My mother is not the kind of mother I need. And I am not the kind of daughter she wants. That makes us "even" in a cruel sort of way. But what has become apparent to me in the past several weeks is that she is the only mother I have.
And it is time to give thanks for that.
My mom went into cardiac arrest last Friday, following several weeks in hospital with an acute infection. She died, and was resuscitated. In the ICU, with my mother unresponsive and motionless, I found an odd sanctuary in which to reflect on our unique mother-daughter relationship.
Our expectations of each other have rarely aligned. I needed a mother who could keep a secret, who respected my boundaries, and who acted in a more refined manner. My mother wanted a daughter who accepted her as she was, found her eccentricities charming, and who argued with her less. Even if she recovers fully, it is unlikely either of our expectations will be completely satisfied.
But that doesn't matter so much now. Whatever happens next, whether she dies tomorrow or lives to see 100, it is important for my own spiritual well-being to acknowledge the good in my mother. And there is a lot of good.
I have always wanted my mother to listen, truly listen, to me. Now, for the first time in my life, I have an unfair advantage. She can't move or talk -- she doesn't have a choice but to listen. Yesterday, I thanked her for the things that I have not thanked her for, or at least not in the way she was so desperate to hear.
Mom, so many of your qualities have shaped my own values and beliefs. You are unbelievably generous relative to your means. You never made much money but always managed to save. You refused to splurge on yourself so that you could help pay for my two sons, your grandsons, to attend university. I know if I ever needed financial help you would give me your last penny.
You are resilient, and nothing knocks you down for long. You survived the war. You lost family in the Holocaust. You started over from scratch as a refugee in a new country, learned a new language and customs, and pursued a profession in daycare that you loved. You have lost one husband through divorce, another through death and too many friends to old age. You have an uncanny ability to pick yourself up, figure things out, and get on with life.
But your best quality is your love of family. While we are very different kinds of mothers, we probably have more in common than I give you credit for. It doesn't take much to make either of us happy. A simple family meal with your kids and grand kids around the table always ends with you saying, "This is the best day of my life". And it is for me too.
Mom, I know you can hear me. And I hope these words give you strength.