How do you take the measure of a life? Is it in the years you've lived? Is it in the money you've made? Amount of friends? Your great successes?
My mother was the seventh of eleven children. She was "raised" by a terribly abusive father and harsh and selfish mother. Despite being dirt poor, abused and sometimes abandoned she could look back on her childhood and pluck out moments of great joy and real humour. Though we knew that her childhood had been rough to say the least, we also were treated to fabulous tales of failed flight from chicken coops, snakes tucked under caps intended to terrify her mother and hilarious stories of her capers with my Aunt Carol. My mother chose to look back at the love and the light in her life as opposed to the pain and darkness. She always believed it was better to laugh than cry.
The legacy of abuse by her father stopped with her. Our mother did not hit us or belittle us. She was so opposed to spanking that one of the rare times my father swatted my bottom for saying a swear, Mom threw a rolling pin at him that narrowly missed his head, flew through a window and hit the side of the neighbours house. When we started school she told us if any teacher were to ever send us down to the office for a spanking we were instead to leave the school and go home to get her and she would take care of the matter.
She was always our champion. When any of my brothers and sisters did something wrong (I was the good child) she was always at the forefront defending us whether we deserved it or not. She always told us we were the best and smartest and wonderfullest children in the world. Not to bolster our self esteem but because she really and truly believed it.
Mom believed that family was the most important thing. She instilled in us a sense of friendship and camaraderie and "usness" that people on the outside often don't understand. "How can you work together/see each other so often and not fight? We do fight, we do get angry, we are not perfect but there are no other people in the world like my sisters and brothers. We don't always get along (although we do usually get along) but we always have each others back. It is in our best interest to work out our differences and work together. And we learned that from Mom.
She was not perfect but she did her best to fill our childhood with love, laughter and joy.
She did that for a lot of people.
Some came to sit by her side for just a moment longer. For you who held her hand, spoke to her and aided in her comfort we are ever grateful. The love that surrounded my mother in that room was like a sun to light her way.
I am so blessed to be a part of her life