Each calendar month holds memories. While most greet us with pleasant reverie, some harbor painful remembrances. Even before April waved good-bye, May’s grief began gripping my heart. Despite this month’s perpetual sadness, this year, the memory of one beautiful life now in heaven speaks a different kind of sadness.
Growing up, the month of May was a big celebration month in my family. Starting with May Day, which was my Dad’s birthday, then May 4th my parent’s wedding anniversary, rolling into May 10th, my Mom’s birthday and of course Mother’s Day and Memorial Day.
A life missed
Gone for thirty-six years now after his death at age forty-nine from cirrhosis, my Dad loved his birthday on May Day. Growing up in an Italian immigrant family, he loved the idea of May baskets left anonymously on door handles in his neighborhood.
Though times are quite different now, I still remember his childhood stories every May first.
We unexpectedly said good-bye to my Mom on January 24th, 2023. Still fresh, the pain deepened as her birthday and Mother’s Day drew near. Grief filled for many, Mother’s Day often feels lonely and hopeless.
Passing many a Mother’s Day missing my two prodigals, this year the empty space once occupied by my earthly relationship with my Mom, adds a new layer of grief.
Many favorite memories flood my mind this month, but one stands out as a wonderful example of the woman of strength she embodied.
Back in the sixties, a journalist from Parade Magazine, (the national magazine insert found in Sunday papers) came expressly to do a cover story on her.
She was an outspoken advocate for local youth sports, especially football in my community. When the existing youth football organization failed in maintaining a program of integrity, she, along with my Dad and other community members formed another league.
Her tireless support drew the attention of the young journalist who did a full story, interview, and photo spread in the national magazine. She also received a community award presented by NFL Pro Bowl defensive tackle, Dave Rowe.
Rowe grew up in our neighborhood, was on the championship football team at the high school I would eventually attend, was on the first team coached by Joe Paterno at Penn State, and went on to be a second-round draft pick for the New Orleans Saints.
The photo shows my Mom receiving what became fondly known in the neighborhood as the “Big Mouth of the Year” award from Dave Rowe. She was so embarrassed she couldn’t stop laughing.
Sadly no one knows what ever became of that issue of Parade magazine nor the award that graced our home for so many years.
An avid football fan and staunch Green Bay Packer fan, a Bart Starr jersey and Packers cap were lovingly displayed at her memorial service.
A healing comfort
Death of a loved one often moves us to idealize the relationship. As if speaking of the rough parts somehow dishonors the relationship or memory of our loved one.
At times rocky, my relationship with my Mom was certainly not ideal. Plenty of instances where we held varying perspectives or simply disliked one another’s responses linger in my mind.
I know the pain of regret pierced my heart when my brother related the news of her death.
Times I judged more than I loved.
Times I failed to see her pain. Her childhood home held much pain and loneliness for her. My Dad was an alcoholic, and though totally functional and never abusive, I know it affected their relationship, and he died young.
I blamed her for my wounds, refusing to see she was wounded too.
I often resented her opinions and views, the direct and straightforward ways she had.
Yet death softens the edges once so sharp. The things which irritated me, I admire, because she stood firm and expressed truth in a world which rarely valued women’s voices in her day.
Many of my finest traits of strength, advocacy for the marginalized, kindness to everyone, and standing for truth no matter the cost, were earned at her side.
“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”
But even more than a softened perspective, death brough healing to our relationship which simply could not find its completion on earth. In the presence of God all has been made right. When we meet again only love, joy and peace will exist between us.
Forever grateful for the gift of leading my Mom to the Lord after she told me she never wanted to hear His name again the night I left for the mission field of Albania, I find comfort in knowing she waits for me in the Presence of Jesus.
A life tribute
As I continue to honor my Mom’s memory in various ways, today in honor of the special May memories I hold, I share a poem I wrote for my Mom on the occasion of her seventy-fifth birthday.
One Life- by Donna Bucher
One Life begins so quietly,
So tiny, so fair-unique.
Formed lovingly, perfectly,
A daughter welcomed with Joy!
One Life daily is transformed.
A little girl skips and plays.
A young woman blossoms,
Eager to embrace life.
One Life soon joins another,
A marriage sealed; a home begun.
Once a daughter, now holds her own.
Proud parents a son gladly add.
One Life imparts her own heart.
Supporting each child’s dream,
Sharing laughter, giving hope
Honoring her husband loyally.
One Life ready to listen,
Comfort for broken dreams,
Encouragement to start again-
All this as wife, mother, friend.
One Life gives of time in service,
Family, Neighbors, meeting needs.
Loving mother, faithful wife.
Sacrificially touching lives.
One Life, Daughter, Sister, Wife,
A gift so precious to each life.
Mother, Aunt, Nan-many names!
One Woman means so much to all.
One Life of 75 years,
The road less travelled taken,
Cherished memories, loving family,
A testament of true dedication.
One Life conveys this story.
Regrets yes, sorrows many,
But beauty, laughter, love portray
A Life truly lived-not passed in vain.
The death of a loved one merely removes their physical presence from us on earth, but the relationship is never ended. Part of the grief process involves learning to love them in new ways, which takes time.
I see in the pain of missing her, not only the simple longing for her presence again, but the absence of opportunity to love her well from a place of healing.
Yet, the beauty of a love refined by death radiates outward, honoring the memory of those lost in the loving well of others still present.
Thank you, Mom, for standing when others sat down, for loving when it was hard, and never apologizing for speaking your truth, no matter the cost. I love you.