Tomorrow will be one month without my mother in this world.
That feels momentous, like a tick closer on the timeline of her disappearance from this world. A month, then two, then six, and a year. And so forth. Her birthday. Her private significant milestone dates. I’ll put them all in my phone to remind me to stop what I’m doing and think of her on those dates.
We had a running joke in my family about birthdays and holidays – my Dad shares his birthday with Abraham Lincoln, my brother was born on St. Patricks Day, dooming him to a lifetime of green iced birthday cake. My mother was born on November 1 – All Saints Day, a Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics. I was the only one born on a boring day, but it was close enough to Halloween to add some flare to my celebrations.
All Saints Day also known as All Hallows’ Day, the Feast of All Saints, the Feast of All Hallows the Solemnity of All Saints, and Hallowmas, is a Christiansolemnity celebrated in honour of all the saints of the church, whether they are known or unknown.
My Mum was very big on the saints. The Blessed Mother (Mary) was top of her list, but she often prayed to St. Francis of Assissi, St. Anthony, St. Lucia of Fatima. There were more, I’m sure. I don’t know if her birth on All Saints Day shaped her saintly respect or if she was born on that day in anticipation of her attachment to the saints. I do know she absorbed a lot of saint appreciation from her maternal grandmother who taught her to sing hymns to while away the time when walking.
My mother made me want to believe in Catholicism. It so obviously brought her comfort and peace, as well as a sense that by praying she was actively changing the world. She was old school purgatory Catholic. She missed Latin. She always took Communion by mouth, not by hand. She lit 3000 candles each week. We said grace before dinner. For a long time, she went to Mass daily – we lived just a few blocks away. Her ties were not with the physical parish (she hated the politics and petty behavior) but with the universal Catholic Church. She was one of the good ones if you believe in good Catholics.
She also exercised her birthday proximity to Halloween to commandeer the candy bars of her preference. What could we say to that?
There are a thousand stories I want to share and probably will here on this blog so they are part of my permanent record. Yesterday, I stumbled across a photo album I had made in the mid-1990s. Laura sat with me as I looked through. I found a photo of my mother, probably late 1980s. She had reddish brown hair which shocked Laura. I told her that my mother had died her hair for years until it went from gray to white cotton snowy color at which point her hair stylist refused to color it any longer. When I close my eyes, I see her with white hair and have to think very intentionally to remember her before then.
I also found photos of our first dog and cat, both of whom claimed my mother as their human. I’ll never forget when I came home from school and found her petting the dog who was illegally on the couch and singing the lullabies she used to sing to us. She told me that every creature deserved a lullaby and that the dog appreciated her singing more than my brother and I.
It has been a month and I still don’t believe that I cannot call her or write to her or ask her something about the family tree. It doesn’t feel real yet. I know I am sad, but it doesn’t feel real.
I still have barely cried.
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