A year later.
It’s been a little over a year since my Mom passed from this world. The family gathered at my Dad’s house on the anniversary of her death and we remembered her, talked about her, shared memories and gave each other support. It was a bittersweet and difficult day for all of us.
As I drove down to my Dad’s house a year later, I was transported back in time to the day of her death. I had gotten a phone call and I knew she was dying but hoped she’d hang on long enough for me to arrive and say one last “I love you” and “goodbye.” She didn’t. My Dad left the house for a break from his vigil, headed for the grocery store, I can only assume, at the urging of the very intuitive and caring Hospice aide. Cookie knows all about these things and probably felt that my Mom needed the space and time to make her transistion without having to worry about my Dad or me being there to distract her from leaving. She left while noone was around except for the Hospice workers and Bev, who had cared for her full time when she could no longer take care of herself. My Dad called me while I was still in the car to tell me she was gone.
We arrived at the house for the memorial and in my mind, it was the year before and I was walking into the house, knowing that my Mother had died and wondering how I could walk into her room, see her body but not have her there with me any longer. I sat with her. I kissed her. I cried and I apologized for not being able to take away any of her pain and for not being there more often. We kept her body with us for as long as we could but soon she was taken away to be prepared for her funeral which in the Jewish faith, needed to happen within just a few days. The hardest thing was watching them take her away.
Her memorial was difficult but it was comforting to be spending it with family and friends who loved and miss my Mother as much as I do.
My Dad, my Aunt and my cousins and I all shared stories and memories of my Mother and it was lovely to hear how each of them remembered her. I appreciated the things that everyone chose to share about how my Mother touched their lives. One of the stories that came up was the tradition my Mother started of making a baby quilt for each new member of the family. Each of the babies born received a lovely handmade quilt. All except for the youngest, Grace. My mother was working on a quilt for Grace but couldn’t get it finished before she lost her ability to do the things she loved the most. She could no longer knit or sew or quilt and so for years, Grace’s quilt sat unfinished in a bag in a closet. After my Mother passed, I had every intention of picking up the quilt and finishing it for Grace but I couldn’t bring myself to touch it. What if I ruined it? I had promised I would get it done for Grace’s First Communion and then again, for Christmas but I just couldn’t seem to be able to even take the quilt out of it’s bag. The memorial happened and still no quilt for Grace. I looked at her face as the quilt story was shared and I knew it was time.
My Mom had given me her sewing machines but neither of them worked. I had one repaired only to have it break again right after we got it back and tried to use it. My daughter was chomping at the bit for a sewing machine and so I took the newer, fancier one in for repair, hoping it wouldn’t cost too much to fix. The repair took much longer than I expected but finally, we got it back and I knew I had no excuses not to work on Grace’s quilt. I had never put a quilt binding on by myself. That was always Muriel’s job. I’d piece together my quilt top and then quilt it and turn it over to her for the batting and the binding. I found a lovely tutorial on You Tube and after watching it a few times, I took the quilt out of the bag, cut my fabric and was almost ready to sew.
My Mother had already started to put the binding on Grace’s quilt before she couldn’t work on it any longer. I debated about whether I should leave what she had started and add to that or remove what she had done and start the binding over. Muriel had chosen a black binding for Grace’s quilt and I was concerned that the new fabric I bought wouldn’t match what was already sewn on so I started to remove the piece she had done. That’s when I saw what was probably the saddest thing. At first, her stitches were evenly spaced along the binding edge. But then they got progressively more and more unruly. There were places where it seemed as if she was sewing over and over again, trying desperately to be able to regain this skill that was slipping away from her fingers. With each stitch I removed from the quilt, I was witnessing her unravelling. I wondered if I had done the right thing by erasing that part of her story; the messy, ugly part that told of her slipping into dementia and away from who she had been before. Should I have left the evidence of that journey sewn into the quilt or was it my task to remove it, repair and finish so that the quilt reflected the woman she had been instead of what she had become? I am not sure I’ll ever know if I did the right thing.
I finished the quilt; it was much easier and took less time to complete than I thought. I know that my mother would be proud of me for having finished it. Now, it’s time to package it up and send it to Grace who will finally have her “Mimi” quilt. I know why it took me so long to finish it for her. If I had tried any sooner the story my mother told in those uneven stitches would have been too much for me to bear. It wasn’t an easy task to complete, even a year later but with the passage of time, I am left less raw.