Teresa P. Thompson
2003 by Teresa P. Thompson
Although she was not my own mother, I along with everyone else in the family called her “Mom.” Even my own children, as soon as they were big enough to talk, referred to her by that name. It was just something that she accepted, although there were times that I did wonder if she missed the joys of her first grandchildren calling her “Granny.” If she did, she never did say so to anyone.
I suppose it would have seemed odd for them to have called her “Granny,” since she still looked so young by the time her first two grandchildren were born. She was in her early forties when she first humorously accused her son and me of making her a “Granny” at too young of an age.
“That’s just part of being a young mother-in-law,” I would joke back.
She would always smile in her sweet way as though she was saying that age didn’t matter; she was just ecstatic to have the girls in her life and me, too, of course. She seemed to have made her three children the center of her world, and now she had seemed joyously happy since I married her oldest son and brought forth an addition of two granddaughters.
Although she never said it out loud---she was never one to really say exactly what she was thinking, in fear of hurting someone’s feelings---I knew that she knew that I, most of the time, I felt like the shadow of the family. I had always been shy and timid and somewhat a loner. She always seemed to know just the right thing to say to make me feel like more a part of the family.
If it wasn’t something that she said, it was something that she would do. There were many times that she would just show up at my door early in the mornings, long after my husband and the girls had left for work and school.
“I just thought I would bring us a cup of coffee,” was pretty much always her excuse.
But I knew then that she just wanted to spend time with me while everyone else was away. She and I seemed to be on the same track on so many issues. She was just so easy to get along with. There were times when even I had a difficult time of thinking of her as just my “mother-in-law.”
She had a daughter of her own---one in fact that had always been my best friend long before I married her son---and I knew that she loved her very much. But she, being an independent person, had not yet married and seemed to be caught up in her career life at the time. Gloria never seemed to be jealous of her mother’s and my relationship. It was obvious that they were secure with a special mother-daughter bond. It was one that although I envied, I would have never desired to come between. I was content with the special place in her heart that I was kept.
I was very young when I became a part of this wonderful person’s family and from the first day she treated me almost like one of her own children. There are many upsetting things that a 16-year-old can do to a person. And although here I was a married woman, I was in a sense still a child myself---a child that had been abandoned by her own mother and frightened that it would perhaps happen again if I got too close to someone.
But Mom seemed to already sense that, and she did every thing that she could to make me feel the love and warmth that she held for everyone else. Perhaps it’s not until a person is older and can look back over the years that they can realize what certain gestures and words must have meant. Like her not making a difference in me and her own children at Christmas time. Looking back on that, it tells me that she had to have loved me as much as she could, not to have been my own mother.
It was always odd that when my girls addressed one of us as “Mom” and we were in the same room, we always knew which one they were speaking to. We once had a conversation about that, and we both agreed that it was the tone of their voice that helped us distinguish the difference. We would have to laugh when people would become amazed at how we could make that distinction so easily.
“It’s just one of those things,” we would say, as we stole a smile from one another.
It became a tradition that my oldest daughter spend every Friday night with “mom.” It seemed to be her highlight throughout the week. She would call on Thursday and ask, “Wonder what Sheena would like to eat this weekend?” She knew as well as I that Sheena would enjoy almost anything that she fixed. She just seemed to want to remind me that the weekend was on its way.
Sheena would always seem to comment on how good Mom smelled. It was as though the smell of her “Mom” was a safe haven for a little girl.
Although the youngest, Shasta, loved her Mom as much as Sheena, she was more of a “home person.” She seemed to be more content at home than anywhere else. But they had their special moments also. They made the local Pizza Hut their little “get away.” I can remember so vividly how Shasta would curl up on Mom’s lap and ask, “Are we going to eat pizza tonight?”
“I guess Mom can take you to the Pizza Hut,” she would respond, as she held Shasta’s face in her hands.
It was as though that was a big deal for her to take that little girl out to eat, and looking back on it, it surely must have been the time she cherished with her granddaughter.
Mary, as she was known to the rest of the world, was not only an incredible mother, mother-in-law, and grandmother, she was also a great asset to her own mother, brothers and sisters—not to mention how she had carefully cared for her husband. She was truly an earthly angel if there was ever one.
It has been a little over a year since the Lord decided to call her home, and although we are all certain that she is much better off now, it has been more than difficult to give her up.
Sometimes I can close my eyes and imagine her gracefully walking the streets of Heaven and taking the time to stop and attend to a small child or to share smile with a total stranger. There are times that I have had vivid dreams of her telling me how I should or should not do something.
Although her son and I had long been divorced and the girls were well on their way to having lives of their own when she was diagnosed with colon cancer, we still remained as close as we were when I was her daughter-in-law.
The day she told me what her diagnoses were I knew that she was in her own sweet way trying to say her good-byes to me. I can close my eyes and still hear her sweet voice telling me what a good mother I had been to her granddaughters and how proud she had always been of how they were raised.
The sounds of her telling me how important it was for all of us (her family and me) to remain close will forever echo through my memory. The way she spoke gently about the importance of mine and her daughter, Gloria’s friendship will always be embedded in my heart.
“I’ve always been able to depend on you two girls,” she said just before that conversation ended.
That was actually the last time that she ever spoke to me about such intimate details. Our conversations from then on were casual with me not knowing what to say and her not wanting to discuss her illness. It was as though that one conversation had been locked in our hearts somewhere in time never to be spoken of again.
And it wasn’t, because just a few months later she passed away. Although she was at the home of her oldest sister in Richmond, Ky., for the duration of her illness---making it difficult for me to get to see her---I know that she had me in her thoughts right up until the end. That’s just one of those things that a person can sense.
The last memory that I hold of this dear precious woman that I will forever call “Mom” was the day that I saw her in her coffin. I knew that I would not be able to hold up through the visitation or the funeral services, so I chose to go alone early in the day on the day of her visitation to pay my last respects to her.
As I walked up to the coffin where she lay so peacefully, I could not even imagine her not being able to respond to me being there. The silence filled the room as I knelt beside her as though I was expecting her to just rise up and ask me, “What in the world was she doing there?” But she never moved and as I looked at her beautiful porcelain face, I knew that would be the last time I would ever see her---at least as I knew her here. I knew that she had gone on to the other side and that she had only begun living at the moment she left our world. I suppose that’s the day that I realized that a person doesn’t begin actually living until they die.
Even though her body felt cold as I touched her hand, I knew that the warmth that she must be experiencing at that moment surely must be overwhelmingly great. If it’s true that the dead know nothing, then she has no idea how many of my tears fell on her that day, nor how difficult it was for me to turn and walk away. But in my heart I knew that she and I had said our good-byes many months ago.
This past year has been difficult for her immediate family, I am certain. Perhaps there are those that will never fully recover from the loss of this great person from their lives. But the one thing that has helped me better understand why someone like her was suddenly called away from her earthly family is knowing that she must have surely been needed by her Heavenly family even more.
When I think of her these days, I can almost hear the angels calling her
“Mom.” And that in itself is the most comforting part of losing her---just
knowing that the Angels now have “Mom” to help care for them.
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