For anyone who is reading this and has lost a parent, I am so truly very sorry. I know now the pain it causes.
We’re here today to honor the life of one of the most amazing women I know. She was kind, always kind, strong even when most of us would turn away and run, she was beautiful. She was a loving daughter, a grateful lover, a caring sister and staring in the best role ever, Elizabeth was mine and my brother Jason’s mom. You’re going to hear me say it over and over again, I love her so very much, we love her so very very much. I feel like the more I say it, the better she can hear it up in Heaven. I am so scared that I cannot say this enough that even as I speak these words, my love for my mother cannot get across enough. Being in her arms when I was hurting as a child was one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced in my life except for the times that I am able to hold my own children.
My mom was born in Grand Rapids, MI in 1960, the middle daughter between two other sisters and the big sister to two brothers. My mom was a talented florist who loved flowers and nature. She loved being outdoors and her camping trips to Canada where she was able to be out in the wilderness with Steve, perhaps one of the greatest loves of her life. My mom’s life wasn’t easy, but she was dedicated and hard working. She worked diligently to take care of her family, always making sure we had all the things we needed. She stood and fought for her son to get the best education possible despite his learning disabilities and permed her little girl's hair because she wanted curls. On weekends she would take us to the movies and we would enjoy the snacks she snuck into the theater via her big purse. She put up with a lot of crap from me yet she never once held anything against me.
There is no doubt in my mind that she loved her two children more than anything else, other than maybe her grandchildren. When I became pregnant with my first child in 2003, she was so very excited to become a grandmother and was happy that she could be the one to buy the crib. Side note, I used that crib with all 4 of my children. My mom was beside me when I went into labor and taught me the many different things about caring for an infant son. When I was faced with one of the most difficult decisions in my life, she never once judged me. She supported my decisions, even buying me slippers to have at her house when I moved back in with her for a while. When I moved to Kansas where my husband was stationed, she came down to spend time with her daughter and grandchildren. When I was pregnant with my second child, I knew that if it was a girl, her name had to include Elizabeth somewhere, and thus we have Carolyn Elizabeth.
I love you mom.
For years mom spent time being a mom and grandma, working 40 hours a week, taking trips camping and to Buckley. She took specially planned vacations to care for her grandchildren when I took trips out of state. In fall of 2014 something didn’t seem right. When I was preparing for a trip to Virigina for school, mom got lost enroute to my house. Mom never got lost going to places she had been over a hundred times. She knew where her daughter’s house was. It was in 2016 that my mother was diagnosed with frontotemporal degenerative dementia, I died a little inside. I denied what I believed to be the truth because I didn’t want to make it a reality that I would be losing my mother to a horrible disease like dementia. We even sat up at Buckley and talked about getting her into the doctor and we thought of so many other options that could be causing her recent mishaps in daily life.
After her diagnosis, I made the decision that she would move in with us. It was amazing, mom never fought me. To this day, I am amazed that an independent woman who had her own life wouldn’t even put up the slightest fight regarding moving in with her daughter, husband and four children. We made it work. It wasn’t easy by any means, but we enjoyed boating trips, family dinners, hiking trips to Pennsylvania, Christmas parties. Everyone knew that if you got the family of 6 that you had to plan on a family of 7 instead.
When it came time to make the decision to move mom into a care facility, it wasn’t easy. I still vividly remember sitting down on a Tuesday evening, mom's caregiver, mom, Michael and myself and the tears that rolled down her face. I died some more that day, seeing my mom sad to be leaving our home, to be going into a facility. She was not happy with me, and the little bit that she was able to express herself, she sure showed it when I went to visit her the first few times. She would have nothing to do with me and continued to walk up and down the hall. It wasn’t until Marie started walking beside her that she started to show her love again, holiding out her finger to allow her youngest granddaughter’s small hand to hold.
Still throughout this time, I knew that my mother was somewhere nearby. I knew that she was well taken care of her, the knickname “Sissy” was given to her and the nurses loved and adored her. She was the baby of the wing and so many times I saw how much they doted on her. I wasn’t able to see her the last few months due to the restrictions in place becasue of COVID-19. I would get calls here and there about her. Then, early last week, I got the call that she wasn’t eating or even moving. Mom loved to move, a lot. Unless she was sleeping, she was moving constantly. I still didn’t hold on to reality, even when my brother and I were permitted to go in and say good-bye, and I wonder how long I will hold on to the vision of my mommy fighting to breathe, the reality didn’t sink in. I just wanted one more chance to tell her “I love You.” I kissed her forehead before leaving and she was warm and her skin soft. Over an hour into Wednesday morning, her 60th birthday, I received the call that she had passed away. I tell you, reality hurts like your heart being ripped from your chest. She fought a good battle, there were tears and frustration, and fear, dancing to music, and I cannot even imagine what it must have felt like to be her. She was amazing.
When I hear my children call “mom” “mommy” or some version of the pronoun, I think of her. I pray that she is proud of the legacy that she leaves behind. The reality of her not being on this earth leaves me in breathless tears. I believe in Heaven, but it wasn’t until my mom got there that I really saw the reality of it. I know she is in a better place, being “taken care of by God” as her granddaughter Rebekka put it the other day, but I am still so angry and fight with the fairness of it all.
In church around Thanksgiving we are given the opportunity to express what we are thankful for. I am thankful to our church family for welcoming our family of 7. I want to thank my in-laws for welcoming my mother like she was a blood relative into Christimas and other parties. I want to thank my own dad for sitting with mom and making her smile when she was sick and tired of her daughter bossing her around. I have to thank Steve for loving my mom because she really really loved you. Lastly, I have to thank my family, my husband for being there beside me through one of the biggest heartbreaks of my life. Thank you everyone who is here. Thank you God for giving me such a wonderful mother, you blessed me beyond belief.
Mom, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you.
Watch Sara Rice, M.A., LLPC talk with Pastor Greg about relationships, motherhood, COVID-19 and how we live in relation to the world.