Saturday, December 20, 2008

Thank You Meme

I am going to take a break from my usual picking fun at my family, friends and myself to share with you something from my heart. It is about my last Christmas with my mother. She passed away two years ago.

This is my mother on her wedding day.
This time of year is especially hard for me. Several Christmases ago my mother was very ill. The years of Benson and Hedges had taken their toll. I’m still not sure it wasn’t a bit of the Aqua-net hairspray that had clogged her lungs too. She was one of the toughest, most determined people I have ever had the pleasure to know and love. She fought cancer hard even though she knew it would eventually win. She had been a nurse for over 45 years she had seen it all. She knew all about the good the bad and the horrible of treatments. She went at her disease like she did everything in life whole hearted and steadfast. She was a fighter and she was fighting her disease with all her might. It had weakened her resistance and her bones. She had fallen at Thanksgiving breaking a hip which in turn resulted in a deep vein thrombosis. Yet still on she trod.

My sister gathered her belongings and traveled the 1700 miles away from her children and her husband to be with my mother the summer she became ill. She thought she would be there for a couple of weeks but instead she was there for more than six months. She went through chemo-therapy, radiation, vitamin and mineral therapy with my mother. She stood by her side through it all as did my daddy. There were tense times, some sad times and some funny times but through it all we all remained positive.

This is my mother and Killer. Killer was trying to soak up my mother's cancer.

I was finally able to arrange some time away from my job and family and went to relieve my sister. My niece, Tooter, had also taken some time to be with her grandmother as did my own daughter, Tadpole. My mother was convinced that we needed to go all out for Christmas. It was after all her first great grandchild’s first Christmas and she wanted to see her little eyes light up over the tree and the presents.

This is Meme and Miss Priss, her first great-grandchild. She had a way with babies. She was the Baby Whisperer.

Deep down inside I think she knew it was her last Christmas even though she didn’t want to admit it and we didn’t want to believe it.

I did all of her Christmas shopping for her. I ran all over town with her list that she painfully and carefully made out the night before my shopping trips. She would agonize over what to get this one or what that one wanted. I went as far as it took to get the things on her list. I would arrive home after a day of shopping the limited stores in our home town and fighting the crowds to find her with yet another list of errands to run. I would then sit in the floor and wrap packages while my mother supervised.

Do you think there are enough presents?

She would sit in her chair with the blankets over her swollen legs and she would hand out orders to me and Tooter. You see Tooter had been commissioned to decorate for the impending Christmas season. She was very exact in what she wanted and how she wanted it done. She would check Tooter’s accomplishments with the diligence of a drill sergeant inspecting a recruit’s weapon. She would tell her to lower this ornament or put more bows on this side of the tree or that side of the tree.

Again here is Meme and Killer. They were inseparable.

Tooter had tremendous care and tenderness for the grandmother who had cuddled, bathed and diapered her from the moment she came into our lives. Tooter would sleep at the end of her Meme’s bed just in case she needed something in the middle of the night. The love that her granddaughters had for their grandmother was inspiring and heart warming. All of her grandchildren loved their Meme, but since Tooter and Tadpole had both lived with her they worshipped her. Tadpole deferred to Meme and no one else where her own child was concerned. There was a grandmother-daughter bond there that could not be separated by anything.

Meme loved all of her grandchildren. Here she is with Missy her youngest granddaughter.

A week before Christmas she began having trouble breathing and we had to admit her to the hospital. It was the very same hospital where she had nursed the sick and dying for 45 years. The same hospital where she worked tirelessly to make those who were infirm and beleagured better with the miracle of modern medicine and the touch of a cool and compassionate hand. The nurses flocked to her bedside and all wanted to make sure she was comfortable and in no pain.

The clot in her leg had broken loose and she lost her battle 4 days before Christmas. My family went ahead and had Christmas as usual because that was what she wanted. My sister for whom I had bought many gifts for from my mother, looked at me when the boxes were all open and the tears were all shed and said what did she get you? I don’t believe my sister ever thought that I had been the one doing the shopping and the wrapping that there hadn't been a present under the tree for me. I know in my heart that my present was that my mother entrusted me to get exactly what she wanted for everyone and to make sure that Christmas went on like it always had before.

Ever since that Christmas presents are not the same to me. I no longer look to see what packages are under the tree. I look to see what gifts I have been allowed to give. The gift of giving a kind word or a hug. The opportunity to encourage someone to live life fuller and happier. The ability to bring a smile to someone who otherwise was having a dark and dreary day. The gift of truth and the gift of love being the ones that I enjoy giving the most. I give those who read my writings the gift of my life in humor and satire. I give you my heart.

Thank you Meme for the gift you gave me. The gift of love and the heart with which to love.


Bob said...

so sad--but true. your mother and i are so lucky to have three beautiful people who care so much. we love you----DAD

Anonymous said...

Your post touched my heart.

Girly Stuff said...

You made me cry.

I'm glad the place she worked and gave so much to had a chance to do the same for her.

Merry Christmas!

Mrs4444 said...


In 2002, Mr.4444's grandma passed away two days before Christmas, in his parent's home, a couple of days after we had picked her up from Michigan to send the holidays with us. She died peacefully. That was the saddest Christmas Eve ever; seeing my husband's father so heartbroken over losing his mom. Six weeks later, he died of a massive, completely unexpected heart attack. It's been six years now. It does get better, though Christmas will never be the same. Thank God for's hard to stay sad when they are so full of joy (and often have their grandparent's traits). Loved your post.

Unknown said...

Beautiful tribute!

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful tribute to your mom and what a wonderful way to look at gifts... You made me cry, but in a good way. You are an excellent daughter!

Laura ~Peach~ said...

tears... beautiful post and wonderful sharing... Thanks to Coffee bean who directed me here.

Junebug said...

Beautiful tribute! Words cannot say enough about what you said. Very touching...

Queenie said...

You looked into my heart and said all the right words. I too lost my mom of the Aqua Net and Pall Malls generation this past June. A week ago, while wrapping a present, I found myself suddenly on the floor, sobbing. How dare I have Christmas without my mother? How could I possibly put out the Christmas Eve smorgasbord that she taught us to prepare? How could I fill those stockings with just the perfect item, just as she taught me? How could I sing in Swedish, or decorate with greens, or.... And then I thought of my granddaughter. It is her FIRST Christmas this year and that is exactly why I picked myself up off the floor, finished wrapping the present, had a drink and went on. From one motherless child to another, happy holidays, sweetie.

Glenda, saved by grace said...

I lost my Mama in May of this year , so this is gonna be a hard one for me. I actually made it through your post dry eyed and proud, until I read the comment before mine. Now Ive just gotten up off the floor and I'm commenting on your post.

God bless you!
Thanks for sharing.
Glenda ♥

terri said...

Your mother was an amazing and inspiring woman. She would be proud to read the words you have written here.

LynneFtWorth said...

What a wonderful tribute to you mom. Your love for your mom really shone thru this post.

Merry Christmas.

Katherine Roberts Aucoin said...

Beautiful post Gladys. Your Mother gave you the gift of Christmas, true spirit at its best.

Hugs to you and Merry Christmas!

ms martyr said...

Oh, Gladys. You make me feel as if I had known your mother and can experience your loss.

My hardest Christmas was in 1975 when I was thousands of miles away from family. I was a sobbing mess on Christmas Eve. I'm sure Meme would want you to carry on when you feel able.

Ed & Jeanne said...

Very heartfelt. And Killer...killer was obviously very ferocious...