Mom died four years ago. It was April 18, 2007. After three years of dancing with ovarian cancer, she fell; quietly, gracefully.
Today, I miss her more in my life than I ever have. Today, the lessons learned during her dance continue to teach me more than they ever have.
It was a shitty three years of treatment and short-lived runs of hope dashed by reactions and viruses and more reactions. It really sucked watching her suffer. We all marveled how little she complained. She was never a victim – she was only grace. The only thing she really despised was being an inconvenience to her family.
Mom loved golf. She loved to watch Tiger as he made his charge on Sunday afternoons. Ten days before she died, Mom got dressed for Easter Sunday. Her pants suit hung off her chemo-wrecked body like a sack; a poorly fitting sack. I remember the scarf with the knot tied off to one side. We watched The Masters golf championship on TV, picking at her ham and scalloped potatoes, as Zach Johnson held off Tiger. Perhaps a little disappointed in the result, but she loved the thrill of the finish.
I don’t know what mom would have thought of Tiger Woods today. I like to think she would still be a fan of the golfer, as well as his come back as a man.
The Sunday before she passed, I climbed into bed with her for the last time. After our final good-bye, she drifted off to sleep. I then woke her, “Mom – when you get to heaven, put a word in for my golf game will ya?”
She giggled, and squeezed my hand for the last time and whispered, “I will.”
Mom died three days later.
We were all there. Dad, Kathleen, Tim, Boo and Me. Holding hands in a circle, Dad lead us in prayer. Mom exhaled her last breath at the end of her final ‘Hail Mary’, “… now and at the hour of our death.”
Mom died exactly as she would have it – surrounded by her family. In the eerie silent moments that followed, each of us cried our own tears amidst the stale air that had begun to fill the room the day before. I shed more tears of relief than I did of grief. My own spirit had grown weary from watching her body whittled away as the semi-willing object of somebody’s science experiment. I was tired of it.
I was more stunned by the stark void created by our loss. Forever is forever, I had been warned.
In many ways it was a pretty shitty three-year journey. But the love and courage Mom and Dad shared during her twilight dance has served as a cradle of life lessons I carry with me today. I don’t know if I could ever measure up to the man my father was in mom’s final years. I do know now, however, what to strive for.
Truth be told, Mom is more my hero today than she ever has been. I can feel her grace echoing each day, gently urging me to be a better man…
“More nice, less nasty. When offered cookies, take the nearest one. One! Be the man you want to be. Don’t quit five minutes before the miracle happens. Smile. Make a great day. Share. Be a friend. Listen. Always remember you are a dad, first.”
In August, four months after she had passed, I finally broke 80 for the first time in my golfing career. “Thanks Mom!”
Today, I miss her more in my life than I ever have. Today, I hope she would be quietly proud of the man I am becoming.