earth. You never really know how long you’ll have your parents with you. There is no greater love than that of a mother for her children. As a man, I can only speculate what it must be like to carry another life inside you. How can you ever replay the love of someone who loved you before you were born? You can’t. But you can let your mother know how much she means to you. And you should. Every day should be Mother’s Day. My mum will have a Merry Christmas this year… and for the rest of eternity. I’m sure she already knows what everyone has gotten for everyone else…  

      Mark Bedford

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