Three years and a couple of hours ago, the person who loved me most left this world.
She was smart and playful. She found ways to make everything fun, and she expressed joy in moments when younger parents would have been angry. I remember breaking eggs on the floor only to have her invite the dog to lick them up, her giving me pots and pans to play with as drums while she cooked, and even a crayon on wall drawing that was allowed to remain for years because to her it was art.
She was inventive and tough. Tornados forced us into the tiny scary area under the house that was really just dirt, pipes and spiders. But to Mom, it was a campout in the basement. We gathered the animals as best we could, the radio, blankets, and a flashlight — and we told stories until the storms were gone. When she got cancer, she never missed a day of work for chemo — she went in early and left in time for the last appointment. It wasn’t until she retired years later that she started to finally rest.
She was fiercely loyal and stood up to anyone who threatened her world. Her sister told a story of her beating up a man who tried to mug her when she was a young nurse in Germany. She told her family, “I have a right to be walking on the street. He has no more right to that street than I do.” She continued to walk the same street.
But she was also a softie who was the first to help anyone or any animal. I can’t tell you how many abandoned baby birds and rabbits we nursed back to health. How many people she helped even when it meant she couldn’t take care of herself. She once saved my choking best friend with a quick thinking heimlich maneuver, then acted like nothing had happened.
She was my biggest champion. She encouraged every dream I ever had. She worked overtime so I could play basketball and earn scholarships. She insisted my schoolwork was my job and I was only allowed to work in the summer. She sacrificed so that I could have what I needed to succeed. She drove me to AAU National Championships even though she had to work all day, drive all night, then stay up all day to watch me play. She once took off two weeks and drove me all over the east coast so I could go to Harvard’s basketball camp and visit other colleges. She told me I could be anything I wanted. And I believed her.
She wanted me to marry a German boy. Every time I dated someone with a German last name she tried it on her lips. Sorry, Mama. :)
She was a beautiful, brave, emotional, complicated woman. In the three years my mother has been gone, I’ve learned new definitions of grief and loneliness. I understand family and home differently now. Mama is the only person in this world who ever loved me as much as I loved them. Nothing will ever fill that space. But nothing will ever take away what was so freely given.
Ich vermisse dich, Mama. So viel.
“Ich habe das Herz gefühlt, die große Seele, in deren Gegenwart ich mir schien mehr zu sein, als ich war, weil ich alles war, was ich sein konnte.” ~Goethe