EVERY SUNDAY EVENING, I talked with my mother before she got her hair washed and styled in her Florida senior living facility apartment. After the amateur stylist finished, my mom would send me a Marco Polo video of the often-outrageous results. And we’d laugh.
But we didn’t talk yesterday. My mother died Monday, June 21, after suffering a brain stem stroke the Thursday before while having lunch with friends.
My Sunday evening FaceTime tradition will now become a Sunday evening heartbreak. Will my soul ever heal? Those of you who’ve lost your mothers, I ask you, will it ever get better? Right now, it doesn’t feel like it.
I had so many questions
My older brother assigned me to write her obit, and I had so many questions I needed to ask her. How long were you a physical education teacher? When and where did you complete your bachelor’s degree? How about your master’s? Was it Belmont or MTSU?
And now I can’t ask her. How many times will I pick up the phone to call her for clarity, only to remember she’s no longer taking my questions?
My mom was the glue that held our family together. An evangelical Christian yet liberal in politics, my mother ignored the partisan differences among her children. She loved us all for who we are. When I think of how God loves us, it’s my mother I conjure. She would never acknowledge having a favorite out of her five children. Even if she did.
Curious, not nosy
She was the glue that held her senior living facility together, too. When new residents moved in, she would learn and memorize their names. She knew every person’s name at that five-floor facility. And she would find out a whole bunch of other stuff about them too. She was a question asker. And she really wanted to know the answer. She called herself curious, not nosy.
We had a tornado in Chicago recently. My first call would have been from Earlene, who would ask if we’re okay. It happened with heavy snowstorms too. It always made my husband and me chuckle. But now I’d give anything for that call.
Last year around this time, I wondered if I would ever get to hug my mother again. Luckily, I did. My husband and I visited her in May, and I took her shopping and on all the other errands she had scheduled for me. She bought a whole lot of stuff we cleaned out of her apartment last week. She had five bottles of Hershey’s dark chocolate syrup—four of those she bought when I took her shopping in May. And that was only the start of her collection. One of anything wouldn’t do.
I am only one in millions of people who’ve lost their mother. I’m not special. But she was. My mother was the person people went to if they needed a super prayer on their side. She and God were friends. I bet God was so happy to see her and give her a job on the Welcome Committee.
Terri Lackey is director for communication for the Women of the ELCA. Feature photo: Clockwise from top, Earlene’s five children, Doug, Jennifer, Rebecca, Terri, Jim; Earlene; Earlene’s vast clan.