Wednesday, April 11, 2007


[cross-posted at Begging to Differ]

Dear Mom,

Ten years ago this morning, I was with you while you took your last breaths. You held out until everyone was around you, then you let go when Dad told you it was all right to do so. We stayed with your body for a while, each focusing as much as possible on how glad we were to have been your family, on how you had made our lives better. If I focused hard enough, I would be able to lift your soul up on those positive thoughts, and help you get to the next place, whatever it was. I could imagine you looking at me, you finally free of the chemo and the tubes and the turbans, knowing that I was doing all I knew how to do.

Ten years ago, I'd just quit grad school, was shacking up with my boyfriend in violation of your religious ethics, and insisted on "comfortable" clothes that you thought were better suited for maternity wear. I know you were proud of me. Now, that boyfriend is the best husband I could have asked for, my children are strong and happy, and I'm well on my way to getting the doctorate that you always worked for and never finished. I know you'd be proud of me. You weren't easy to live with, and I often questioned your parenting style, but I never for a moment questioned whether you were doing what you thought was best. You tried at every juncture to prevent me from making mistakes.

I wish I could remember your voice more clearly. It comes to me at strange moments, but only when I'm not trying to hear it. Usually, it's your Alabama voice, the one that came out when you called your parents back home, not your North Carolina voice, which you used when teaching your students songs about the quadratic formula.

I wish I'd watched more carefully when you made pie crust.

I'm glad I listened carefully when you told me that you loved me.

Now, just like I have my grandmother's name, Ruth, as my middle name, your granddaughter has your name, Claudia, as hers. Sometimes she wears your colorful socks-with-toes when she plays dress-up, and she tells me that she's sad she'll never get to hug you. Yeah, I think, me too.

Your little girl


laurie said...

I'm so sorry to hear that you lost your mother so long ago. This is a beautiful post -- thank you for sharing such a personal story.

Marcia said...

A beautiful letter. Have you thought of saving the socks with the letter for your daughter?