My mother sits beside me as I write. She is comfortably ensconced in a beautiful wooden box; ashes are all that remain of her mortal body.
Yet, I cannot bring myself to dispose of these shards of bone and heaps of grey dust.
They were once her and so they stay.
I hear her voice as I write stories of her life;she loves a good story. Sometimes, I hear her laughter and catch a glimpse of her luminous forest green eyes. She reads the words as I weave her life history and mine into what I pray will touch souls. Help others to cope with life, love, and the final act of a soul, death.
She approves of my path. I write not only to be true to myself, but to be worthy of my mother’s love, which is unfaltering. Though she is gone, her love surrounds me when I need it most. She is my angel who guides me along this path of discovery. Patsy was and is a practical woman even in the afterlife. Her mortal existence left scars on her soul and made her cautious. Wary and untrusting of those she did not know.
Mom is at peace near the Maker’s hand. I know she believes in God, although the subject rarely came up in our talks when she was alive. In his benevolence, God is tolerant of her. He knows where the heart of her lies, and forgives her for not being more vocal about Him when she was here.
In her last days, she spoke of seeing her family surrounding the bed. Her daddy who died as she helped him take off his shoes on a cool fall day in 1939. Mom was 10 at the time. How difficult that must have been. She saw her brother James who died one month after his 29th birthday with the same heart disease as his father. She adored him. Many of her stories as a child included James as the central character. His encouragement of her and how he treated her as an equal. Once, he told her to fight a young boy who kept teasing her. Three words was all it took to spring her into action, “Take him Patsy.” Well, she did exactly that and by God all who saw that fight never teased her again. Saw her mother who lived to be 82; her younger sister Wanda Lee, who died at age 65. She outlived her entire immediate family.
Death came knocking on her door several times in her life, but she fought the Grim Reaper. Her motivation was my sister and I. When Sheila, my sister, died in 2003, something within Mom withered as well. Outliving a child is not natural, no matter the age. We almost lost mom. She was so ill she could not attend the funeral.
Once recovered, she came to live with us in Arizona. She had a good life here for several years until her health started to deteriorate. Pete and I faced a difficult decision. We were left with no choice but to put her into assisted living once her care became too great for us. Once there, she rallied for a while, but her spirit was tired. Life’s malaise all culminated on a blistering hot August day in Mesa, AZ with her saying I am ready now. Take me. She took her last breath on August 9,2011. She was alone.
They say sometimes this happens. The soul is ready to go, but is conflicted because of the pain it will cause those that are living when they pass. To ease the struggle, they go when they are alone.Once they are not surrounded by the feelings and thoughts of their living loved ones, there is peace. They accept the invitation from those who have passed and are waiting.
She enjoyed the garden. We spent many days debating life and reliving stories from the past. One in particular was our favorite. One night for supper she fed my sister and I fried raccoon and told us it was squirrel. We loved fried squirrel. It was her first (and last) time to cook a raccoon and she didn’t know to remove the musk pouches. The meat tasted foul, putrid. We rebelled, she finally took a taste and spit it out. That story made us laugh so hard our sides ached. I loved to make her laugh.
The Rio Samba was her favorite hybrid tea rose of all time. Shortly after she moved here, we planted 4 in a long bed running along the garden wall. She gave them the same care and attention as the people in her life. Unconditional love. I carry her legacy and tend the roses lovingly each year. Today as I write this, they are in full glorious bloom; a bright golden yellow with each row of petals turning scarlet as it opens. Proof that love bears fruit when it is freely given.
One day, I will spread her ashes among the Rio Samba roses.
I am selfish to keep her in the box, I know.
But, today is not the day I will let her go.
That day may never come. Momma understands, I’m sure.