Celebrate Life

Well, it’s here.  The big one.

Today my mother has been dead for twenty years.  A perfect, round number.  A really big number.

It’s a long time.  A long time to be without her.  I’ve done this now, twenty times.  Lived this day, twenty times.  Each time Feburary 13 rolls around, I I have mourned for my mother.  Relived that day so long ago.  Remembered each last moment.  The gift and the wonder and the terror or watching someone pass from this life to the next.  I have thought of her and remembered with sadness all I lost when she died.  All she lost when she died.  All that she missed out of her life, how much she never got to do.

Nineteen other times I have woken up, my first thought being of her, and spent the day mired in sadness and memories and what ifs.

This year, it feels different.  Or maybe I want it to feel different.  Perhaps I will it to be different.

I am not sure why.  What has turned inside my heart.  But it feels lighter this year.  I want to spend the day celebrating her, not mourning her.  Thinking of what a wonderful, strong woman she was, how much she persevered through the difficult times of her life.  What a wonderful model she was of a strong willed, determined woman.  How smart, determined and thoughtful she was.

She was a lawyer during a time when women who worked mostly were teachers or nurses.  She was subject to discrimination in her work.  She used to joke about wearing low cut blouses on hearing days with certain judges; she wasn’t above using what she had to get what she needed for her clients.

She was fiercely loyal to those she loved, offering a place to live to anyone who needed it.  We had extra people sleeping on the sofa or in the spare room from time to time, sometimes for months.   My mother didn’t have a lot, but whatever she had, she always shared with whomever she loved.  She was a kind and generous friend.

She was funny, smart, but also knew how to have a good time.  We used to joke that she had a more active social life than I did.  She had great girlfriends, and they loved her just as much as she loved them.

She loved our dog, initially having reservations about getting a rescue animal from the shelter.  In the end, he was her companion and confidante, and wouldn’t leave her body after she passed away at home on the sofa.

While my mother wasn’t a perfect parent, she always was honest and fair, and did her level best in sometimes very difficult times.  She was wonderful at withholding judgement and treating us children with respect and trust.  Even though she was a working mother, and therefore not always available, I never once felt as if she wasn’t 100 % there for me and my champion, always.

I miss her.  I love her.  But I think it is time to put away my heavy heart when I think of her.  She missed much, I missed much, but I also was so lucky.  Lucky to share those last moments with her.  Lucky to say all that I wanted to before she passed.  Lucky to take care of her when she needed me to.  Lucky that she passed onto me her determination and strength.

I know that she would not want me to think of her with sadness in my heart for the rest of my life.  So today, I choose to be happy.  I choose to celebrate her 53 years on this earth rather than gnash my teeth over the twenty she’s been gone.  I will raise my glass to her, smile, and appreciate all that she was and all that she gave to me in her too short life.

Love you, Mom.

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