Rockwall, TX (May 3, 2023) – I saw a photo of my mom on TV last night. We have some sort of screen saver on the television, I cannot recall how it works or how I set it up. It would have been me that set it up, because, sadly, I am the technical agent in this house, and that is a funny thing. At one point I must have been inspired, some electronic device must have shown the way, and I added a bunch of photos. The screen usually pops up pictures of the grandbabies in years past, and I exclaim “awwww – look at Bubba…” or “Lil P! She was such a thing!” Sometimes some weird photo of a chair or Christmas decoration will pop up – that would be a bloopeer, but darned if I know how to change it. We don’t leave the television on enough to see the photos often or I might try to figure out how to update the images.
The photo of my mom caught us both, yesterday. I think we had watched some news and were waiting to begin a program, so the TV stayed on, not on a channel, but in that Lalaland of icons and banners we click to bring up Yellowstone 1923 or Ted Lasso. There was Mom, in the care center, in her final thirty days. She had the peach and coral patchwork quilt spread across her lap. Despite colors that do not fit in my décor, it is the quilt folded on the arm of my chair and is often on my lap. It’s not much of a quilt for very cold evenings, just more of a comfort, because it was Mom’s. The hospice brought it to her; a quiltmakers guild provides hospice patients with these sweet offerings to bring a bright spot into a difficult time, for those nearing the end. Mom was in our care at her end, my sisters both being further north in the Midwest. I saw her quilt every day. It is dear to my heart.
There she was in the hospital bed, her own blue pillowcase on the pillow. I would launder her pillowcases, iron, and bring them from home. Those touches made her more at ease in a strange place that did not have the most pleasant scent (Mom’s home always had a soft whiff of sandalwood and other sniffs of soft fragrance.) We had photos on a pin board on the wall, framed photos scattered on surfaces. I kept flowers in her room, freshened every week. Full, loose arrangements, always with Alstroemeria in the mix- that’s what she loved. This is surely why my floral style is what it is, I soaked in every bit of flair I have, from my mother.
When I spotted her photo on the television screen, looking out at us, I stopped. I sat still and looked at her eyes gazing directly into mine. By the time this photo was taken, Mom was close to the end of her days with us. She was in pain, shrunken, her eyes strangely dark, the pupils huge. That must have been from the morphine that she required for the pain, though it caused so many more unpleasant side effects. Her eyes strike me when I see that photo; and I usually look briefly, knowing I can no longer see her smile at me from under a wide brimmed hat, comfortably ensconced in a cushioned patio chair, enjoying a bowl of ice cream. I like to gaze at such photos. But Mom’s eyes haunt me in this shot. I think it is that those eyes were telling me I could not help her anymore. I could not bring her a bright spot anymore, provide something lush and lovely to fill her spirit, or crack a silly joke to make us both laugh hysterically, together.
I remember years ago, in my early twenties, when Mom and I still repeated the yearly tradition of making scads and scads of Christmas cookies, piled in tins and Tupperware containers in our kitchens for the season. It was a day long process, though Mom began the night before, preparing several of the doughs that needed refrigeration before rolling out or squishing through the cookie press. Mom was Vice President of a bank and took a day off each year for cookie making. We had reached late afternoon of the cookie making marathon, getting punchy and silly. Something – I have not a clue anymore what – struck us so funny. We both ended up on the floor of Mom’s small kitchen, backs against the cupboards, knees up, laughing until we cried, then laughing some more. This is the way I prefer to remember my Mama.
I saw my mommas’ eyes, eyes that at the end hurt me deeply because I could not take away the misery that wracked her. The endless path and the steps to take her beyond were something she had to do on her own, nothing I could do would give her companionship in the abyss between life and death.
Yesterday I looked directly at that photo and into her eyes. I looked for longer than I have in the eight years since she moved up to heaven. I know, ensconced in that state of mercy and grace, in the forever light, she sees me exactly as I am. I know she is there, somewhere, looking down at me and encouraging me on as she always has. There is never a day in my life that I don’t know how much my mom loves me, how proud she is with anything I have accomplished in my life. How much she loves my people. This is the most wonderful gift my mom gave me. Her love is with me always.
Love you too, Ma.
Sally Kilgore is a resident of Fate, Texas, transplanted from Rowlett, across the lake. She is married to her long-time flame, Judge Chris Kilgore, (aka The B.O.B.) When not writing, gardening, filling in at the local flower shop or hanging out with grandkids, Sally devotes her time to serving Bob Kilgore, a well sized, Tuxedo cat with panache.
You can contact Sally at SallyAKilgore@gmail.com , and visit her website: SallyAKilgore.com