Remembering Mom

Today was a long day… we buried my mother this morning.

Mom died after a nasty bout with cancer. She was one of those people who ate right, exercised, saw the doctor once a year and did everything possible to maintain her health. Needless to say, her family and friends were shocked that she had gotten sick and then died so fast, three weeks after the cancer was discovered.

During the wake, everyone present was given the opportunity to share their memories of my mother. Her siblings, former co-workers, and my sister all shared their stories. Mom was an intelligent, thoughtful person; a successful career woman who possessed a tremendous eye for detail; and someone who lived by the tenets of her Roman Catholic faith. Those who spoke recalled how she took her responsibilities seriously, even as a child. She was remembered for her excellent cooking skills and her wicked sense of humor. Those present came away with a rich, vibrant portrait of her and her life.

I did not speak during the wake, because had I done so, I would have only tread on ground already covered, and I had learned from my father that it is hard to make an ass of yourself if you keep your mouth shut. Yet, looking back on the wake, I realized that an important part of my mother’s psyche had not been touched on: the importance of always doing your best. Mom always did her best, no matter how small the task, and consequently had no patience with what we call “slackers” today.

Which brings me to my own Mom story: When I was in middle school, the curriculum of the time had us kids reading books that were dull and plodding at best, and having to write book reports about them afterward. Needless to say, the process was sheer torture, because to me, reading these books was bad enough. Having to relive them again during the writing process was enough to put me off of reading and writing entirely. So I did what any 12 year old would do; I put in just enough effort to get the assignments done and not one bit more. That did not sit well with my mother, who informed me that such an attitude would not be permitted in her house, and that I had better sit down and do my homework and do it well, because she was going check it and not let me turn it in unless it met her criteria. Things got loud and ugly for a while, but in the end, Mom was able to prove her point: doing things to the best of one’s ability brings good results. I also learned to take pride in a job well done.

Like all sons, I have a lot for which to thank my mother, not the least of which is my genuine enjoyment of the written word. She was a big reader, and always encouraged us kids to expand our book reading horizons. She and I traded books every so often- we both enjoyed Tom Clancy- and she even gave me her copy of Murder Ink, the mystery reader companion edited by Dilys Winn. Now that she is gone from this life, I like to imagine Mom curled up in a chair, glass of wine in hand, enjoying a good mystery novel.

Here’s to you, Mom. Thanks for everything.

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