Today marks 15 years since the passing of the one of the most remarkable women I knew.
As I tell others who have lost loved ones, it does get easier as the years go by, but that loss is never gone. Neither are the memories, because those are what I draw on in life. Sometimes they keep me grounded and other times they bring about a goofy laugh. However they affect me, I know that they are there to keep me moving forward, striving to be the best that I can be.
On April 19, 2011, I wrote the following post and have featured it each year in remembrance of a woman of tremendous love, strength and humor, and who I am proud to call my Mom.
This time of year is always hard for me.
Not just because I’m so sick of winter that I could puke and crave the warmth of the sun and the fresh spring air.
No, it’s another reason that brings about a lot of memories. I wish that I could say that these were good memories, but they are not. They are reminders of an event that was very painful for me, and others in my family.
You see, 12 years ago today I lost my best friend: my Mom.
This picture was taken when she finished nursing school in the mid-1950s.
As I’m sure you have guessed, today is not the only day that I think about her, but it is one of several days a year that I miss her the most.
When she quietly passed away, she was finally free from the pain that she had endured from Rheumatoid Arthritis for 7 years. For those years, she was unable to do the things that she loved the most: garden and crochet. She had to end her nursing career early on in the disease because her entire body became affected, and at the time there was no medically known way to deal with it. She became a guinea pig to the medical establishment, whose doctors were the best in the world.
I was looking back at some old files on my computer the other day, and found something that I had written around this time 8 years ago.
A real keepsake does not need to be a piece of jewelry or an item that is displayed in a home. I feel that it can be something that a person carries with them in their mind and heart. It has special meaning; a presence. For me, it is my hands. I look at my hands and see my mother, and the gifts that she gave to me.
She taught me that my hands could make meals that would feed my family. They could dig the ground to plant seeds that would grow to can vegetables to store for future meals. They would work the land, feel the dirt and pull the weeds. They would also nurture delicate flowers to blossom and grow; to show beauty.
Her love for playing the piano that she passed down to me with lessons, encouraging me on with her words as my fingers played the notes and listened from the audience as I played in concerts.
The patience and time my mother would take to teach me how to knit and crochet… to create beautiful slippers, potholders, and afghans. The blankets that I make, asking for her guidance as I work each stitch, hoping that they will turn out as beautiful as hers always did.
My hands look older than their 38 years. They have planted many gardens, crocheted blankets for babies and families. Blazed trails and built bridges. Flipped burgers and cleaned tables at restaurants They have wiped tears and nursed cuts. I look at my hands and see a lifetime.
My children often ask me what my mother gave me that I cherish the most.
And I tell them about my mother’s hands.
These are just a few of the things that come to mind when I think about her. There are many other wonderful memories, like how we always used to spend our birthdays together (since they were a day apart) either getting our hair done, going out to eat or meeting up at a casino to gamble (one of her favorites).
One thing I never do is make this a sad day for myself, because there are so many wonderful things that I have in my life because of her. The many things she taught me that I am able to pass down to my children and grandchildren.
I have to tell you I am not a fan of these kinds of posts. I do not like to talk about sad things. So instead of this being something sad, I would like to think of it as the remembrance of a truly remarkable woman and all of the good and happy things that her life represented.
Thank you for allowing me to share this with you.
Phyllis Mary (Papenheim) Larson
October 22, 1935 – April 19, 1999