My mom died unexpectedly on September 18th. She went in for a routine heart ablation procedure that typically has an 80% recovery rate, and died two days later. I guess someone has to make up that 20%. Sadly, it was mom. Our family is still numb from the shock of it all. I miss her every minute and wonder how long it will take for me to feel like a familiar version of myself again, if ever.
It’s brutal when your mom dies.
I was unprepared. It’s like part of me is gone, not quite the same, missing…hard to find the right words to describe the feeling but it’s surreal and I don’t like it one bit. ”It must be brutal,” my friend Michele said the other day. What a perfect description. It is totally brutal on every level. It doesn’t matter that she was 87. It doesn’t matter that she didn’t suffer a long illness or disease. It doesn’t matter that I am lucky I had in her my life for so so so many years. Nothing soothes. It’s just brutal.
My mom and I were very close and a vibrant part of each other’s lives. It feels like the sparkle has been removed from my life as I move through each day seemingly fine on the surface and a massive ball of goo on the inside. Brutal. As a result of the shock to my system, I’ve retreated into myself and away from some of the day to day world. Although I have continued to work after taking some time off, this is the first time I have written anything in months, which is really unusual.
During this time of year when I always do a coaching exercise with my coaching clients called ‘year in review’, I wonder if could be the perfect time for me to start to re-emerge from the loss and the suckiness of this past year. I’m contemplating some type of ritual to put this year to rest and start to create the year ahead. A new slate of sorts. Beyond the brutal. I know many people have experienced loss, fear and sadness this year. Maybe a ritual will provide some peace and hope for you too.
Although I’m a pretty private person, I’m experimenting with being more open and in the spirit of such, am sharing my mom eulogy from a few months ago at her funeral.
“I was overwhelmed at trying to figure out what to say today about mom. So, I did what any modern girl would do, I googled how to write a eulogy for your mom. Really, I did.
The first thing I read said, “The relationship between a mother and her child is like none other. Your mother has known you longer than anyone else in the world. Dealing with her passing might be one of the hardest things you will ever have to do. Writing a eulogy on top of that can seem impossible.”
Yup. That about sums it up.
And then it said, just write down your memories and pick some to share. That didn’t seem as daunting as I thought and so here goes.
Somehow, I thought my mother would live forever. Maybe every child thinks that of their parent but my mom seemed like she just might. Mom had more energy than I ever had and a social life unparalleled me or by anyone I know.
Honestly, who thought we would be here today. It’s really unthinkable. We’re probably all in shock which is a good thing because when it wears off, it’s going to be even more heartbreaking. If that’s even possible.
Nina and beautiful are words often mentioned in the same sentence when describing mom. For as long as I can remember, everyone in my life, starting from the time I was a little girl, when they see my mothers says, “Your mom is so beautiful.” She was.
My mother was elegant and beautiful both on the inside and out. On the inside she cared about people and made friends wherever she went. On the outside, she cared about the visual beauty of everything everywhere including the way she dressed and tried to get us to dress. Those of you here today know what I mean as she dressed many of you and all those women in Brockton, Massachusetts who came to her women’s clothing shop, The Rendezvous Boutique, and who benefited from her gorgeous eye for what looked good and what didn’t. There was no denying it…honestly, she was always right.
According to the author Gary Chapman, there are 5 love languages that lead your life and each of us use primarily to express your love to others. One of the love languages is called quality time.
I think both my parents primary love language is quality time, as being together with family and friends has always been top priority. Although Michael, Lisa and I each think each other is mom’s favorite, I would say, she loves us all deeply and I am most like her in many ways. I’m sure many of you noticed my fairy hair, which I have learned how to do myself during the pandemic. Mom and I would go together to Kate, the hair fairy every time I came to visit. And now that I am a hair fairy in training, I was looking forward to saving her a trip to see Kate next time I came to visit. Just one in a long list of important and not so important things I will miss doing with mom.
