Nine years ago tonight was the last visit I had with my mom. It wasn't a conventional birthday celebration at all. There was no cake, no presents, no candles to blow out. It was nothing like our usual birthday bashes...but that was because my mom was reaching the end of her life.
Nine years ago tonight, I sat with my mom for the last time. I held her hand. I painted her nails. I talked to her. I told her that I would always love her and miss her...but that if she needed to stop fighting for her life, I could let her go. I told her I would be OK, that she had raised me well and made me strong enough to survive whatever life would throw at me. I told her that I was happy and safe, married with kids of my own. I told her stories, reminded her of family memories, was rewarded with a gentle squeeze of her fingers on my hand that let me know she could hear me even though she was beyond speech. At a little past midnight, I heard her draw her last breath and then go peacefully. I will always believe my father was there to greet her as she passed...just as I believe he was the one who insisted I get out of bed to check on her seconds before her passing. I felt their presence keenly that night...and they still touch my life, even after all these years. My mom in particular is a strong presence every day. I miss her still...always will...but her gifts are with me. They sustain me as I strive to raise my own kids, to be a good mom, a good wife, and a good person.
I made spaghetti sauce today, Mom. I used tomatoes, peppers, and herbs from our garden. I filled the house with the rich scent of summer and love. As I stirred the sauce, I remembered coming home from school to the same aroma in our house when I was a girl. I remembered you listening to me, to the trials and tribulations of my school day. You always managed to make your cooking seem like time set aside just for you and me! To this day, I associate cooking for my family with the deepest kind of love.
I felt you at my shoulder today, teaching me still, lifting me up even after all these years. I'm so grateful for your strength, your love, all that you passed on to me. I'll keep trying my best to do as well by my own kids.
Happy birthday, Mom.