More than a month has passed since my mother died. She slipped away from us so quietly, so quickly, that we barely had a moment to say good-bye. In my grief, I try to remember that I loved her everyday, in every way I knew how, but I've discovered 48 years really is less than the winking of an eye.
Though I am assured her soul is with God, I mercifully still feel her beloved spirit hovering around me as I go through my days. My intense sorrow must then be based upon the brutal reality that our very human, mortal life together is what has gone. In an almost panic-stricken way, I find I miss the sweet smell of her hair, the soothing sound of her voice and the twinkle in her eyes when one of us would say something funny.
We would make each other laugh over the most ordinary of daily occurrences, or perhaps, old and special memories. I would give five years of my life for the chance to have just one more of our long and winding talks.
Now I sit in her room each evening after my bath, listening to the familiar sounds of the forest creatures, combined with the rhythmic hum of the dishwasher and the comforting clomp of teenage feet home safe, and remember how she loved the end of the day, when all were in, supper was done and we were settling down for the night. She would name each one in the house, asking of his whereabouts, and then, once satisfied with my replies, watch a little television or read herself to sleep. She taught me to cherish those moments, those peaceful, precious hours when God was in His heaven, and the world was all right.
Over and over these past few weeks I've come to realize what a beautiful legacy she left. And despite repeated attempts to avoid all adorable alliterative lists that come to mind when I think of Mama, three words keep flooding through continually; they will not leave me alone until they're given a voice.
Mama was my buffer against the world. Although I was always expected to be strong and efficient and hard-working, when the outside realm became more than I could bear, I knew she would be in my corner. Barely able to walk, she would still be ready to "kick the living daylights" out of anyone who harmed me in any way; I knew I could come home after a hard day of teaching, after enduring a hateful, unfair diatribe or a disappointing, frustrating interaction, and tell her the whole affair. She would take my side, no matter what, and with her wisdom and guidance help me build my own protective shell, one that allowed me to be in the world without being of it.
As much as she always tried to shield and defend me, she also struggled to be my bolsterer. Sometimes I felt so guilty to let her strain to lift my sagging spirits, when I knew her own must be frighteningly low from daily battles with pain and weakness. How selfish could I be to expect cheering up from a source wracked with the infirmities of age and disease? I would confess my shame to her, but she always dismissed my worry with even more gentle, abundant encouragement.
Finally, I see that above all other earthly beings, she was my barometer, the one I measured myself by, the one I prayed to become half as smart as, half as kind, half as good. Asking the question, "What would Jesus do?" in any situation was no different than asking what Mama would do, because she followed Him without ceasing. I recall once how distressed she was to hear a group of beauty pageant finalists respond to the question, "What person from history would you most like to meet?" One said "Einstein," another said "Ghandi" but, as Mama pointed out, no one said Christ.
And when the hot tears have eventually slowed for the day, I realize her ultimate lesson to me was that I try to be the same as He, and she, were, that I carry on buffering and bolstering others, and work daily to become a fit barometer. It is what all great people know they must do, be they our first, or 40th, presidents, busy secretaries or bustling schoolteachers, or the mothers of mankind.
(Mindy Jeffers is a Martinez resident.)
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