Remembering…

Carol A. Hand

Seven years ago, my mother passed away in the early morning. She was 89. During the last 13 years of her life, she gradually lost her memories and her abilities to care for herself and communicate. I was thinking of her yesterday at sunset and decided to repost the poem I wrote for her two years ago.

Sunset – October 9, 2017

Mother, I Remember

Dear Mother, I remember as a child
The trips to New York City and to the Jersey shore
Camping in Cape Cod, and the Adirondack Mountains
Trips on boats, splashing in the ocean
Picking berries in the woods and laughing
Only realizing later that we were spared by
the copperheads that called the woods home
I remember the many times you cried
because you couldn’t bear the loneliness and pain
from an abusive husband who knew the way to hurt you most deeply
was to hurt the daughter you loved
But we were both survivors, you and I

I remember watching you when I was a teen as you cared for elders
and dealt with cranky staff with such kindness and diplomacy
A gifted healer and peacemaker despite the abuse you couldn’t stop
I remember that I understood from a very early age
that you didn’t see your beauty or your worth

I didn’t know how to help you or myself for awhile

***

My Mother Sending me off to College after Spring Break – 1966

***

I remember there were many years when we didn’t meet often
You had your work to keep you busy and I had mine
Yet you always found time to send letters and cards
from Pennsylvania, Arizona, New Mexico, and Wisconsin
when you returned to the place where you were born
to use your skills to get federal funding for a health center
on the Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe reservation
I remember how frightened you were to testify before Congress
How proud you were of this accomplishment
and how disappointed when the center was named after the tribal leader
whose bitterness almost sabotaged the project

I remember when I was a little older
Driving this road to your northwoods home
so many times, from so many directions
in too many different cars to recall
Only this time, the drive is different
I’m crying so hard it’s hard to see the road ahead
I’m not coming with my family to celebrate a holiday,
or taking time away from work to answer your plea for help
because you’ve grown fearful and weary of Father’s abuse
I’m not coming to help you move to the elder apartment complex
or the assisted care facility because you can no longer remember
how to care for yourself, or even who I am
This time I’m coming to bid you farewell one last time

I will always remember the love and the laughter,
the tears and the pain as I hold your hand and
gently caress your cheek and smooth your silvered hair
as you lay in your hospital bed, struggling to breathe, dying.
I kiss your cheek and whisper.
I love you, Mother. I always have. I know I will miss you
But it’s okay to let go now Mother and go home.
You’ll finally be free from suffering.”

It’s been seven years since your death
But I still remember

***

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51 thoughts on “Remembering…”

  1. In some ways, certainly not all, your childhood experiences remind me of my own, from what you have shared here and in other postings.

    My mother was married to an abusive man, although in a more verbal sense than physical. They both could be very violent with each other, and with me, verbally. Right before dad died in 1996, we found out he had suffered from water on the brain since childhood, because of an accident on a sled when he five or six years old..

    And because of my father’s illness, my mother had tried to be both a father and mother to me, which, of course, she couldn’t possibly get done. I was an only child, and turmoil was usually the order of the day, from the earliest times I can remember, until my father died.

    Throughout the years, I was the caretaker for both of my parents, since most of the family, on both sides, was either dead or didn’t keep in touch. My mother had always been there for me, and so I tried to be there for her as much as I possibly could, Being a musician, and my own failings as a human being, I wasn’t always there when she needed me. And when I consider this fact, I still feel sadness and guilt.

    I too, sat with my mother when she died (77 years old). I had just turned fifty. Those were the most surreal and difficult eight hours of my life. So when I read your poem here, and even now, I am fighting back the tears. “They” say death is as natural as life, but that is where the similarity ends between the two events.

    Thank you, Carol, for sharing this again! You never cease to amaze and touch my heart!

    Liked by 4 people

  2. A beautiful tribute with words not just written but felt and lived… Your words bring depth to your mothers memory… With just this one poem, this reader feels acquainted with her… Is it OK to know her first name?… If not, I understand…. Thank you for sharing! ….

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Carol, such wonderful respect you gave your Mother. Regardless of faults we hold our parents in our hearts. We know their blood is ours. We try to improve while coming to realize how hard they had it. When we age, they become children. It all happens while our own children become smarter. It’s a good thing. As much as we may stumble we still have lessons to pass on, just like our parents before us. Take care. Bob

    Liked by 1 person

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