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Over the past few months, I've strived to write only of positive/happy subjects in this blog.  The world is already full of so much negativity, I felt why should I contribute to it?  I have found great fulfillment and happiness in my life that the few black clouds that do occasionally pass over me are swiftly dealt with and forgotten about.

Thus, the subject of today's entry — the death of my mother five years ago — was, at first glance, a topic that I didn't think I could write about.  Her passing, after a lengthy illness, hit me hard.  She was the first person very close to me to have died and that alone was difficult enough to deal with.  At the time, I was living a great distance from my family and didn't realize how serious the situation actually was.  It had been some time since I'd visited; I actually had a flight booked home for the weekend after my mom passed away.  For a long time afterwards I felt a lot of anger because I thought I had been "robbed" of the chance to say "goodbye."

Dad & Mom at Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, shortly after their marriage in November 1959.

I suppose a large part of how I dealt with Mom's death and my depression in the months following it was greatly influenced by my Catholic childhood.  Christians in general, and Catholics especially, are taught to fear death — the whole conflict of heaven and hell plays a big part in this.  Despite the inevitibility of death — we've all got to die sooner or later — the subject is often considered the "great unmentionable" and many people are unwilling to discuss it or even to accept it.  Thus, many are not emotionally prepared when they finally come face to face with death.  I certainly wasn't.

I have learned a lot since August/September 2001.  And while I certainly don't celebrate death, I do understand more fully who to deal with it.  I've let go of my past feelings of anger or resentment over the passing of my mother.  There have been other deaths close to me over the past few years — both of my mother's parents, my dad's mother and his older brother, a favorite cousin, even a former girlfriend among them.  But none hit me as hard as that of Mom and each succeeding one has seen me handle a bit better.

I have also come to realize that one's death shouldn't be viewed as the ending.  A funeral shouldn't be a somber affair full of sadness for the family members and friends of the deceased.  I think the New Orleans jazz funerals have the right idea:  these are parades celebrating the life of the person who passed away with plenty of music and fun.  Many Thai funerals — at least those held in Theravada Buddhist tradition — are almost cheerful events with plenty of eating, socializing, and celebrating one's life even to the point of giving attendees a small book with the deceased's life history, some poems, and personal writings.  I would much rather leave a funeral full of warmth and remembrance for the person who passed than full of sadness for the loss of the person from my day-to-day life.

Mom and I sometime in the late 1980's.  Moustache was a "mistake."

While my entire attitude on life in general has changed greatly in the past five years (and I believe Mom would be very proud), I still do experience some moments of sadness when I think about her passing.  But most of the thoughts I do have of her now are of great happiness and pride.

My mother was a very remarkable woman and she made a positive impression on all those who met her.  My dad and her never had any problems in the almost 42 years of their marriage.  They raised my sister and I in a very happy home, taught us to respect others and others would respect us in return.  Mom was very supportive of our activities in school and beyond.  She encouraged any interests we had in the world outside our home.  When I developed interests in far-off lands, reading any book I could get my hands on, and taking up various hobbies Mom was always supportive and helpful.  Even when she was working, she would always make some time for a question or a talk.  Some of my favorite times after moving out on my own would be to go for a visit and spend an evening watching an old movie with her, or playing UNO, Scrabble, or some other game.  After I left Kansas City, I knew she was always just a phone call away — I just wish I would have taken advantage of this more often.

Mom and Dad were very much in love.  He took wonderful care of her right up until the end... and afterwards also.  In fact, Mom's passing brought me much closer to my dad — something I think she would revel in (and perhaps she even knew would happen).  Yet another thing I can thank her for.

My sister's favorite ever picture of Mom; she's holding my nephew — Spencer — when he was seven months old (California, Halloween)

While I no longer fear (or much believe in) the entire Catholic concept of heaven and hell, I do sometimes feel that Mom knows — and is proud of — the intense happiness and fulfillment I've found in my life.  I'm proud to honor her by remembering the wonderful person she was in life and that she is in death.  Much of the strides I've made in my own life were influenced — either directly or indirectly — by her.  And I suppose that in itself is as good as a tribute that one can offer.

Yes, I do miss my mother very much.  But I've learned to miss her with happiness in my heart rather than sadness.  I'm happy that today I can look back in remembrance without shedding a tear.  I found it much easier to write this blog entry than I originally thought it would be.  Thank you for letting me honor her memory in such a way...

1 ความคิดเห็น:

SignGurl กล่าวว่า...

What a sweet story! The pictures are priceless.