My mother died two years ago today. I don’t think about her everyday but her imprint is everywhere. She lived her life fueled with insatiable curiosity. She needed to see every play, every movie, and every lecture. Her criteria had nothing to do with whether she thought she would like it or not. She needed to hear every symphony. She needed to try every new restaurant that opened. She wanted to read every new book. She didn’t want to miss anything. EVER. She got teased endlessly that she would find so much of what she experienced “the best ever.”
My mother understood how precious every day was, especially after her father died when she was 11. She liked to set the dining table long before anyone would arrive as if it were a glowing invitation. Her “go to” dishes were gravlux and grilled butterflied lamb. My mother colored her hair until one day she stopped and it became a beautiful shade of white. The perfect gift for my mother was always a beautiful scarf - even though she had over a hundred of them. My mother paid attention to the people who make our lives easier and often gifted them with scarves from her collection, always carefully wrapped. She believed in thank you notes handwritten and linen napkins.
I remember my mother once asking me what the big deal about Bruce Springsteen was. I sat her down, and projected 5 versions of Thunder Road from throughout Bruce’s career. When I looked over after the songs were over, there were tears in her eyes. She said, “I didn’t realize he was so emotional.” My brother took her to see Bruce Springsteen once in her 80’s. She loved that.
Right after my father took his last breath (20 years before my mother passed away), my mother said, “He was a great guy” and then started emptying out his closet. That was no reflection on the happiness of their marriage, rather a need to move quickly into her next chapter. She then decided she needed some younger friends and she made lots of new ones. She hated only going out only with women and hated even more when men were included and would insist on paying for her.
Mostly what I learned from my mother was how to love. That is the greatest gift she could give me, the greatest gift I could give back and mostly what my memories of her are filled with. When my mother met my wife Stephie she instantly saw the love walking into both of our lives and we held on tightly. In Stephie she found the most wonderful daughter in law, whom she savored and could not love enough. My mother always said Stephie was the greatest gift I ever gave her.
When I walked out on the patio last night, the fireflies were putting on a show, and Stephie was laying in a lounge chair my mother used to use. She was wearing a beautiful floral dress my mother had gotten her. She said, “I feel like your mom sitting out here.”
Stephie and I were both brought up surrounded by love and goodness and the ability to be blinded by the brightness of a single moment. We were both lucky to get that from our parents. We were taught by example and we are trying hard to pass that on. It is not hard.
My mother was insistent about her independence, never wanting to burden us - so she rarely asked for help with anything and we did not make a big deal when we helped her. It is hard when someone doesn’t ask for help, that is a way to prove your love, but you can also give your love by appreciating independence.
My mother lived a good life - and there is nothing sad about that. I like stopping today to think only about her - but then she would insist I get on with the day.