My sister and I sat in the living room of our childhood home where my mother laid in her hospice bed. As we talked quietly, trying not to disturb our mother’s rest, I could see my mom open her eyes and fix her gaze toward me with a slight smile.
I smiled back and continued the conversation with my sister, not really sure if my mother knew it was me or if her Alzheimer/Dementia was overruling her cognitive abilities. I kept glancing back for any response in her eyes, but there was none.
That’s when I realized I will miss my mother’s smile.
My mother’s smile has always been a source of comfort for me. In my childhood I looked for my mother’s simile to know that she was happy and that I wasn’t in trouble. In my teenage years I looked for my mother’s simile to know that she wasn’t upset and didn’t know what I was secretly up to. Even in my adult years when I visited I looked for my mother’s simile because it comforted me and assured me that I was loved.
My mom wasn’t prone to walking around the house smiling, and was probably more prone to worry as she carried the emotional weight and responsibilities of our home and family.
She wasn’t just any mother but an adoptive mother of five adopted children. I’m not sure I can understand the burden of nurturing children who were foreign to her temperament and who possessed personalities unlike the family who shaped her as my mother.
I think my mom proved her hunch that God had called her to motherhood, despite an earlier struggle with a potential calling to sisterhood as a nun, but her true calling was made sure by the love she instilled in five children she chose to love.
It sometimes hurts when I think that for the last 40 years we have lived a few states apart and seeing my mother’s smile was something I experienced only once a year at holiday visits.
To say I am sad is an understatement. I find myself grieving in a different way than I did when my dad passed away last year at the age of 91. Every quality that influenced me as my dad’s son has been absorbed into my character and the practice of life, and I am grateful that the length of his years had exhausted that process.
With my 92 year old mother, I find a different sadness and a realization that the secret of her love was being in her presence. She certainly poured her life into mine, but it was in being with her that her motherhood radiated an unconditional love and her smile reminded me of that.
I am sad, but not without a tremendous gratitude in my heart for my mom and the providence of God that placed me into her arms.
My mother peacefully passed away on Wednesday, October 21, 2020, but the memory of my mother’s smile will always remind me of her love.