Because family is such a priority, we have been fortunate to do many family vacations together starting as kids, skiing every weekend at Mittersill in Franconia Notch, New Hampshire – every weekend starting when I was 5 even though Mom didn’t love skiing. We went on a family cross country trip for 8 weeks in a mobile home when I was 16. We went on many sailing trips on the Summer Snow, and many family cruises to celebrate some special occasion, family anniversary weekend at the Mount Washington hotel, random winter trips to Turks and Caicos, Caymen Islands, and Bonaire where Mom actually kind of snorkeled in her multi colored flowered bathing cap so she wouldn’t wreck her hair.
She loves all her grandchildren, Andrew, Abbie, Ben, Jared and Eric. What happened so swiftly to her must have been really bad because she would have done everything within her power to meet Andrew’s first son, the first great grandchild in our family, arriving soon in about 60 days.
The times we did things together as a family will be remembered by each of us in different ways but really the most amazing thing of all is not where we went but how much our family loves being together and how well we actually travel together. Not many families can say that.
My mom though had an additional love language which was shopping. Every time I would come to visit, I would be invited to the flea market, Bloomies at the mall because they had the best dresses, Stein Mart because the prices were so good and she had coupons, Jacobsons in the olden days because they had the best men’s shirts and baby clothes, and so many boutiques their names blur as there were so many.
Often when I visited, I would say to her, “Mom, I’m going to go for a walk with Dad or hang out with him in his office for a bit, I feel like I’ve hardly seen him we’ve been out shopping so much.”
God, my mother loved to shop. She would out shop me every single time. She would be going through the racks and I would quickly find the nearest chair to sink into and wait for her. She outlasted me every time. Everywhere we went, the sales people would welcome her by name as she entered the store. I often thought, “Oh my, this can’t be good.” Sometimes, I would complain to my husband Chris, “Oh my God, we went to another store today, I’m exhausted and don’t need any clothes anyway.” and Chris would say, ”Honey, it’s not about the shopping. This is one way your mother tells you she loves you.” I think he was right.
Mom’s eye for beauty carried over into their home and the way everything had to be just so, for no other reason except it looked more beautiful that way.
My mom (and dad) taught us how important it was to have good manners. Early on we learned to stand up when someone older walked into a room, how to set a proper dinner table and which silverware to use for what and when. When my Abbie was at her senior prom, she called Nana the next day to say, “Nana, I was the only one at my table who knew which fork to use. You would have been proud of me.” Which of course she was. And Mom said to me later… “Well, look at that, she was actually listening.”
My mother was a good role model for me as a working woman. She started working at the Andover School of Business where she taught young women how to walk, sit and put on make up. I loved going with her to those classes and sitting in the back of the room soaking it all in. She also had a women’s clothing boutique, The Rendezvous Boutique. It was awesome when mom would call and say, I just got some new clothes in, want to come and take a look which often translated to free or the big daughter discount. I learned that working and being a mom could be done easily and joyfully to give you a fulfilling life in both areas. That has served me well over the years.
These are just a few of the things I want to share today although when you’ve had your mom as an integral part of your life for 65 years, there is not a shortage of memories that warm my heart and make me smile.
It’s something to have your mom die and feel no guilt or regrets or unresolved stuff to work out. Not many daughters can say that. I am grateful that my mom knows without a shadow of a doubt how much I love her by the way we lived our every day lives and that mom (and dad) have always been my greatest cheerleaders in my life.
Life without my mom, my head cheerleader, and the steady voice of reason when the world goes whacky, is simply going to suck. Sorry mom, I really did consider using a different word but this one expressed it better.
Mom and I had a saying that when someone you love dies, it makes your heart feel like swiss cheese because it feels like you have a hole in your heart like swiss cheese has holes in it.
Mom, my heart feels like swiss cheese since you died and I am missing you and it’s only been 3 days, 14 hours and a handful of minutes.
I love you,
May the promise of the new year bring us all more love, light and a big dose of health and wellness as this year of brutal suck-ness closes.