Sunday, December 4, 2016

Farewell Mama!

I have been trying to write this post for 16 days now but I have remained "stuck" on something. Yesterday I was finally able to identify what it was and to let go of it.   So......I am now in the grateful and honored position of writing a farewell post to my beloved mother, Mary Beatty.

My mom loved this blog; she was my biggest fan. She used to send copies of her favorite posts to be printed in her High School Alumni newsletter. So sweet and so very mom!! She was really sad when I quit writing and she was constantly telling me to get back at it. I am grateful that I started back before she died. There may have only been 3 or 4 posts but she knew I was writing again and that was enough.

My mom lived a truly great life and she loved her life!! She died with no regrets. Wouldn't we all be so lucky to get to say that?  She was a flight attendant and she got to travel the world. She loved traveling! She met the love of her life, my father, and she spent over 40 years with him. I can tell you that on the day he died in 2006; she was just as much "in love" with him as the day she married him. That's a true love story. Above all else and more than anything, my mom wanted to be a mother.  She got to step into that role as Step-Mother to my Half-Brother David from my father's first marriage. She loved David like he was her own. That never changed; never wavered. In fact that love just grew and grew and by the time mom died; we were decades beyond using terms like Step-Mother or Half-Brother. She was just "mom" and he is just my "brother." I have spent some time reflecting on this too. I think it's because I have known friends with step-children and I have seen their struggle. I have heard their struggle.  I just think my mother's capacity to love was so enormous and it makes me appreciate her all the more.

Even with David in her life, mom desperately wanted to get pregnant. This did not come easy to her. There were 10 years of trying with 3 miscarriages along the way. And just when she had finally accepted that this was not in God's plan for her; she got pregnant with my brother Kip. I have heard my Aunts describe how ecstatic she was when she received that news. They said she was over the moon! 11 months later on Christmas Day 1971, I showed up. Surprise! A little quicker than I think she would have liked. Irish twins! My mother often told me that she felt badly for Kip because he did not get the one on one time he needed with her before I came along. And I share that because it speaks to the person my mother was. Always worrying about her children and if they were getting enough love, enough everything. I'm telling you--she was simply the best!

And as it turned out, being a mom was clearly what she was put on this earth to do because she was a natural. All my childhood memories involve home cooked healthy meals; never any processed crap. I remember her running to 5 different stores to get exactly what I needed for my school project or my Halloween Costume. My brother and I were always clean, our laundry was fresh; we were healthy. She taught us about table manners and etiquette and the art of conversation. Even when money was tight, she made sure we had new clothes to go back to school with. She sacrificed so much. I can't recall her shopping or spending any money on herself in those years. It was all about us kids.

And if she was an excellent mother then she was a superior wife. She cooked dad 3 meals a day. She ironed his handkerchiefs. She met him at the door with a drink in her hand and a fresh face of makeup. Always. It was always this way. I love my dad but he was spoiled rotten!

The thing is--none of this felt like work to her. She didn't see it as a big sacrifice. She LOVED HER LIFE. She was truly content. I envy that. I have thought of her so many times over the years, when our 3 kids were little and I was exhausted after another day of no napping and Mark finally walked in the door. I didn't meet him with fresh lipstick and a cocktail in hand. I met him and said "take over!" 
I know times were different then and fathers didn't help out the way they do now but I want to give voice to that because in many ways she did double the work. Double any of the work I've had to do with a helpful husband. And my father travelled A LOT. The majority of the time it was just mom, Kip and I at home. In essence, she raised us. She did all the car-pooling back and forth and all the meal planning, laundry, keeping the yard up, paying bills, teaching us to drive, dealing with moody teenagers, etc. It makes me tired just writing that out.

My mom was a fabulous cook; truly known for her culinary skills and my father loved to entertain. A lot of times she would be given zero notice to throw together a 5 course meal for up to 10 people. And she did it. And it turned out perfect. Every single time.

My mother was movie-star beautiful. I love looking at all her old photos. Actually I think Ms. Judy Shaw said it best..."How did Hollywood miss her?" I agree. But--she never had any aspirations to do that. She was with the love of her life and she had children and that's all she wanted. She loved her life exactly as it was. She also did a good job of keeping up with her figure over the years. She sort of did it all--you know? She cleaned her own house from top to bottom and it was immaculate. She could whip out a 5 star dish just like that and she was gorgeous. I imagine that it may have been challenging for some in her world at that time not to grapple with envy. 

My mother was very strong in her Faith and taught us to do the same. She became very philanthropical in her later years and she delivered Meals on Wheels always supplementing whatever small ration they had provided with her own bags of fruit, cookies, even pet food if they needed it. She was honestly the most thoughtful human being I've ever known. (Well Auntie Me is a tie.) Anyway, I don't just feel lucky to have had her as my mother--I feel lucky to have known her. She was a lovely human being.

