Apr 19, 2016
This is the final post about mom's memorial lunch. We asked dad beforehand if he wanted to speak and he said no. That didn't surprise us. Mom's loss has hit dad hard. He's not much of a speech maker either, more a man of action.
Nobody sees the inside of a marriage quite like the kids. It's part of being a family. Both the good times and rough times. I won't talk about the rough times other than to say what my parents taught me is you don't give up on your partner or your marriage. People are flawed, be there for them because you ain't always a grand prize yourself. A lesson that has allowed me to build my own loving marriage.
Mom had many major heart surgeries during her lifetime. One or all of us were always there in the recovery as she woke up or very soon after. Everyone was always overjoyed that she had made it through one more time. This last one was especially tough. My mom was convinced she had pushed her luck one too many times. She was convinced she would be put under and never wake up again. In the recovery room after that last surgery, as she came to my dad had stepped out for a minute. She immediately started to ask for him insistently and wouldn't stop until he came back. He was back right away. She immediately calmed down as they held hands, then looked into each other's eyes with no words and finally hugged. I'll never forget the look that passed between them. I realized how deeply and profoundly they loved and relied on each other. Before that moment I always put the "mom and dad" label on them when I thought of them. In that moment I saw them as a "husband and a wife".
At the memorial lunch we asked dad again if he wanted to say anything, just to make sure he hadn't changed his mind. He said this, and this only "Love like there's no tomorrow."
Apr 16, 2016
This is the last picture shared at Mom's lunch. Chosen by my sister and followed by what she said. The last sentence says it all. Mom's last unprompted words. I hope to pass from this world with as much dignity and self determination as my mother did. She was an inspiration to me until her last breath.
I’ll never forget my mother’s heart surgeon telling her there was nothing else they could do for her. We knew then it was the beginning. She and I would talk about dying, questions like, does everyone get to a point that they know they are ready? Do I think she will get to see her father?
We had many times this past year when we thought we would have to say goodbye. But she kept fighting. She wasn’t ready. She had more living to do. One thing she told me she wanted to do was see her great-grandchildren. In this picture you see the first time she got to meet her first great granddaughter, Claire.
Even though I wasn’t ready for her to go, in the end she made it very clear that she was. That comforts me so much to know she found out the answer to that question. As far as finding out if she will get to see her father, I can only believe she is with him now and I myself will learn the answer to that question one day.
I’ve heard people say to me recently, “She lives on in your heart.” My first reaction is to say so what, I don’t want her to live on there, I want her right here in the flesh. What good does living in my heart do? But I know in the days to come this will be what keeps me moving, going, living, growing.” Amongst many things in my heart will be what I learned from my mother.
I learned how to be a mother. I learned that the will to live is a powerful thing. That no matter how poor you are you can always be clean. To never buy clothing full price, always wait for it to go on sale. I learned how to fold fitted bed sheets, make a bed with hospital corners and keep a clean house. To always wear clothes that have been ironed. I learned that I am not a wonderful cook like my mother so marry someone who is. I learned how to make oxtail soup. I learned that how we treat people and what we do is more important than how we look, as she said, pretty is as pretty does. I learned that you can love your children equally. That you do anything for your family. I learned that being sick does not stop you. That if you truly want something you will do what it takes to achieve it. I learned not to whine. I learned that we don’t need religion to lead a spiritual life. I learned that there is no reason to apologize for being a strong willed, opinionated, fierce woman in this society. I learned how to be a Lauchstaedt woman. That you never hate people, only the devil hates. I learned that even though it is not cool, holding your mom’s hand while walking through the mall as a teenager is nice. To always have a good book to read. I learned that death can be a beautiful thing and you don’t have to say goodbye. I learned that everything is alright, as she told me that last night alles ist gut.
Apr 14, 2016
This is the third of four pictures my sister and I shared at Mom's memorial lunch. To read my blog you would think I am overtaken by this grief. It's not like that. I laugh. I socialize. I have fun. I don't dwell on my loss. But every day, multiple times during the day, I see or hear something that reminds me of my mother and I am deeply sad. I miss her.
This picture should be a familiar one to anybody who visited the Wade household. It’s my parents in their kitchen, sitting across their kitchen table from each. This picture seems ordinary enough at first glance but to me this picture represents the constancy of my family’s love and support. As we went through pictures to share today we were struck at how many of them were taken in this room with one or both my parents at this table. How many times have I sat at the table with them? Good times and bad. Laughing, arguing and just living life.
When Erica was a little baby I took her to visit my mother. As I carried her in her cloth baby carrier from the car one of the handles slipped from my gloved hand and Erica tumbled to the ground. I quickly picked her up. She was screeching at me angrily and had some scratches on her face. I panicked and did the only thing I could think to do. I rushed her into the house, holding her in front of me with two outstretched arms, yelling for my mother to help. There she was sitting at the table. I held Erica out to her saying “Is she okay?” over and over again. My mother calmly took her, checked her over and told me everything was fine. Only then could I stop panicking.
