My mother was a selfless woman. That is not to say she’d step in the way of an oncoming bus because you’re playing Pokemon Go. You’re on your own with that one. She was selfless because she always put everyone in the family first. Even if it was the small things like making sure there were always shrimp cocktails at every dinner because I had loved them as a kid to the larger things like when she had sacrificed the last few good days she had left with her daughter, so my sister could go on the trip to South Dakota that was supposed to be my mom’s last hurrah, but the cancer had eaten away too much of her body.
That final trip, that she had enjoyed through photos and facetime was how she wanted us to be together. Rather than crowded around her bed waiting for the ticking clock that awaits us all, we laughed, saw the sights, played games, and ate meals together. That was how my mom was selfless. Even in her final moments, she wanted us to be with each other.
That’s not to say it didn’t break her heart that she couldn’t be there. She just wanted us to be there and would have a light in her eyes when she would see us and the grandkids. One of the hardest parts for me, was how this will affect my son Oliver as he is almost one and a half years old. I love him dearly, as much as my mother loved me. Because of circumstances entirely beyond his control, he may never know his Babcia beyond photographs and videos. And that breaks my heart.
I was lucky to have been old enough to have known all my grandparents, and even had learned how to play chess with my mother’s father, even though I was in elementary school when he died. I remember the day clearly. We were singing songs for chorus in the library at school. I saw my dad at the desk with a distraught look in his eye. Even if I hadn’t been keen enough to sense the emotion, I should have known something was happening because chorus was in the morning, and my dad never came to school in the morning.
While Oliver is his own person and has his own life to live, I know had my mom been given more time. She would have that sense of selflessness for him too. She did buy him a singing dog, and he loves to press the buttons, over and over and over. He would have gotten to eat Babcia cookies, pierogis at Christmas, and would have attempted to turn on every single one of her holiday themed music boxes at the same time like I did when I was a kid (now I know why my mom bought the dog).
Maybe when he might come forward with dietary restrictions my mom would have seen to it to accommodate much like she did for me. Even though the gluten free pierogis she had scoured the internet for were more a gluten free apocalypse that ended up as gluten free pierogi balls, my mom went through with it anyway. She never worried about appearing silly or foolish as long as people were having fun.
We had spent many hours through the years, performing our own private MST3K on movies we thought were silly (much to the detriment of my brother and sister, who didn’t like when we talked over the movie). My mom used to laugh at the absurdity of life as a public school teacher. When my wife, Felicia, and I lived in New Mexico, we went to dinner parties at my parent’s house on a regular basis for no better reason then just to eat a meal. Of course, all the major holidays were covered too.
And while cancer could take my mom’s body. It couldn’t take her spirit. Even when she was in a coma, and all I could do was tell her how much I loved her over the phone, she summoned enough to tell me how much she loved me as well as Oliver and Felicia too. Even on her very last day, the last time I could utter words above how much I loved her. Her eyes flickered opened. That was that selflessness again. She wanted to comfort me. Even though it was my time to comfort her.
I love you, mom.