|Mom and I, seeing my aunt off on a Cruise, around 1964|
My mother is 96 and dying.
It's not going to be easy for her to die because she's healthy and tough. Too mean to die, that's my Mom. She's in California, I'm in Iowa. The congregation I'm serving as generously given me a gift in honor of my 25th ordination anniversary early in case I wanted to use the money to go see her.
In a different story, I would take that money, fly out to see her before she dies and we would all have "closure" and no regrets.
But that is not going to be our story.
See, my mother never wanted me or any of her kids for that matter. As she told us many times, in those days you had no choice but to get married and have kids. She was a negative, critical, unhappy person. Fortunately, I did not notice that growing up. My husband noticed it. "I am never going out there to see her again.", He told me, "You will have to go without me"
So I did one last time, a little less than 20 years ago. My children were toddlers. I never tell anyone this story because it's just so unbelievable but this is what happened. We were staying at her house. She was pretty irritated because my children spilled ketchup on her white tablecloth, didn't want to eat dinner at her usual time of 4 pm and they liked to watch cartoons on television. What kind of a mother was I? I was washing clothes and she came in to tell me how to do it. Well you know mothers and daughters. I rolled my eyes and said "MOM! (you know, in two syllables) I know how to use a washing machine!"
She kicked me out. "I can't stand you. Get out of my house" I said I was sorry. I cried. I begged her not to be that way. But she was done with me. It was 10 at night. I had to call a friend, pick my babies up out of their beds sleeping and leave. And I never came back. Not because I wasn't willing to forgive, she was not willing to forgive.
I have an older brother and sister from another marriage. When I was younger. I never understood until then why they never came to see her. Now I do.
But she tolerates visits from them. Me, she never wanted anything to do with although we have exchanged a few polite phone calls.
I've called her a few times since she's taken to her bed trying to die. "I love you Mom," I say, "Okay thanks for calling, goodbye," She says. That and "Don't come visit me"
There is something wrong with her. I know it's not me. It took me a long time to realize that. I used to feel guilty about messing up her life for being born but she chose to get married again, get pregnant at 43 and have me.
Oh, yea she would tell me how everyone told her she should abort me but she didn't. Oh how noble. Abortion was illegal, she was not stupid, she didn't feel like dying in some back alley.
I could make excuses for my Mom and believe me I have. But excuses can get in the way of forgiveness. If it's not your fault, then what do you need forgiveness for?
My mother had a hard life. But she had choices. We all have choices. I do forgive her. I do feel sorry for her. I do pray she dies soon and finds some peace. If there is a hell I'm pretty sure she's already served her time there on earth.
So I'm not going back there. She's not going to die alone. My sister takes a bus (because she can't afford a car) every day to go see her and listen to her complain. My brother, who is very successful, pays for round the clock care for her in the house he bought for her. She never says thank you, she just complains. And she has the housekeeper she's had (paid for my brother) for 30 years. That's who she is close to. The housekeeper.
Sometimes I look at how lucky she is to have all that care, to be in her own house and think "nobody is going to do that for me when I die" .
That's right, I'm not going to die the way she is, bitter and closer to a housekeeper than her own children.
She's had a hard life but so have I and I am not going to die like she is, only thinking of the hard things, not all the blessings and love and good things there have been along with the hard things.
There is always something to be thankful for.
*Update - my mother died a week later on August 31, 2011.