Two years ago today, my mother passed away after a long illness. I try not to reflect on the sadness and grief, and focus more on my fond memories of her. It is particularly hard to deal with the loss because she died so close to Mother’s Day. I still have the Mother’s Day card I never got to send. The only thing that makes her passing a blessing is knowing that she is no longer in pain, and in my heart of hearts, I know she’s in a better place.
My Mom was never a woman who openly showed affection. Her hugs were more of a perfunctory nature. In no way does this minimize her love for me or my siblings. It is merely a behavior she inherited from my grandfather. Even as a child, I can never remember anyone in my family outwardly showing affection. What underscores this realization even more is the fact that my wife’s family is the exact opposite; they can’t hug enough. Every telephone conversation that my wife has with her mother, father, brother, and grandmother, ends with a sincere, “I love you.”
I’m not totally clear on the factors that distinguish whether or not a family openly shows affection or not, however, love is expressed in many ways. My Mom rarely offered a hearty hug, but if I mentioned in one of our frequent telephone conversations that I suffered from a slight headache, the very next morning, at the crack of dawn, she would call me and ask, “How’s your headache?” And no one in history worried more about the welfare of her children than my Mom did. My siblings and I had to carefully filter our conversations with her. If we revealed too much and even hinted that our lives were not perfectly packaged, she wouldn’t sleep a wink until our issues were resolved.
I never doubted her love, nor did I feel neglected that I never got a bear hug from my Mom. What I will cherish most is the last conversation we had, three days before she died. When the conversation ended, my Mom said, “I love you.” And I knew in my heart that this was a final goodbye. The hugs were rare and the affectionate words few. But in the end, hearing my Mom offer an unsolicited, “I love you”, will comfort me forever. I love you, Mom.
Josephine Montinarelli – September 11, 1925 to April 27, 2008.