Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Remembering My Mom

(I actually wrote today's post well before yesterday's, not long after my mom's health really began to deteriorate and I flew out on short notice to see her one last time.)

Because of my mom, I think of "mother" as both a verb and an ideal.  "To mother" is to sublimate your whole life in the service of nurturing your children, and to find your greatest personal joy in their growth

My memories of my mom all have this theme in common.  They are too numerous to share all of them, but I want to mention one very briefly.  I got food poisoning once when we were in Taiwan, and woke up in the middle of the night and threw up all over the floor of the bedroom where my parents were sleeping.  I can still hear the sound of the barf hitting the floor.  I felt absolutely awful that night, and yet the remembrance of the incident is precious to me because I recall my mom alternating between comforting me and cleaning up my vomit.  To be loved so tenderly and sacrificially at a time of misery and discomfort and mess is a profound life experience, one which anchors my sense of self and also challenges me to love in the same way.

My mom is responsible for my own life, obviously, but she also played a profound role in bringing my three children into my life.  She and Amy's mom accompanied us to China when we adopted Jada in 2005, and she served as an invaluable resource, translator, and supporter as we became parents for the first time.  When Aaron arrived, my mom put her entire life on hold and went to Taiwan for four months to make sure everything was OK with Aaron and with paperwork.  And, after the initial shock my parents expressed when we told them we wanted to do another adoption several years later, and a newborn and an African-American at that, it was my mom who was quick to offer encouragement, saying that she could tell that this was something we wanted to do and that if that was the case then she supported it.

Living so far away from her, and not being very well versed in medical things, I did not realize how much pain and discomfort characterized my mom's last phase of life.  It has been bittersweet to learn this at the end, making things more sad because I wish she did not have to suffer so, and less sad because I know that that suffering is now over.  These last months and years were not the best for her, but I will remember fondly the brief times she and I could spend alone when I would visit with the kids.  She couldn't talk much, but her eyes told me she was proud of me as a parent is towards her children, and that she was proud to see me becoming that kind of parent towards my children.  It lets me know that she knew at the end that she had done the thing that mattered the most to her in her whole life, and she had done it well.

I have many positive presences in my life, even many incredible examples of motherhood.  But only one gold standard, against which the very essence of motherhood is measured.  How lucky am I?

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