ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker

MEMORIES OF MOM

"She's gone."

It was my brother Bud on the phone.  He had called earlier to advise me that Mom's long and difficult battle with a killer called pulmonary fibrosis would soon be over.  For months doctors had warned us that this was coming, and I thought I was pretty much prepared for the inevitable.  But when Bud spoke those two simple, all-too-final words, it inflicted a wound deep into my soul.

The blessed numbness that often accompanies the death of a loved one saw me through a week of funeral preparations and services.  I found comfort in the laughter and tears I shared with my brothers and sisters, and solace in a quote my Dad referenced several times during the week:

I'm wounded, Sir Launfall said,

Wounded -- but not slain.

So I'll just lie and bleed a while

Then rise and fight again!

After the rites were over, however, the numbness wore away, leaving a gaping hole in my heart.  I was the youngest of Mom's eight children, and we shared a special relationship as a result of having her to myself during my teenage years.  Even after Anita and I married, we lived close enough that we could drop in frequently for card games and Sunday dinners.

Mom was a huge part of my life, and it was hard to let her go -- even after she was gone.  No matter what I tried, I couldn't fill the hole her passing left in my life.  I found myself stopping by the cemetery often and mourning at her grave, oblivious to the passage of time.   These long absences were difficult to explain to Anita, who thought that instead of living in the past with my memories of Mom, perhaps I should spend more time making memories with my own children.

Anita was right, of course -- I understood that even then.  But no matter how hard I tried to focus my time and attention upon the living, there was nothing I could do to fill the empty place in my heart.  When my father remarried, I rejoiced in his happiness -- especially since Jean, the woman he married, is such a terrific lady.  But I still missed Mom, and I looked for every opportunity to go to the cemetery, where I felt closer to her somehow.

A few years after Dad remarried, he and Jean decided to take a few months to do some volunteer work for our church -- something he and Mom had talked about but had been unable to do because of Mom's health.  To tell you the truth, I sort of resented that Dad was going to fulfill this dream without her.  And I think Dad picked up on that.  A couple of days before they left, he invited me to go to lunch with him.  We talked about this exciting adventure, and how he was looking forward to it.  Then he said, "You know, there's only one thing I regret about this."

"What's that?" I asked.

"That your mother and I weren't able to do this."  He paused a moment, and for the first time I noticed that his eyes were moist and red.  "There are many things that I wish we could have done before . . . well, before she moved on.  But there's nothing I can do about that now.  I've just got to move on."  He looked at me seriously, then added: "And so do you."

Somehow in that moment I began to understand.  Mom had moved on.  Dad was moving on.  And now, it finally occurred to me, so must I.

I began spending less time at the cemetery after that.  These days, I mostly go on Memorial Day.  I spend part of that special day there, lingering with my memories of Mom.

And then I spend the rest of the year moving on.

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— © Joseph Walker

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