18 years ago today, life as I knew it changed forever.
My mother took her last breath. The nurse took the tube out of her mouth, setting her swollen tongue aside. They unhooked all the wires from her. We said goodbye, and my father broke down over her bed.
I don’t know how I got home. There were 15 family members from out of town staying at our house. I slept in a chair that night.
We didn’t have a wake – she would have hated that. I dreaded the funeral. She hated funerals.
|My mother, Eugeny. She almost always had a smile on her face.|
My mother had already experienced the death of her father, brother, sister and mother. She knew pain, suffering and death. Yet she chose to live life to the fullest, keeping a positive attitude and always smiling as if to spite the difficulties she had faced.
She believed that we should love and enjoy people when they are alive – not wait to show respect after they’re dead. What good is it then?
The first year without her was devastating. I cried every single day. Well meaning people asked how life was different, and reprimanded me for constantly crying. They had no idea.
|She guided my hand and my life. Boston, late 70s.|
I used to think that people who turned to drugs and alcohol to numb their pain were weak. As I eyed our liquor cabinet in the depths of my pain, I finally understood. But I turned to another source for help.
I prayed incessantly that first year. For myself, my sister, my father. I prayed for God to heal my broken heart. I realized that, although I was already a Christian, I had reached a fork in my faith. In my hurt and despair, I could turn TO God or turn AWAY from Him.
I chose to run to Him.
What could possibly compete with the safety of His embrace? The comfort of His words? The strength of His promises? The fullness of His hope?
…and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain… (Revelation 21:4)
God’s word is true. The tears still came the second year, but not as often. And my smile returned. After two years, I finally came out of my fog of mourning.
|She knew how to stand out in a crowd. NYC, December 1980|
Today marks 18 years since my mother’s passing. A part of me died that day. My innocence left me. My identity was indelibly transformed. Yet my faith increased.
It still amazes me that I can smile. That, although my family and closest friends are 3,000 miles away and both of my parents are in heaven, I am content and my heart is full.
Tangible reminders are still difficult, even after 18 years. When I’m out somewhere and smell her perfume. When I’m looking through old papers and find one with her handwriting on it. When out of nowhere I hear her voice, or her laugh, in my mind. I won’t lie – I miss her terribly. But I know my longings will be fulfilled when we’re together again one day.
|She loved being a mom and had fun doing it. Boston, early 80s|
Today is just another day. My mother’s birthday brings back happy memories. Mother’s Day is when I can celebrate my mother-in-law. Every day is a day without her physical presence, but every day is a day when I remember that I am who I am because of her.
When my mother was in the hospital, my sister and I made her a poster with the following verse:
Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary. (Isaiah 40:31)
The Lord gives strength. I refuse to go through this life weary. My mother would not have wanted that for me or my sister. She would have suggested going for a walk or baking paklava instead. She always did have a sweet tooth.
|Mommy and me. Kuwait, 1974|
Suffering is unbearable. Death is inevitable. But hope? Hope is invincible.
OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.