My mother’s memorial service was last Friday. The majority of the mourners were current and retired Postal workers. There was music, hugs and kisses, storytelling, and lots of tears. Jenise ministered in dance. Twice. The memorial table was full of pictures and Mom’s favorite things.
I gave the Family Tribute, standing up to speak on behalf of my family for the last time. I’ve been teaching and public speaking for almost 40 years, but the assignment on that day was definitely my hardest.
But I couldn’t NOT do it.
The last leg of this journey will be the interment of Mom’s cremated remains. Once again, I think that it will be something that my spirit will be able to handle. That’s what I thought about the memorial service. Why am I lying to myself?
When my sister Traci died in 2011, my mother was already in the throes of dementia. There was no one else, relative or otherwise, who had both the strength and the professionalism to take care of the arrangements. Traci’s funeral required special arrangements, and it was important to me that my baby sister be laid to rest with dignity. It was by no means easy, but I was a woman on a mission, and I did what I had to do.
It is SO different when you’re doing the same thing for your mother, especially when you also have to process the tragedy of her being missing and dying the one way that you prayed she never would: alone.
I could handle her choosing to live with a stranger…as long as she wasn’t alone.
I could handle her hateful outbursts of Alzheimer’s-fueled vitriol…as long as she wasn’t alone.
I could handle her telling the entire world that I am the Devil Incarnate…as long as she wasn’t alone.
I could even handle her pushing me away, refusing to let me be there for her….as long as she wasn’t alone.
With all of my gifts, talents, and anointing, I couldn’t fix what was wrong with my mother. I couldn’t even keep her safe. And I couldn’t keep her from dying alone.
I forgive me. It will be a process, but I know that I need to forgive me.
As I sit here typing, Christina Crawford, of all people, comes to mind. Before anybody tries it with me, I am NOT here to draw ANY comparisons between my mother and Joan Crawford. For the record, I read the book and saw the movie when they both came out. The movie was a complete bastardization of the book. We writers have a problem with that.
The point that I’m trying to make is that I have seen for decades how Christina Crawford has been vilified for writing about her relationship with her mother. Her own sisters have called her a liar because the Joan that they know is not the Joan in “Mommie Dearest”; therefore, Christina must be lying. How offensive is that??? How does anyone dare to tell a daughter that HER relationship with HER mother based on HER lifetime experience is a lie?! I don’t care if we lived in the same house together, NOBODY bangs the gavel on my relationship with my loved one except me and my loved one.
Now, I have NO intention of coming out with a tell-all book, but I do know how much writing helps me on a personal level to heal. I understand what it feels like to have a mother that people remember with hearts and flowers while you remember the weeds and thorns. Mom’s memorial service showed me how many people loved and adored her. I really do not want to take that away from them.
In my Family Tribute, I honored Mom’s life and memory without telling a single lie, and I want to continue to do that. Through it all–the awesome and the ugly–my mother was a beautiful woman. That is how I would like for her to be remembered.