The last thing my mother said to me was “I love you.” We were driving home from the hospital where they’d told me there was nothing they could do for the broken bones in her back. I ache with regret for not making them send her in an ambulance. They’d drugged her to the gills for the ride back to the rest home where she lived (she thought, in her own apartment, where she could go on daily walks to see the other tenants) but she was in such pain. I am the WORST person to be around when you’re suffering, I just empathize to a ridiculous level that I’m worthless to help. I kept saying “I’m so sorry, Mommy, I’m hurrying. We’re almost there.”

I didn’t think she even knew who I was, but she touched my leg and said clearly, “I love you.” And I nodded and she said, again “No. I mean it. I love you.” She died five days later, mostly comatose during that time.

As I posted before, I was sealed to my parents in May and have experienced a paradigm shift. The other day, I was looking for something in my piles of papers and mementos (I’m a hoarder, it’s official) and I came across some letters my mother had written me over the years. They seem new to me. I don’t know if I scanned them quickly and put them aside or what, but they mean so much more now.

I always answered my mother’s letters, wrote to her regularly and remembered her birthday, etc., but I dismissed her. Not so much now. Here are some excerpts from those letters that I found touching:

Feb 12, 1977:
“Dear Arlene & Jamie, also Maggie Mae **(our little dog). . . .

“We heard some of what happened from Mom Lee about Don and yourself (***Don was my second husband, the marriage lasted only 7 months). It’s funny the way things turn out some times but they have a way of turning out for the best.. . .I cut my hair the other day after two years. It was real long. We have a book on hair cutting. I done ok.

. . .Love you three, Mom”

In the same envelope, a little note to James (then almost 4 years old):

” Dear Jamie,
Hi, say you sure can pick pretty Valentine cards. How are you doing? I’ll bet you are almost as tall as your mom and a great help to her. We love you.”

(***My mom never was much of a grandma. I don’t remember this letter at all. Means so much now)

Feb 13, 1987:
“I am starting to pay tithing and it makes me feel good. I am going to see about a patriotic blessing ( her spelling :)) It’s going to be along pull, but I can do it. Well, I finally had to tell my neighbor to go fly a kite and stay away from me, she was driving me up the wall, gripping and bitching all the time to me, so I flat out told her to go and stay away from me. I did not want her problems I had some of my own. So, I did not swear but she got my point. I only say a few swear words now & I am trying to cut them out but I don’t swear bad like I used to. Oh, I tell a few to go to hell.”

Jan 12, 1989:
“Dear Arlene, I thought I would write and tell you all the things I am doing. . .1. crocheting (lousy) 2. jigsaw puzzles 3. crossword and search word puzzles (I have 300)
4. reading 5. Senior Center 6. Church. 7 Challengers-Senior dances (***my mother played the bongo drums in the band for the dances for years) I go to three dances a month (***she LOVED to dance, as do I, and would get up and sway to the music in her walker until shortly before she died) 8. Church singles 9. Library 10. Visiting teaching . . .

“I find if I keep busy, I can enjoy things instead of sitting in my apartment moaning and groaning. All you girls and your families are my push and go. My inspiration to get involved in things. That way I don’t sit on my can and think about the past and cry. I love my family more than anybody or thing on this earth.”

Now, I remember funny and sweet things my mom said and did. I remember her telling me how she loved the books “Green Mansions” and “The Mouse that Roared” and “Added Upon.” I remember her laugh, her smile. How she sang all the time “My Happiness” “Playmates” and “You Are My Sunshine.”

My heart was closed for so many years to my mother as I dealt with her alcoholism, abandonment, and childish behavior. Like I said, I don’t think we are really who we are, on this earth. Some come close, others, like my mom, not so much. But I read in these letters that she tried, she wanted to be better.

Sometimes in life, that’s the best we can do.