Sunday, May 26, 2013

Memorial Day remembrance

When I was young, I used to go along with my mom to buy plants for the graves for Memorial Day. She’d pick up plants for everyone who couldn’t drive including her parents and her sister Muriel.

She’d drive all over the city of Lowell looking for just the right flowers. They were always geraniums. Always. She said that they were heartier than most flowers and didn’t need a lot of water.

We’d pick up my aunt and go to the Lowell Cemeteries where family was buried. I never understood how she remembered where all the graves were but she did. The three of us would get the flowers out of mom’s back seat and start our work.

First we would pull weeds around the graves whose markers lay flat in the ground. Their family never had the type of money to have the larger stones that stood upright. But they were a proud working-class Irish family nonetheless. It was important that the names on the grave markers be seen, though, since they were as important as anyone else in that cemetery.

We’d place the geraniums around the stones and stand back and look at our work. There were never tears. Not even once.

 “I’ll come back and get the geraniums in two weeks before the cemetery people remove them all,” Mom would say. “They should be okay without water for that long.”

One day when I was older I asked my mom why she went to so much trouble getting flowers for someone who wasn’t there to appreciate them.
“It’s a way of remembering them,” she said.
“Can’t you remember them at home?” I asked.
“It’s just not the same as coming here,” she replied.

I never really discussed it with her again. She continued to do the Memorial Day cemetery run up until about 3 years before her death. My aunt Muriel was gone at that point so my dad would go with her.

When mom was dying two years ago, she told me she wanted to be cremated and have her ashes spread with my dad’s when he was gone too.
“Where would you like them spread?” I asked her.
“Oh, I’ll leave that up to him. Just so long as we’re together,” she said, patting my hand.

So there’s no picking the right geranium for her now that she’s gone or driving all over the city of Lowell on Memorial Day weekend. Her ashes sit in my dad’s house, vacant now that he’s in a nursing home and we prepare to sell the house.

But I’ll remember her. Still. Without tears. And I’ll plant carefully-chosen geraniums this weekend in my yard as I’ve done for many years. I’ve always liked geraniums. They’re heartier than most flowers and don’t need a lot of water. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Honoring her spirit

Me and the Patty
Tomorrow is the 2nd anniversary of my mom's death. Great way to start a blog post, eh? I only mention it because tomorrow my husband and I leave on a trip to stay with friends in FL for a few days. 

I hadn't planned on hopping on a plane on May 9th because of this sad date. It just worked out that way with everyone's schedules at work and school. But I'm glad it did.

Last year I spent the day mostly with my dad. Taking him on a ride up the coast and out to lunch. Trying to just be there for him. I wasn't there for myself at all but that's rather typical Kathy behavior when it comes to my family's needs.

It was also typical mom behavior. She never ever focused on herself. Even when she was dying. I don't know that it's the best way to be but it certainly worked for her. 

The friends we're staying with are very fun and we expect to have a lot of laughs and hugs. Mom would have approved and, in fact, if she were able to communicate with me now, she would be applauding our trip on this date. I can just hear her, "Go live your lives! Remember me in the happy times!" 

In my mom's eulogy, I mentioned my friend Patty who my mom adored even though they really only interacted a few times in their lives. Patty is as full of life as my mom and an even bigger extrovert. She's also a great hugger. 

Some might think it's disrespectful of a loved one to go out and celebrate on the anniversary of their death. I beg to differ. I'm not forgetting her. I'm actually honoring her wishes to remember her when I'm smiling. I also went out on her birthday last year and danced my ass off with Ron and my friend Henry. Mom would have approved of that as well.

Tomorrow night when we are out to dinner with our dear friends, we will raise a glass to "the mumsie" and continue on with our fun and our hugs. Maybe mom had a hand in this after all.