You can imagine that if she was a super mom; she was a stellar grandma. She could not possibly have loved her grandchildren any more. She told me after I had my first son, Jake that she wasn't prepared in the least bit for how she would feel. I asked her what that meant and she said "I expected to love him enormously as my grandson but in fact, I love him like my own. It's the same feeling as when I held my own babies for the first time." Like I said--her capacity to love was like no other. And that love was not confined to her grandchildren by blood. She took on that Grandma role for any special people in her life; any special people in my life. She made it a point to send birthday gifts and Christmas gifts each year. And when she couldn't do that any longer, she still sent cards with 5 or 10 bucks. Whatever she had. And these children remember that. They talk about "Grandma Mary". I hope they always do! 

When the doctor came in the room to tell my mom she was done with Chemo, done with everything and ready for Hospice; we sat in silence for a long time. I cried and she didn't say anything. Finally I spoke up, "Mama, I know you aren't afraid to die. You are so strong in your Faith and you know exactly where you're going and that brings me great comfort. But..still...I just can't imagine you not being "here" anymore. I can't imagine not being able to call you every day." She thought about my words for a minute and then she said,  "I can't imagine not being here anymore. I mean--I can't imagine not waking up." I grabbed her hand and we both cried. But I didn't miss the gift. It wasn't lost on me. In her final moments, she was showing me her human side; her fear.  She was showing me that you can be the most Faithful person on the planet and yet still when you reach that moment; it feels a little scary. And that's okay. I know exactly where she went when she died and it brings me tremendous  peace and comfort.

And I am grateful for that peace and comfort. I am grateful that I got to have her for 80 years. I am grateful that we had a big surprise 80th birthday party for her last spring. I am grateful that my children flew out on their own and spent a week with Grandma this summer. I am grateful for a million things and yet none of that does anything to touch the enormous hole in my heart. It's not a feeling I have ever experienced before. I have lost my father, my mother in law, my very close Aunt, and my favorite Uncle. All to cancer! So I know cancer; we go way back. I thought I was ready. I thought I was prepared for this. But this is my MOM. I am a part of her--I grew inside of her. And she was such an enormous presence in my life. Her death hit me like a freight train. My friend Allie put it best. She said, "it's like you're born up on a scary trapeze but you have a safety net below and those are your parents. Then one parent dies and you have to adjust to only half a safety net, and you do because life goes on. But then, you lose the other parent and suddenly you're up there and for the first time in your life, theres no safety net. None. And you still have to stay up there and do the hard things. And you're scared, vulnerable, exposed, raw, alone. It's honestly the craziest feeling in the world because you're 44 years old and it suddenly occurs to you that you have to grow up because the safety net is GONE and theres nowhere to go home to anymore. That chapter of your life is over. 

But with that comes a new focus on your own precious family that you've created. You realize that this is your everything now. And you want to do better because you think of how good your mom did it. In fact you can't wait to jump in there and do all the stuff she did before they are gone and out of the house. Do they feel loved enough? Do they feel like they are the most important thing in the world to me? When they get older, will they say "my mom loved her life. She loved being a mom. She was truly content." Because I want that for them. Because they deserve that. Being able to say those things about my own mother is SUCH a gift.

And so I am breaking out the Christmas boxes. This will be only the 2nd Christmas in my life I've been apart from my mother. And my children have never spent a Christmas without her. I am digging through closets and pulling the ornaments down, wiping away tears, sometimes sobs, but I'm doing it. She would have never taken Christmas away from us. My birthday is on Christmas Day and for the first time in my life; I wish it wasn't! My mom made such a big deal out of it. She made a Christmas tree shaped cake and the kids decorated it with candy ornaments. Christmas and my Mom go hand in hand. It's truly impossible to imagine her not being here. But...we're doing it. We are honoring what we said we would do. She was coming out here with her friend Vic and we were having a big Colorado family Christmas and if it kills me; I'm going to honor that. We have booked Vic's ticket and he arrives on the 20th. And we will do all the stuff we would have done with her because she would want us to. And because it's important for my kids to see that mom can grieve and we can still do Christmas. That's real life. 


  1. Beautiful and accurate description of your mom. After my mom died in 2003, your mom basically took over. She was a mother to me, a friend, a cheerleader. She believed in me when noone else did, when noone else should have. But she always did. I dont know why. I was lucky to have her in my life and I will miss her. -Mark

    1. I know why!! Obvious. She saw all the GOODNESS in you. xoxoxo

  2. Your mom had the ability to see the goodness in people when they couldn't see it in themselves. If she said she was praying for you, it wasn't just words. It meant that she AND her whole prayer circle was lifting you up. When she was spending time with you she had
    your attention and you stayed on the edge of your seat waiting for
    the end of a story. There were always treats and little gifts for her "grandchildren" (all the kids she loved). I remember feeling nervous sometimes as she watched me prepare a meal for my children bc I wanted her to think that I was as good of a Mama as she was. Thank you for this beautiful, fitting tribute, Annie. She mothered me with the same love she gave her own children and I will ALWAYS be grateful. I love you, Peaches.

  3. She was your "Nuther Mother" and she loved you immensely!! I remember feeling nervous cooking in front of her too! LOL.