Mother’s Day3 Forget About Death and Dying

What do we do while someone is dying? How do we pass the days?

As I fixed meatloaf and baked potatoes for Mother's Day dinner, I remembered one such day during my mother's dying. And four of us present that day were together yesterday.

On Dividing the Jewelry
The afternoon sun filtered through the sheer curtains as they fluttered gently in the April breeze. The tiny faces of Mother’s violets lit up the windowsill. The oxygen tank “squooooshed” in its corner.

We all crowded around her bed in the dining room–her only sister, her two daughters, two of her three granddaughters, and one of her great-granddaughters.

Mother had called us together to give us her jewelry. She didn’t have a lot of expensive pieces, especially since Dad had declared her wedding rings and his personal gifts to her off-limits. (I’m not sure he had the right to make such a declaration, but we didn’t question him.)

The entire afternoon was a strange mix of festivity and sadness–a definitive example of a bittersweet moment.

With our heads bent over the jewelry boxes, we admired each piece as we lifted it out. And as we decided who would receive it, we shared the recent events in our lives as if it were any Friday afternoon. We chattered as women have through the ages–in the marketplace, over tea, as they work together.

It didn’t really matter what we said–we were gathered. We understood how important it was to draw strength from four generations of womankind. We were doing more than just choosing lovely pieces of jewelry to wear with remembrance. It was a sacred rite of passage.

Mother beamed with pleasure as we cherished her treasures–delighted to give these last gifts. She flushed with excitement as her girls giggled together.

We have drawn near to help our parents and each other in these final days. We will do what has to be done. We embrace each other in love and support.

For a little while, we forget about death.

(Excerpted from The Last Violet: Mourning My Mother, Moving Beyond Regret, copyright 2002 Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad)

Comments

Jan Baird 14-05-2012, 18:32

Such a picture of delight! You brought a smile to my face and a spring to my step. I don’t have any sisters so when my mother died, I inherited all her jewelry. I went through each piece with love, deciding to whom I should give those necklaces that didn’t quite speak to me. Your post reminds me vividly of that experience. I love your series on Mother’s Day. How clever to have daily posts on the subject based on your book. Departed mothers everywhere would be proud of you for providing this continuing tribute. xx

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hjelmstd 15-05-2012, 22:22

Thanks, Jan. I love your story, too!

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hjelmstd 15-05-2012, 22:21

Thank you, Jan. I love your story, too.

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Nancy's Point (@NancysPoint) 15-05-2012, 23:48

Beautiful. Just beautiful. I love the part about four generations of womankind. There’s something very empowering about that. Thanks for sharing.

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Marie Ennis-O'Connor (@JBBC) 16-05-2012, 11:53

This was almost too painful for me to read Lois, but your writing as always brings me to a healing place.

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