It used to signify the coming of summer – the long awaited awakening from the hibernation that a cold winter brings. It was a harbinger of the end of school and the beginning of sweet blessed vacation. As a child, I could hardly wait for the opening of the lake cottage where we would spend our weekends along with a never ending trail of visiting family members and friends. It was a season of barbecues, water skiing, swimming, and fun. That’s what Memorial Day meant then.
Those days are now gone – the memories overshadowed by newer darker memories of my last moments with my mother. Six years ago, I stood vigil by my Mother’s side in a dreary hospital room waiting for her to die. There would be no barbeques… no family gatherings, no fireworks. It was just me and her . .. saying goodbye.
I knew it was coming. Her diagnosis of late stage pancreatic cancer ensured that it would be sooner than later, But it didn’t make it any easier. It was never easy to watch her suffer but it was even harder to let her go. For awhile, she put on a good front. She did not want us to think that she had given up even though in her soul she knew her time had come. She did that for us and so I had to do something for her. I gave her permission to leave.
It was early in the morning the day after Memorial Day in 2008. She had been mostly unconscious since placed on the morphine drip earlier in that weekend. I was sleeping in her room because I did not want her to die alone. I wanted to bear witness to her passing. I wanted her to feel my love when she left this earth. I awoke to her struggling for her every breath. I held her hand. My voice broke as I told her she could go. She left her physical body moments later but she never really left.
I feel her presence everywhere. I am reminded of her in every day seemingly meaningless events… trips to Christmas Tree shops, Christmas cookies, the smell of roses. She is the voice inside my head guiding me. She is the spark that inspires me. She is the visitor in my dreams who reminds me that the love we share never dies. She is my Memorial Day.