My Greatest Gift

I booked tickets to go to Florida for a few days.  Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?  Out of the deep freeze to sunny Florida for a few days of warmth. And while it is….it isn’t a pleasure trip.

My mom had a stroke last fall, massive, at the age of 93.  And she lived through it, but cannot talk, read or write, which is hard enough.  She needs full time care, which my older sister is lovingly giving her.  But we all know Mom is ready to go.  She eats little, sleeps a lot.  She is still her pleasant happy self, as happy as she can be in the state she is in.  I am happy that she is surrounded by people who love her.

Yesterday my sis texted me that she thought I should plan to head down there in a couple of weeks, so I can say goodbye, and see her again before she goes on that mysterious journey.  I am going, of course.

I have known for some time that anytime I see her could be the last.  I don’t feel like anything has been left unsaid with her, but of course, to get one more hug from her, to hear her say “I love you” one more time will be wonderful.  (She can say “I love you” because she doesn’t have to think about it.)  She is a wonderful mother, as loving and kind as you can imagine.

She is also a remarkable woman.  Her own mother died when she was 4, in 1925.  While her father traveled from town to town looking for work, she lived with a variety of aunts and uncles.  She always said she missed her mother, but she never felt alone because she was part of such a large extended family.  They were kind to her and her sister.

My mother went on to work her way through college, got a degree in economics, and met and married my father, to whom she was married for 45 years, until he died when he was 68.

While she and my father gave me and my sisters many gifts…of the intangible kind….the greatest gift they gave us was the gift of unconditional love.  Both of them loved us without condition.  Neither my sisters or I ever went to bed wonderingst if our parents loved us.  Love ruled our house.  We took it for granted, which is how it should be.  No child should ever question whether his parents love him.  Every child should be loved by their family just because they exist.

This is how a child learns that they have intrinsic value, just because they are.  It is their rock to stand on, it empowers them for life.  It allows them to set boundaries on how they are treated.  If someone treats them badly, they don’t believe they deserve it.  They know it’s wrong.  They also learn that every life has value.

I have known, intimately, a couple of people who grew up without this.  Their road is so much harder.  They can find it, they can eventually come to the conclusion that they DO have value, but the journey there is harder, longer, generally more fraught with pitfalls and potholes.

As I go on this journey to Florida, I will try somehow to let my mother know that I know.  That I also love her unconditionally because she exists.  And that I am so, ever so grateful, that she was my mother in this lifetime.  Of all the blessings I have been given, and they are many, this is one of my greatest.

Go in peace Mom, whenever you are ready.  I know you will never be far from me.  We’ll meet up again, in that place where there is no time and space.

I love you.