It has now been long enough since mother's death in 1995 -- that the mixed feelings of love and guilt and envy and resentment have found their way into a kind of cosmic blur -- and I've finally allowed her to be completely at rest, or so it seems, except ... .
There have been major losses of family and friends, including my eldest son, since that time -- and there is a kind of comfort with the feelings of incompleteness that comes eventually.
This morning, for the first time, I fingered my way through the file folder tabbed "obituaries," and dared to read the poem that I wrote for her funeral:
Lottie Allen Charbonnet
You will be remembered as a single bright feather on a pink silk hat aimed heavenward; 3-inch heels on moire sandals with small red rose on toes
As a single fragile butterfly in a windswept world of those too caught up to notice your needs for touching and loving and caring and -- most of all -- for seeing your beauty.
Bereft of world views, books unread, causes unserved, your time on earth was spent in simple ways -- ways suited to a temperament shaped by your motherless beginnings that provided no models for your own mothering but instilled a deep appreciation for family in its broader sense; the legacy of that love-filled cabin in St. James and your dear Mamma´who nurtured her brood with such warmth.
It is that larger family that will most miss your presence on this earth -- family of all ages -- many of whom stayed with you through a long, long life as a replacement parent for those lost -- until the end came.
I will miss you deeply as we came full circle during your long lifetime -- reversing roles until -- near the end -- you quite seriously introduced me to others as "my mother". Perhaps I became "Minette" returned, at some point. You invariably made the correction, but I knew that no error had been made.
Why is almost my last memory of her the morning that I brought her bedside coffee for our daily ritual of greeting the day? As she drained the last drop, and as I removed the tray to set it down on the floor beside the bed -- she reached up from her pillows to draw me to her for a kiss. As she did so her words were, "please don't die, Betty. Who would take care of me?" We'd by that time celebrated her 100th birthday. I can recall walking out of the room resolute in my intention to not live into the years where self-preservation would become my total reason for being. Over the course of the ensuing years nothing has dissuaded me of that notion. I suspect that I will know when the time comes to leave and will act upon that knowledge if dementia has not claimed my senses.We honor you in death as we loved you in life.
... except that there are more and more reasons to go on living... and perhaps that's what keeps us here long after our purpose has been outlived.
Can it be that I've never forgiven myself for not preventing her death? I know. That's illogical. Insane. But it continues to haunt me in the silences ... .
Why is it that I still can't own Mother's Day? Despite being of advanced age and the parent of 4 of my own, I've never really grown into a role that still seems to belong to you. Is this true for all daughters; a part of the never-ending incompleteness of Life?
Maybe next year ... .