Time passes, but memories of mother’s death linger
By Linda Braden Albert | lindaba@thedailytimes
I remember the day so well. Jan. 20, 1994, the day my mother died.
It was four days after what would have been her 57th wedding anniversary to Daddy. Fifteen years since the last one she celebrated with him. Five days before my 39th birthday.
My family was living in Lebanon, in Middle Tennessee, when she died. I was strangely unsettled that day and the few days preceding it. When my brother called that evening to say she was gone, I wouldn’t answer the phone. I picked it up as gingerly as I would have approached a coiled snake and handed it to my husband. Somehow, I already knew what we would hear and didn’t think I could stand to hear it then.
I can still see the light from the lamp spilling across the end table beside the couch where my husband sat, I in the recliner on the other side of the table, one of the cats on my lap. When the words came, it was as if the reel on which the events were being catalogued snapped. That’s all that registered — all except the difficult calls made to dear friends. The only thing I remember is telling one of our church friends not to be sympathetic because I didn’t want to cry. She gave me a good-natured insult and we both laughed and hung up. That’s what I needed.
It’s amazing how details such as this linger in my mind. It’s amazing how such things even register given the enormity of knowing you will never see your mother in this life again.
I could not mourn that she had left the fragile shell of her crippled, earthly body; a stroke had left her unable to speak, unable to use the right side of her body, unable to do the things she once enjoyed. I rejoiced that she had finally received healing from these physical burdens. At the same time, I mourned for myself and my siblings. We were now orphans — our daddy had gone to glory years before, and now our mother, the person who had played the pivotal role in our lives both with him present and even more so after his death, was also gone.
In a way, though, she had been absent from us for months. I often wondered after her stroke if she even knew who I was since I had come along much later in her life than my siblings. I could tell when she would attempt to say their names. I don’t recall her ever attempting mine. That was OK, though. She might not know me, but I knew her.
The receiving of friends was held the evening of Jan. 22. There had been an ice storm, leaving me to wonder if the roads would be safe enough for us to get home to say the last goodbye. We traveled here that morning without incident; the sun slanting across the ice-encased trees, shrubs and lower-growing vegetation made the Cumberland Plateau a fairyland of winter beauty. I have few memories of the receiving of friends or the funeral service that evening.
The next day, interment with a short graveside service was held at Forest Hill Church, our home church where Mama’s grandparents and parents lay, where Daddy and his parents, several of his siblings, nephews, nieces and cousins lay. At last, they were reunited.
I have photos from the day. The genealogist in me made sure of that. I don’t like to look at them, though. The grief on our faces brings those feelings back, almost as intense as it was on that January day when snow patchworked the cemetery grounds and a frigid wind chilled our faces, our hands ... and our hearts.
Nineteen years have come and gone. I often think of Mama and Daddy and wonder what they’d say about the way this world has changed. I wonder what they’d think of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren today.
Perhaps they already know what’s going on here. Perhaps they are closer than I can imagine, helping the guardian angels keep watch over the people they love.
Either way, this I know for sure: I will see them again someday.
Linda Albert is Sunday Life editor and a staff writer for The Daily Times. Her column runs every Sunday in the Life section. You may contact her at 981-1168 or (firstname.lastname@example.org)