My Mother’s Casket
Like mother, like daughter. For ten years, my mom did not speak to my grandma. How could that be, I wondered. I never understood, until I stopped all communication with my mother during the last six years of her life. Why? Because no matter how hard I tried, I could never meet any of her expectations. At some point I just got sick and tired of scraping up the courage to call her on the phone one more time, only to have her hang up on me.
In mid-October of 1990, my brother called. Mom’s liver was full of cancer. “Soon it will be over and done with,” I thought. It was a busy season. I had six weeks to go on the craft-fair circuit, selling the baskets that I’d been weaving for the past five years. My brother said that the family back home had everything under control.
Early in the morning of December 8th, he called again. Mom was dying. Ron and I drove the 24 hours from Virginia to Wisconsin, straight to the nursing home. Leona was semi-conscious. At first, looking down at her, I was in disbelief. The strong work-horse of my childhood now lay there, literally gasping for one more breath.
Her gasping went on for six hours. Then it was over. She was gone. Mingled with my sense of relief that her suffering was over were feelings of sadness–a sadness for her, and for me, and maybe for what could have been.
While viewing my mother in her casket, however, before the service started, something happened. She seemed to have a slight smile on her face; a peaceful, calm, finally-at-rest feeling. She almost looked like a movie star.
To this day, I don’t know how to put it into words, other than to say that seeing her lying there in her coffin was the start of a L-O-N-G healing process. The healing continues at this very moment, for even as I write this I am crying–my first deep-within, sobbing cry since my mom’s passing eleven years ago.