Many stories have played out at this table. For my mother the last was this past Monday when she chose to leave the hospital and come home. When she was carried into the house she demanded to be taken to her kitchen table. She sat at her side of the table long into the night, surrounded by the love of her family. Determined to do things on her terms. Strong until the end.
Apr 12, 2016
Below is the second picture from my Mom's memorial. Chosen by my sister Sabrina and followed by what she said. Sabrina and I did not share beforehand what we would say at Mom's memorial. I think hearing my sister's love and grief for our mother was one of the hardest things I dealt with that day. My sister lives across the street from my parents. She was there for Mom day in and day out. My sister is a wonderful person.
How does a child sum up the life of a mother? Sweet, cuddly, mushy, charming, cute, these are not words to describe my mother. My mother was stoic, sedulous, proud, classy, and intelligent.
We did not hug much in our family. This never bothered me, though my sister and I made a conscious decision to start hugging more when we got together. I didn’t need a hug to know my mother loved me.
My mother’s hugs were when my mom would sit with me after bathtime and work the tangles out of my fine hair, letting me stay up past my bedtime with the family watching tv together as I very slowly sipped the glass of water I needed as if I’d been on a desert island for weeks, wrapping my sister and I up in blankets and her fur coat one winter night because the furnace had gone out, watching her work so hard to get a college degree even though she had been told by her teachers in Germany that she was not smart, coming to my house to clean it when I was a new mother, making oxtail soup every Christmas Eve even though it took all day and it was not my fathers’ favorite, letting me see her cry when she lost her own mother, calling me in my young adulthood when life got too busy to tell me she forgot what I looked like so I would go visit her, sitting with her countless times at the kitchen table and just talking, about anything and everything, making sure I learned about God and how to live a spiritual life that is not defined by religion, getting together for family dinner night, walking together with her hand holding the crook of my arm, letting me care for her as she became ill.
These are some of the hugs my mother gave me.
Apr 10, 2016
At Mom's memorial lunch my sister and I each chose two pictures that were special to us. This is the first picture I shared and what I said about it.
I chose this picture because it reminds me how my mother’s determination and resolve has been an inspiration to me throughout my life. This picture was taken in 1970, right after my mother returned from a long visit to Germany. Before that trip she had reached a crossroad in her life. She was restless and unhappy. She loved her family and regretted none of her choices but she wanted something more than she had. She wanted to go to college. She wanted to be out in the world. She wanted to shape her own destiny instead of being led by the circumstances in her life. But there were obstacles. Her own fear and self doubt. Society’s expectation that being a housewife and mother should be enough for her. Where would they get the money? And the seemingly impossible logistics of going to school when she had two young children and a husband who traveled for work.
Apr 7, 2016
My mother passed away on January 27th. It was not unexpected but it was nevertheless a shock to lose someone so important in my life. I feel like some of the glue in my life is gone and I need to work hard to keep all the pieces from floating away.
Every day I wake up and at some point within the first 5 minutes it hits me that my mother is dead. And I think "Oh mother." Because I miss her so. I want her back. I'll never have her back.
Over the next few posts I'll share the memories my sister and I shared at her memorial luncheon.
My father, sister and I thank you for joining us today to share memories of my mother Gisela. Please bear with my sister and me if we cry a little bit while we’re up here speaking to you. We’ll simply take a moment to collect ourselves and then carry on - like our mother taught us to do.
Many people use the word strong when they describe my mother. She fought a hard battle against her body for most of her life. She faced those battles with a seemingly endless supply of courage and a desire to live the life she wanted in spite of her health. It would appear to most people that her body won this battle in the end. I tell you that it didn’t. Her spirit was strong and noble and good and in the end it triumphed over her body as she controlled her own destiny until the very end, coming home to spend her last days surrounded by the love of her family.
My mother was more than strong. She was curious and intelligent, always reading and learning. A deep thinker, she loved carrying on long conversations and debates about a wide variety of topics. If you wanted to debate her though,you had better be well prepared,. If you weren't she'd eat you alive.
Those closest to her know she also had a love of laughter and fun. In so many of the pictures around this room she is laughing. The best payoff for me when I told a funny story was her laughter. When I could get her to laugh uncontrollably it was the best feeling in the world.
My mother will always be a part of me. I am comforted by the fact that so much of who she was carries on through her grandchildren. She was so proud of them and I see so much of her in them. A smart, funny and strong group of people.
Please know that she cared deeply about so many of you here. In the last few months, as she talked about memories, so many of you came up. You were an important part of her life and I know she’d be happy that you were here to honor those memories.
I’d like to share a poem. My mother had a special relationship with her father-in-law Marty. They loved many of the same things. This poem was one of them.
by William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
That was my mother.