Several faithful readers have asked why I’ve grown silent lately. Very unexpectedly my mother died, on January 3. We found her at the end of a busy Monday when she didn’t answer her phone. She had apparently died early in the morning, or in the night before. The week before she had canceled her plans to drive her convertible six hours to her beach place because she was too busy throwing two cocktail parties back-to-back. A couple of weeks later she planned to cruise to Belize. But instead she was suddenly swept away from us all.
My brother and I sat with her body for a long time. I was glad for the chance to hold her beautiful hands one more time. This experience has silenced me. I have lost my balance. No need to write from such a place. There is both too much to say and nothing to say. But, to move forward, I will try to say a little.
First, in tribute to that brilliant spirit, none of us can separate her in memory from her hearty laugh. Second, it fell into place as she would have wished it– a swift exit without a long stay in some holding cell of aging. Third, of all the things she passed down to us, nothing is more precious than the closeness and caring she fostered between my brother and me, and her lesson of eternal optimism. No matter how bitterly we whined about our fates, we’d always be reminded of our good fortune in the great scheme of things, and the crushing misfortunes of many others.
A few weeks before Mom died, my niece Sally gave birth to her third son, Zimmer. Mama, never one to bother with babies, took special note and went to visit him, declaring him “beautiful”. She even spent a long hour Christmas morning rocking him to sleep.
When I cleaned out the convertible I found a book: Being Dead is No Excuse. I had to laugh, standing there beside the car. I rushed to read it. It was a written in a distinctly recognizable southern voice, about death rituals in the deep south. My mother could have written it. It was so full of things she had passed on to me: southern taste, manners, priorities and peculiarities. The irony and fun of it cracked me up. I credit Mama with the sense of humor to leave that behind.
In some junk shop a decade ago she’d found a brass plaque intended for a coffin, engraved in gothic letters with the phrase “she hath done what she could”. She hung it over the front door. That was her mantra. I think she hath done a whole lot more. The rest is currently inexpressible.
Beautiful Elizabeth! What a legacy!
ah,elizabeth. accept it or not, you are one of your mother’s greatest legacies. a talented artist, a wise and wonderful mother, a gracious hostess, the best of friends and possessor of the heartiest laugh i know. i did not know your mother, only met her once. but judging by all that i’ve heard about her, she passed on to you all of her most endearing and precious gifts. and i’m betting there was a helluva party in heaven when she arrived.
Jane told me about your mother’s passing and my heart went out to you. I have thought about you in the past weeks. My mother always thought so highly for her. I believe they met and became friends when your mom taught my sister. She obviously lived a full life and leaves a wonderful legacy, as you expressed so eloquently. Please know my thoughts are with you during this bittersweet time as you mourn, miss and appreciate her.
Thank you so much, Hope.
So beautifully said! I can relate to all you wrote and wish I could write as wonderfully as you can. Bless you.
Thank you, Ginny. It’s lovely to hear from you. I hope you are well.
This is beautiful. Thank you for putting pen to paper (well, you know what I mean in this day and age) and sharing these words. Hope one day someone picks up my copy of Being Dead is No Excuse and passes it along.
Your mother was generous and kind and gave the world a remarkable family. Best wishes to all…
Thank you for these very kind words. She would love what you have to say, and be happy to pass her delightful book on to you.