Wednesday, January 30, 2013

"I'm Not Dead."

 "I'm not dead."  "I feel happy.  I feel happy."
Monty Python and the Holy Grail, 1975

Why does it feel like my mom has died?  She most certainly hasn't.  In fact, today she was quite coherent and happy to receive my phone call.  She said she was really grateful I called because even though the people at her new home are very nice, it's not the same as when your own family members call or visit?  She even remembered an incident that occurred last summer that I really thought she wouldn't remember.  She sounded good today.  Still wants to go home, but she sounds like she's adapting.

I think part of why it feels like she's died isn't so much to do with who she's become but because I'm spending so much time lately poring through her journals, looking at old photos, and dealing with her mementos.

This picture hung Mom's bedroom for many years:

It is now hanging in mine a few hundred miles away from where Mom lives.

I think Mom and Dad got the painting as a wedding gift, if I am not mistaken.  From whom, I don't know.  I see no sign of it in Mom's wedding gift registry (yep, I have that, too), but I feel like one of her San Francisco friends (where Mom grew up) gave it to her.  Perhaps I'm wrong.

It hung in Mom's bedroom for many years.  Then she moved it downstairs and replaced it with an old family photo.  Anyway, as the house has been prepared for cleaning, I asked if I could have it.  I don't know if anybody else cared.  But I'm glad it's hanging in my and Jonah's room and that when I wake up I can see a picture that will always remind me of Mom.

Just below it is another memento that has hung in Mom's room since 1977:

That's my hand.  I made this for Mom in elementary school.  I don't know if it's always lived in the same place, but it hung in her room for years and years.  Right below it was a nearly identical one my younger sister made a few years later.  It's still there as far as I know.  Mine now hangs in my bedroom.

It feels both right and wrong to have it here.  It really should be in Mom's room.  But then so should Mom.

As I was leaving Mom's house to come back home, my sister-in-law suggested I make a video recording of the house before it all changes for good.  I did.  It will never be the same again and if we're to pay for Mom's future care, it likely won't be in the family for relatively much longer.

I was noticing that one of the oldest pictures in the house was hanging to the newest.  This picture has been in Mom and Dad's house almost since the beginning:

Sorry.  It's not a great photo.  It was cropped from an old photo from the 70s.  I think my dad's parents may have even given this painting to them as a housewarming gift.  I'm not sure.  All I know is it's been in our living room almost as long as the house has existed.

It was painted by an artist named O. Yeline.  I think several prints exist of the painting, including my mom's.  It's called Swiss Chalet.  And based on my search online, this may have been the only work he did.  I found one selling on eBay for $80.00 (although it doesn't look like anyone purchased it).  I also found one that sold for $9.99.  I think it was a fairly common print when the one my mom owns was originally bought.

It's actually not my favorite painting in the world.  It's also rather large.  I thought about asking if I could take it, but not only doesn't it fit my personal taste, but it's too large to really put anywhere in my house.  It's also faded, scratched, and has some stains on it.  It's outdated.  But it reminds me of home, and I will miss seeing it.

Next to it was a set of framed photos Jonah and I had given Mom just this past Christmas.  I was sad she hadn't gotten to enjoy it longer, so I took it to her new home and hung it up with the other many photos my family had taken over there.

I guess change is part of life.

I found an interesting entry in one of Mom's journals, dated November 10, 1986.  Mom's original grammar and spelling are basically intact.  I have included some punctuation, however, for clarity (Mom wasn't very fond of periods for some reason):

            "Yesterday in Relief Society we had a lesson in death in the plan of eternity and how we as survivors deal with the death of a loved one.

            "Not because I’m going to die soon or anything but I feel the need to write a few of my thoughts down.

            "Of course death is eventuall.  Everyone is born & everyone dies.  When we are born we are leaving loved ones to go to other loved ones.  When we die we again are born again and return to loved ones.  It is hard to see our loved ones go but we are also glad for their continual growth whether it be off to school, college, marriage, a new job or a mission and we are happy for them.  It is hard to be separated from them but I guess it isn’t so hard because we can still write or call but then not always as we look at people missing in action in the war or runaway children where we don’t know where they are.  At least in death we know that they are in a beautiful happy place.

            "I guess death is hardest on the living.  They tend to blame God, or the person who died.  They can’t understand why they were chosen to deal with this death of a loved one, they are numb, they don’t want to accept that this has happed.   Perharps Perhaps they even blame themselves.  “If I had done thus & so” they say.  Forget it!!  Everybody spends so much time regretting this & that.  It happed now pick yourself up and get on with life.  Don’t blame yourself or me and don’t blame God.  Stay close to him and live by his guidance.  I would hope you would let me live on in you and that you know I love each of you for the “special” (I know you think that word is overused Keith) person you are.  Always love and help each other and do the best you are capable of.  I must go to work but perhaps I can write a special letter to each of you later."

I do love the lines,  "I would hope you would let me live on in you..." and "Always love and help each other and do the best you are capable of."

Words from a wise woman.  A very much alive woman.


Dean Scott said...

I am glad you have your mom's journals. I had weekly letters and then e-mails from mom once I moved from Utah. Those are my journal of what was going on. They do not necessarily include some of her deeper thoughts.

I relate to you being uncomfortable about reading and looking through things while your mom is alive. I felt that way when my mom did a pre-estate distibution of books and papers two years before she died. The boxes sat un-opened for a week or two when they arrived in NC. It took another couple of months to re-arrange and find space to put them away.

My oldest sister and I were talking on the phone about mom's papers that she inherited and dad's papers that I received. We have both learned a lot about the first fifteen years or so of their marriage. The information brings us peace.

Gay LDS Actor said...

It's been fun to read them. I like it when she gets feisty because that's a side of Mom I don't see as much in daily interactions (although she is certainly capable of it).

I also like it when Mom gets a little deep because many of her entries are just daily stuff (ate lunch, went to the store, etc.), but once in a while you get a better glimpse at some of her deeper feelings.

One thing her journals confirm is something I've always known: how much she loves both her family and her religion.

I love looking at old photos and documents, too. Bittersweet.

I talk to Mom every day. Wish I were there with her. I also wish she was happy where she is. I don't blame her for wanting to go home, but of course, she can't. I think it would devastate her if she knew we are planning to sell her home. Heck, it devastates me. But it is necessary if we're going to be able to pay for her care.

I really appreciate your taking the time to write, Dean. It means a lot.