I would like to share some thoughts on my mother, from the perspective of one of her children. Much of what I will share comes from my perspective, since I was her favorite.
Mom said a number of things, some of which I paid attention to. As a kid, what I heard most often was not said to me, but others nearby. I would comment and Mom would follow it by telling everyone, “Stop laughing; you’ll make him worse.”
Mom was the person who encouraged my writing when I was young. I never pursued it, not totally believing her compliments, but I remembered her encouragement. It’s the reason I pushed beyond my comfort zone in creating this blog.
She also made it clear that I should get a college degree. Graduating college may seem obvious these days, but you need to understand how clueless I was back then. I got my degree in accounting, because it was the first major on the list alphabetically in the business school.
Because of Mom’s encouragement to attend college, I met Valerie at OU and my mother soon became impatient for me to get married. Some may think Mom was concerned that Val would figure out she was getting the raw end of the deal, but I believe it’s because Mom was eager for more family. Mom was all about family.
When grandkids came along, each was unique to Mom and she had a special relationship with each, whether they came as one-offs, or a family-size variety pack (triplets) in the case of my sister and her husband.
It was our church and our family caring for us during our first heart transplant. One evening of many, I was in a rush to get home from the hospital in time to see four-year-old Austin before my parents put him to bed. I arrived moments too late, because he had just poured orange juice on Grandma’s head, however I was unable to discipline him with Grandma laughing so hard. He was her grandson and she was all about family.
During Trenton’s cancer, Mom called me just days into the adventure. Speaking through her tears, Mom, now well into her 80’s, said, “David, I don’t think your father and I can survive this.” I told her, “You don’t have a choice.” She knew this, but it was her grandson…and she was all about family.
The quote for which Grandma will be forever remembered by her grandkids and two grand-in-laws is, “I want a great-grandbaby!” The problem was that none of the grandkids were even married when her demand began. Seth was dating my niece, Madisen, and Kira was dating Austin at the time they joined us for Thanksgiving in 2013. As we sat in the living room in a big circle, each person stood to share one thing for which they were thankful. When it was her turn, Mom forced herself to her feet and exclaimed, “I have two, maybe three, years left in me and I WANT A GREAT-GRANDBABY!” When it was my turn, I said, “I’m thankful Seth and Kira haven’t gone running out of the house.” But, here again, Mom was all about family.
Why the memories about Mom? Partly because she passed away in her sleep, early in the morning on August 22nd. The above is taken from the tribute I gave at her funeral.
More so, the reason for sharing came to me the day Mom passed away, after Valerie told me Allie was crying. Allison had been trained in her single-digit years, while in gymnastics, not to cry. You fall off the beam; you hurt and get bruised; but you don’t cry. I can count only three times that I know Allison has cried in the past decade, the latest when learning her grandmother passed away. Of course, Allie was sad Grandma was gone, but it was made worse because Allie had considered visiting Grandma the day before, but chose not to, believing she would have another opportunity. Allie learned a painful lesson in putting things off.
And me? I have written a book about my family’s experiences with Trenton, intending to publish it one day, and my mother would receive the first copy. I took half of the book draft to her nearly a year ago, which she read intently. I told Mom that she could read the rest once it was published. However, life got in the way, the book has not yet been published, and now it’s too late. Too late to give Mom the first copy (I was going to autograph it). Too late to give the gift of writing to the person who inspired it (Mom was reading seven books per week in her final years). To the day she passed away, Mom was unaware that Trenton had arrested prior to heart transplant number two. I was waiting to tell her when I gave her the book, but…you know.
What are you putting off? Think you have time? No family members on their death bed, so you’re OK? Yeah, Valerie and I thought that too in 2014 when Trenton went into O.R. for a procedure he had many times in the past. Three hours later, we were facing the reality that Trenton’s heart wasn’t beating and doctors were skeptical of bringing him back. For Valerie, life’s worst pain was amplified by what was not done. “I usually hug him before these procedures and tell him not to bother the nurses. This time, I didn’t hug him or kiss him. I didn’t tell him I love him. I didn’t even get to tell him good-bye,” she cried.
The other side of regret
For every regret, I have many reasons to be thankful. And for every regret, I have many opportunities ahead to add to my thankfulness. I do, however, need the occasional reminder to live like I was dying.
How tribute ends
Our whole family sat on the first few rows of the sanctuary, supported by many friends, including middle-aged men who, as my friends in their teens, referred to my mother as Mom Cary. I pointed out that this last act by Mom, bringing us all together, was quite fitting as she was all about family.
What I didn’t mention at the funeral was that Mom found out, only a week before passing away, that she was going to be a great-grandmother. My nephew, Jaeton, and his wife, Rachael, are expecting in April 2017.
It goes without saying that, for family, I’m still thankful.