My mother and father enjoyed a long, happy marriage until Dad passed away five years ago. Their successful union might surprise some people since they didn’t share the Catholic faith.
Mom was raised Protestant and in her youth was a member of the Job’s Daughters. Despite their love, she to this day has refused to become Catholic – but she promised to raise their children Catholic.
So, when it came time for me to enroll as a first grader at Holy Family School, she was dismayed to find there were no seats available. My mother called the rectory and burst into tears as she explained to the priest that, as a Protestant herself but a dutiful wife, she needed all the help she could get to properly rear me in the Church.
Miraculously, a space became available. I spent eight years at Holy Family, then four amazing years at Marywood High. I’m still a devoted Catholic, thanks to Mom’s efforts and Dad’s faith.
After Dad died and my mother decided to move to a senior living complex, we went through her things to determine what she would take to her new life.
Downsizing was such a painful process that at the end of the day we collapsed in the garage and cried together.
Recently Mom celebrated her 89th birthday and added her name to the waiting list for an apartment in the assisted-living wing of her complex. I was impressed that she took this step on her own.
Before we could set the wheels in motion for the move, Mom was hospitalized with complications from congestive heart failure. She’s recovering in the skilled-nursing wing of her complex.
That leaves me – her only child – to pack up her things.
I’ve been going through her things, downsizing, and packing boxes for three weeks. When the new studio apartment is available, a crew will move her furniture. Yet many of her things will need to be divided among family members, donated to charity, or trashed.
Making decisions about what to leave behind is a lonely job. But in the process, I’m learning more about my dear mother.
Mom grew up in the Great Depression, so she keeps everything from plastic grocery store bags to promotional totes carefully stored away. Her drawers, cabinets, and closets are meticulously organized. Clothing hangs neatly in the closet, organized by purpose and color. Paperwork is clearly marked and filed in a tall cabinet. She keeps anything that might be repurposed: Waste not, want not.
She makes my housekeeping look positively pathetic.
I love my mother and admire her strength, good humor, and positive attitude – especially as she acknowledges that age is limiting her abilities. I know how blessed I am to have my sweet Mom still with me as I near retirement age myself.
These days, I pray for patience and strength and resilience as I go through this process. Still, I’m comforted by the obvious joy my parents had in each other and their international travels, friends, and especially their three grandchildren, who are now young adults.
Facing the inevitable loss of a dear one always is painful. I treasure each day I have with Mom. I pray I will face my mortality with just a little of her grace.