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May 4, 2015

Mother’s Day is this coming Sunday, May 10. Mothers are important. Even if they are no longer with us. My mother was only 20 when I was born, so she would be 79 now if she had not left this world September 17, 2008. She was a heavy smoker since her teen years, so I knew she would not live a long life. I prepared myself for her demise for years, but when she was dying it was still one of the most traumatic things to ever happen to me. And I miss her still. Ours was not a typical mother-daughter relationship. She was the victim of sexual child abuse from multiple perpetrators, and that colored her attitude toward me, her daughter. I did not understand her coldness and negativity when I was a child and teen, and did not have much to do with her when I was in my early twenties, but when I became a Christian in my mid-twenties I worked to improve our relationship. It wasn’t until I was forty that I learned of her past. I was still learning a few days before she died, when she shared more of her story with me. It was painful for her to talk about her victimization, and I respected her privacy and never pressed her to tell me more.

I am so grateful for making the effort to be her friend. It was not easy. But all the teaching I received at church and through prayer and bible study led me to call her every week and to visit at least once a year (she lived in Florida and I lived in the Midwest). She was not a Christian and I hated her stinky cigarettes and her stinky dogs and cats that threw up and pooed and peed on the carpet. I used to pretend I was a missionary in a third world country because she had roaches and was so poor she would not use the air conditioner in her trailer even when the temperature was in the nineties. She was not easy to get along with, insisting on having her way no matter what, and her way was almost always not my way. When I visited her after marrying and having children it was even more difficult. She seemed to value her pets more than her grandchildren. But I kept on loving her anyway.

Eventually we grew closer and she trusted me enough to share her pain with me. After that I saw an entirely different woman. I respected her for the way she had handled her abuse. People have different ways of dealing with abuse. She could have been worse. She was a good mother, all in all. She always made sure we had three meals a day, clean clothes to wear, and a fairly clean house, in spite of the pets. And she was a moral woman. She dressed and conducted herself conservatively.

My mother was at her best at Christmastime, because she seemed happiest then. She had a special talent for buying gifts that were unique and appreciated even though not costly. She also worked hard to do things that good mothers do to make Christmas memorable, like making treats and decorating the tree.

After she and my father divorced when she was only 37, she never remarried. Mother seemed to relish in being the master of her own universe, as squalid as it was. She had suitors, but they didn’t suit her, except for one when she was in her sixties. And he broke her heart because his children did not want him to marry her, so he wouldn’t.

I admired her independence and self sufficiency, but I wanted the best for her, so I encouraged her to learn about God. She attended a Lutheran Church a few times, but never really got involved. A few months before her death she grew very close to God, giving her life to Him. I am so grateful.

I am also grateful that I was able to visit her often before her passing, except that I wish I had made sure I was there at the moment of her passing. I visited her every other day the month before she died, because she was staying at my brother’s while she was dying, and he lived two hours away. Hospice told me it would be very soon, but I chose not to go that day. Now I encourage everyone to be there at their loved one’s passing, if at all possible. Now I know how important it is to know one has done all one can do for their loved one as they are dying.

May you and yours make many happy memories….it is worth the work!

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